The late Everett Chrisman had
a shop on El Segundo Blvd. in the greater Los Angeles area, and
it was staffed by his two sons Art and Lloyd. It was called,
simply enough, Chrisman & Son's Garage specializing in engines
and chassis, custom painting, body work and hot rods. It was
here that the name Chrisman started to gather fame in the world
of fast cars. Going fast at the dry lakes, Bonneville, drag racing,
and yes even the street.
In the early days of organized
drag racing, and we are talking 1953-54, Art and Lloyd and partner
Leroy Neumayer were actively competing with a converted lakes
racer. Leroy acquired a
1930's lakester from Jimmy Caruthers and the Chrisman garage
supplied the engines-beginning with a flathead, then they added
Ardun heads, then they substituted a Y block Ford, and ultimately
installed a hemi Chrysler.
During its drag racing career,
the "25 car" as it came to be know brought the Chrismans
even more fame winning many a local event and set numerous records.
Among other accomplishments, the car was the first to run 140
miles per hour, set records on the sand at Daytona Beach, and
made the first run after the ribbon cutting ceremonies at the
very first NHRA Nationals in Great Bend Kansas in 1955.
Frank Cannon was the proud owner
of a two seater T-Bird with a Kenz and Leslie prepared 312 cid
Y-block complete with Mc Cullough supercharger. He was unhappy
with the way it was performing and took it to the Chrisman garage.
With some judicious tuning and tricks of the day, Frank reached
106 mph at the local dragstrips, specifically Santa Ana and Colton.
Pretty soon, a relationship between the Chrisman Brothers and
Cannon turned into a racing partnership.
The need for speed reared its
ugly head and soon the T-Bird was sporting a Hilborn injected
454 cid Chrysler under its bulging hood. The little "Bird"
set records everywhere it went, turning speeds in the 116 mph
range, and annihilated the competitors. Outraged, all of the
D/Sports drag racers whined and complained and Cannon soon lost
interest in beating them so easily.
Quite naturally, thoughts turned
toward building a dragster for the strong and reliable injected
Chrysler. The Chrisman Brothers started to work on the chassis
and the word went out. It wasn't long before Cannon had a conversation
with Mickey Thompson, the operator of the newest dragstrip in
the SoCal area---Lions. Cannon informed MT that they were planing
to run 150 mph on gasoline with this new car. MT promptly bet
him a hundred dollars that they wouldn't do it.
A couple of weeks later Art ran
154 first time out and Cannon relieved Mickey of his hundred.
He loved it.
While there was considerable
satisfaction with the performance of the unblown motor, and it
was clear that this car was going to be a runner; it was also
clear that they were going to need a blower if they were to remain
competitive. Superchargers, a relatively new technology to drag
racing, were making their presence known but there were no manifolds
yet available for the 392 Chrysler, so Art got a GMC 671 blower,
a vee drive from a race boat and a huge aircraft carburetor from
the surplus store, fabricated an induction system and mounted
the entire mechanism in front of the engine.
After some shake down runs at
Santa Ana, Art dismantled the entire car for a sanitizing. While
it was apart, Red Rose hammered out the stunning bullet-shaped
fully enclosed aluminum body.
With the body in white, the team
loaded the car and headed for Bakersfield. On the road, there
was plenty of time to plan the paint scheme and come up with
a name for the freshly bodied racer. Bearing some likeness to
the U.S. Air Forces new B-58, it was decided to name the dragster
after that supersonic bomber
Hustle it did. That weekend in
January of 1959, the car turned a new world record speed of 174.44
mph. A month later, February 15th this time at Riverside, the
Hustler upped the world record up to 181.81. The following month
it won Top Fuel at the inaugural U.S. Fuel and Gas Championships
also known as the "March Meet"
the race that brought
Don Garlits to California for the first time. The Hustler made
its mark in history at that event and continued its winning ways
with Art and Frank sharing the driving chores.
The following year 1960 and again
at Bakersfield, the Hustler made history upping the world record
to a speed of 185.56 mph. The next year 1961, Art was Top Fuel
runner up to Jack Ewell at the third annual March Meet.
Because NHRA had banned fuel
in 1957 and maintained that position through 1963, the nitro
burning Hustler did not compete at any of their events. Choosing
instead to run local top fuel shows and big fuel events like
the AHRA Nationals in Fort Worth Texas in '61 where they won
the A/FD class but lost to eventual winner, another Californian,
Zane Shubert for overall Top Eliminator.
Today the car resides in the
new NHRA museum in Pomona California most of the time, but is
occasionally removed to make another pass as it did recently
when Art and his son Mike took the Hustler to its' favorite race
track in Bakersfield. Art served ad Grand Marshall for the GoodGuys
"March Meet" at the famous Famoso quarter mile and
smoked the tires for fans.
Engulfed in tire smoke, the Hustler
is a sight to behold
especially when you realize that its
thirty years old and still Hustling.
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