The History

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LEARN THE HISTORY
OF ONE OF
DRAG RACING'S MOST RECOGNIZED ALTEREDS

 

 

B/ALTERED CLASS CHAMPION
63,64,65,66, AHRA Summer Nationals
63,64,65 World Series of Drag Racing
64,65,67 NHRA U S Nationals
65,67 AHRA Winter Nationals
66 NHRA Spring Nationals
67 NHRA Winter Nationals

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Two famous drag races highlighted the 1955 season. At the top is the first NHRA National Championship in Great Bend, Kan., and right behind is the second annual World Series of Drag Racing, held at Lawrenceville Airport in Illinois. At the World Series event, future Comp great Jack Ditmars witnessed the sport's first 150-mph run, the 151.07 top-speed charge of the Lloyd & Scott Bustle Bomb. That enticed him to try the sport himself, and when he graduated from high school in 1956, he had a D/G '49 Ford ready to race. "It wasn't much because it was just too heavy, and because of family stuff, I didn't debut it in my home state of Illinois," recalled Ditmars. "My father and mother were divorced, and I went with my mother when she relocated from Chicago to Dearborn, Mich. She was all for my getting involved in legal drag racing and even used some acquaintances to get me into the Down River Modifieds hot rod club in Dearborn. I did my first racing at local tracks there."

A year later, Ditmars and his mother returned to Chicago, and he got a job with a local body shop. Ditmars had begun working in body shops when he was in high school and was good enough to be earning a strong $30 a week. Ditmars began to meet drag racers, the first being Mike Spizzeri, who ran a C/A called the Purple People Eater. Spizzzeri and Ditmars took the car to the 1957 NHRA Nationals in Oklahoma City and got beat early. Two years later, Ditmars decided he wanted his own car and built his first Lil' Screamer '34 Ford altered. He ran the car from 1960 through mid-1961 with modest success at racetracks in Gary, Ind.; Union Grove, Wis.; and Oswego, Ill.; until a garage fire resulted in the car being burned to the ground.

"I again was working at a body shop at the time painting cars, and I had gotten to know a guy named Herb Moller," he said. "Little did I realize that Herb would become a lifelong friend and that he would be racing with me from 1962 until I quit in 1973. "I wanted another Lil' Screamer, and He, I, George Little, and a number of other guys used to come to the body shop and work on the new '34 Ford altered. The car was finished in late 1963, and the thing started to really run early the next year."

It didn't take long for Ditmars' wild wheelstanding '34 Ford to become one of the country's most recognized altereds. It was capable of incredible wheels-up launches and was one of the top B/Altereds in the sport.

According to Ditmars, the Lil' Screamer won the B/A class at the 1964, 1965, and 1967 U.S. Nationals. The 1965 Indy win was especially impressive because Ditmars outlasted 45 other entrants. In the final, he beat one of many factory cars participating, Dick Brannan's Ford. Ditmars also won B/A at the 1965 and 1966 Winternationals and was a regular at all four of the NHRA national events each year from 1964 through 1967.

"At the end of 1967, I sold the Lil' Screamer to get some money to build a new 1968 Buick Opel altered, which was known as the Mini Brute," he said. "This car was a 100-inch, full-on pro race car built by John Buttera and Dennis Rollain at R&B Chassis. I worked for Bauer Buick at the time, and they sponsored it. It won even more than the Ford Altered. "Ditmars, who still painted cars, won the Best Appearing Car and Crew awards at the car's national event debut, the NHRA Springnationals in Englishtown. In addition, he won the AA/FA class title with it and beat "Fast Eddie" Schartman's Comet in round one before losing to "Ohio George" Montgomery's AA/GS Mustang during Super Eliminator elininations.

Ditmars raced this car until the end of his career. With it, he won the Comp title at the Winternationals in 1970, a year when he also was awarded the Car Craft Magazine Comp Driver of the Year award. He also took runner-up honors at that year's Gatornationals and Springnationals. In addition to competing on the NHRA trail, Ditmars was a regular on the UDRA Midwest Injected Funny Car circuit with the Opel. It was not unusual for the group to book as many as 50 to 60 dates each from 1968 through 1972. Ditmars won a number of these races. In late 1972, Ditmars put Moller behind the wheel of the Opel so he could drive a new 109-inch rear-engine injected Chevy Vega Funny Car. The car was a wild handler, and though Ditmars squeezed a best of 7.40, 191 out of it, he crashed it at Indianapolis Raceway Park about three weeks before the 1972 U.S. Nationals. Ditmars got back in the seat of the Opel and finished a contracted schedule of dates through early 1973, then retired.

Jack Ditmars would like to locate his "Der Mini Brute". The Chassis was constructed by R&B Chassis of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Body by FiberGlass Ltd. Contact Jack Ditmars at 708 614 9000

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