The Mongoose Journals
MY FRIENDS, THANKS ONCE AGAIN FOR STOPPING BY. THE WALLY PARKS NHRA MOTORSPORTS MUSEUM RECEIVED A PRETTY NEAT CHRISTMAS GIFT: MY ’78 ENGLISH LEATHER CORVETTE.
The most famous car I owned (except for the red Hot Wheels Duster) turns out to be the ’78 silver-and-black English Leather Corvette, which was a successful race car in itself, but The Snake and Mongoo$e movie, which told the story surrounding my win of the 1978 U.S. Nationals featuring that ’Vette, really increased its popularity.
I have no idea how many race cars I’ve owned (a bunch), but there are only five still in existence that I know of. Thanks to Don Trasin that English Leather ’78 ’Vette is one of the five. He had the foresight, passion and personal motives to do the tedious detective work necessary to track down its major components. He located the body in Seattle. Friends, it’s not any 1978 fiberglass flopper body, it’s the body I campaigned. It was wearing the silver-and-black Coors Light livery when Don purchased it, but under that was the English Leather paint job. Don snapped up the Jamie Sarté chassis in Wisconsin. Not just a Sarté chassis, which would be plenty rare, but the original one Sarté welded up for me. Don told me the chassis was in remarkably good shape considering.
It’s amazing Don was able to locate the body and chassis. In the era I raced this ’Vette, old race cars weren’t treated very well. Like old race horses, if they weren’t competitive, they were considered pretty useless. Most old flopper bodies ended up with racers who either burned ’em up or blasted ’em into little pieces. And the chassis fared no better. They were butchered into econo Funny Cars or whatever. The nitro Hemis were replaced by big-block Chevys and powerglides.
Don chose the late Pat Foster to completely reconstruct the English Leather ’Vette. Foster had a hell of a career as a race car driver, fabricator and race car restorer. He was able to scrounge up all of the era-correct bits and pieces, and after more than two years and a bucket of money, Foster and his crew rolled out a beauty of a race car.
So now, again thanks to Don Trasin, the English Leather Corvette, instead of sitting in some rich guy’s private collection only seen by him and his buddies, is in the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum for the whole world to enjoy. Right next to it is Snake’s Army Arrow that I beat at Indy 1978, which
Trasin just happens to own.
Another piece of good news:
Don Garlits is still alive and well and enjoyed another birthday recently. “Big” and I share the same birthday. Years ago we’d usually be racing together at Bee Line, or later at the Tucson AHRA races, and there’d be a big get-together. Hopefully, we’ll both be around for another birthday in 2018.
We’re charging full steam ahead into the new racing season—new cars, new teams, tons of energy and enthusiasm. But as we look ahead, let’s take a moment to think of those we’ve recently left behind. We mourn their loss, but more importantly we celebrate who they were and how they made drag racing and our lives a bit better. I’d like to say goodbye to Nick Arias Jr., Pat Minick, Vern Moats, Jim Van Dyke, Don Rackemann, Pete Chapouris, Kent Enderle, John Guedel, and I’m afraid there were others I’ve missed. All those we’ve lost will be missed.
/Don Trasin and I with the ’78 English Leather Corvette