SSS Racing
SSS Racing

SSS Racing

At the October 2007 event at Maxton (North Carolina), I was offered the chance to drive Bill Murphy's 1966 Mustang. The car was set up for this event with an engine from an old motor home (so Bill said) and a small centrifugal supercharger. The car is knick-named "The Rustang" because Bill doesn't spend too many hours primping and making it look pretty -- but he does make it run well.
So -- here I am, waiting in line near the start, wearing a pair of (borrowed) firesuit trousers, which were about 10" too big in the waist. You can see some of the roll cage in the car, and the webbing that keeps the driver inside in case of an upset.

Let's see: Safety harness over both shoulders, around the waist, between the legs - all need to be fastened in the correct order so the quick-release buckle can work if needed. Note the firesuit jacket and the firesuit boots, too, and more roll cage right in front of my knees, and even more behind my head. That's Bill, the owner, helping me get strapped in. Oh, yeah -- the seat has those supports on either side of the driver's chest to further keep him in place in case the car "gets out of shape".

Yes, it's a fine old-fashioned four-on-the-floor transmission -- and it's fun to bang shifts: Rev it to 6200 rpm in first, just barely touch the clutch and yank it into second, rev to 6200 rpm, just barely touch... and so on. Get into fourth and hold the pedal hard against the floor, keep the car aimed between the flags at the timing lights, and Yee-hah, another run is over, hey, Bill, may I make another run?

All strapped in and getting ready to put the neck brace on before donning my helmet. No look of anticipatory excitement on my face, is there?

Bill has run the car over 150 mph or more with different engines, but he asked if we'd take this photo -- saying it's probably the only way the car would ever have a real Bonneville 200 MPH Club hat in it (meaning he doesn't think he'll ever get it into the Club, which takes not just going 200 mph, but setting or breaking a record over 200 -- and the record in the class the car's in in this photo was set by Bob Ragsdale's Studebaker -- at 219.624 mph).

See all those stickers on the back of my helmet? Each time we go racing everything is inspected, and the helmet gets a new sticker at each event. This helmet is about five years old -- and soon will be replaced by a new one (helmets "age" and their protective-ness diminishes with that age. 10 years is the maximum allowed by the sanctioning organisations -- replacing sooner is wise).

Here's the ceremonial hand-off of the keys. Did I tell you (I know that I didn't) that Bill drives the car from his home in southeastern Ohio to Maxton -- races it -- then drives it back home? It's rather unh, mmm, spartan inside -- and he says he wears the safety belts when he's driving on the highways (because, in case of accident, he doesn't want all of those buckles and latches flailing about).

Al, the starter at Maxton, checks each and every driver/rider -- is all of the safety garb properly fastened, are the belts TIGHT!!!, is the driver/rider ready (vs. so nervous that he should sit out for a few more minutes?), even are the tires inflated properly and are the doors latched firmly?

By the further way -- notice the straps around my elbows. The safety gear includes restraints to keep the driver's arms from flailing (there's that word again) about during a crash -- to help reduce the possibility of injury. The elbow straps are connected at the buckle at the waist of the seat belts. Oh, yeah -- firesuit gloves, too!

Here's what Al sees when he looks through the window, just before he instructs me (and all drivers) to lower the faceshield on the helmet before making the run down the race track.  Note another safety requirement:  the windshield is restrained from flying out -- by tabs that hold it in place.  See the little tabs in the upper right and lower right corner of the windshield?  There are two on the other side of the window, too.

Here's Mark Amrhein using the two-way radio to tell the tower that I'm ready to make my run. When the worker at "shut down" -- the far end of the course -- reports that the previous vehicle has cleared off the course, the tower alerts the starter that the course is clear, the starter tells the tower the vehicle number that's about to make a run, the tower tells the starter to send the vehicle down the course, and that's when the fun begins for the driver. Yes, I didn't some smoky burnouts leaving the start line. Again: YEEE-HAH!

Ah, it's all over for now... Firesuits are fireproof -- and hot to wear, so as soon as the run is over it's time to undress. Personal primping takes second place to having fun, and that's why you here see a good example of what is called "helmet hair". And don't bother telling me that you really, really like the flamey shorts. I can tell, just by the envious look in your eyes.
Okay -- I made two runs in the #548 car. My first one was a tad faster than the second (because I missed the 1-2 shift a bit), and my speed -- it's a one-mile standing start event -- was about 137.7 mph.