One of the most unique race cars to ever carry the Memphis Rodders banner was this early rear engined dragster. Coincidentally, 'Damfino' is also related to Jack Friend, who's 32 Ford coupe was examined in the previous post. It seems that Jack and fellow Rodders member George Root teamed up on this aircraft drop tank turned dragster long before the aft motor design became standard fare in drag racing's most purposeful classes.

The rear engined dragster design made infrequent appearances during drag racing's early years, but such race cars have been around as long as the sport has been an organized activity. Most were short wheelbase, and were likely a fair handful to drive. Yet there were a few competing at drag strips nationwide in the late fifties and early sixties, a cool ten years before Don Garlits turned dragster racing on it's head with the dominant top fueler that he debuted in 1971. Some examples of yesteryear back motor diggers are analyzed on this HAMB thread... but damfino why they overlooked the subject of this post. Well, we should probably cut the Hambers some slack since most of these cars were "regional" and we can always tell all if a more current thread should appear.

Locally, Jack Friend and George Root put this sleek car together from a military surplus aviation drop tank which they scored at the Lazaro brothers salvage yard in Memphis. They wrapped the tank around a 100 inch wheelbase chassis built from oval shaped PBY aircraft wing struts and mild steel tubing. A Ross steering box (from a Crosley) was employed in order to keep the car aimed at the big end. The engine was a 392 Chrysler with a .030 over stock bore and a stock stroke. The Hemi was fitted with Hilborn fuel injection, and a Vertex magneto for extra go power.

'Damfino' also featured two inch diameter exhaust headers, and a 39 Ford transmission with Lincoln gears (using only 2nd & high gear). The rear end was from a 39 Ford, and was fitted with a magnesium quick change center section.

Neither Jack or George are still with us to give a first hand accounting, but all indications are that this race car was competitive, and feared whenever it pulled into the pits at local drag meets held at the Halls TN airstrip, and at Lakeland drag strip. It serves as an enduring example of the resourceful engineering that exemplified early drag racing. With little to go by other than a desire to go fast, these guys put together 'Damfino' from scrap yard cast offs, and produced the slick and forward thinking race car shown here in Marshall Robilio's photos.

Of course, with a race car as unusual as this, one has to wonder what became of it? I mean, what else are you going to do with a with a dragster made from a fuel tank except race it? Oh, I suppose you could convert it to a BBQ grill or a some other ignoble fate, but you should still know what it was before you got carried away with that smokey taste. So, if you have some insight as to the whereabouts of 'Damfino' feel free to chime in and give a report. It might be fun to bring it back and show it off alongside the 32 coupe that Jack prowled the streets of Memphis with.

Speaking of which, I thought you should see another vintage image of Jack's 32 coupe that showed up in a stash of photos I've been scanning since the previous post. This one is from an early indoor car show most likely held at the Memphis Fairgrounds. Although the photo is black & white, it's pretty obvious that the coupe has a new paint job and a freshly updated look. New "flipper" hub caps and wide white wall tires, go together with the now hood-less profile and what is apparently a chartreuse paint job. I'm thinking the black & white tuck and roll upholstery is also new at this time, but I can't can't swear to it. Regardless, it's quite a change from the "Chelsea Auto Parts" look we reviewed last time.

Arthur Trim revealed a lot of technical info about the dragster via e-mail and basically provided a reason to write about 'Damfino' from the comments he made about the coupe and his old pal Jack. We tried to determine the color of the coupe as seen in this updated photo based on the grayscale tones, and we initially settled on a shade of blue as it's new color. However Jeff Lucas, who now owns the coupe, reports that there is a layer of chartreuse paint between the original red, and the blue that was the last paint job showing on the chopped grill shell he still has stashed in his shop. Considering that the remaining blue paint on the shell is a darker shade than what is seen in this photo, we're pretty confident that this is the coupe's "yellow-green" look, no doubt adopted for the indoor car show season somewhere around 1958-1960. Thanks to both Arthur and Jeff for helping with the details.

As impressive as many of today's professionally built street rods are, I find this ethic of building a choice car from found parts to be most appealing and true to the original concept of what this whole hot rodding thing is actually about. As I collect photos of the Memphis Rodders early days, this do-it-yourself mindset is evident in almost every image. Thankfully, this approach seems to co-exist with the pro-built cars in today's automotive culture. So, when a proper example of a homemade hot rod shows itself in this general direction, you can expect to see some reference to it in this blog. It seems like an appropriate nod to Memphis' original hot rod club, as they paved the way to today.