Be­hind the Scenes

Drag Racer - - Contents - BY BILL HOL­LAND • PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF ADAMS PHOTO COL­LEC­TION

OR­GA­NIZED DRAG RAC­ING HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE THE MID’50S, AND ONE OF THE SPORT’S MOST PROM­I­NENT PI­O­NEERS AND ME­CHAN­I­CAL WIZARDS IS STILL AT IT WELL INTO HIS SEV­ENTH DECADE OF COM­PE­TI­TION. The one they call “Lean Gene” has been set­ting records and break­ing bar­ri­ers through it all. Most no­tably, Gene Adams be­came the go-to guy for fuel-injection sys­tems, the fa­bled Oldsmo­bile Rocket V-8, the leg­endary early Chrysler Hemi and the unique Arias Hemi. Sur­pris­ingly, Gene has never cam­paigned any­thing with the ubiq­ui­tous small-block or big-block Chevy en­gine, or the late-model 426-style Hemi. Gene thrives on the unique.

In the ’50s, Gene and his B/Gas ’50 Oldsmo­bile ter­ror­ized lo­cal South­ern Cal­i­for­nia drag strips. At the 1957 NHRA Na­tion­als in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Gene ex­panded his rep­u­ta­tion by cap­tur­ing class hon­ors and set­ting the record at 13.29, 111.24 mph with the 4-71 huffed 370-cid Rocket.

The next chap­ter in the Oldsmo­bile saga cen­tered on the drag­ster Gene fielded with noted fab­ri­ca­tor Ron­nie Scrima. Driven by the late Leonard Har­ris, whom many cite as one of the best “pure” driv­ers the sport has ever seen, the Al­bert­son Olds-spon­sored car dom­i­nated lo­cal com­pe­ti­tion and pro­ceeded to win Top Elim­i­na­tor hon­ors at the 1960 NHRA Na­tion­als in Detroit. Trag­i­cally, Har­ris lost his life later that year while test­ing an­other car.

One of Gene’s most no­table en­tries was the trend­set­ting Shark Car driven by Tom McEwen. The Adams-built, Olds-pow­ered car achieved suc­cess on gas as well as nitro.

But the hand­writ­ing was on the wall by the mid’60s, and with NHRA lift­ing its nitro­meth­ane ban, the po­ten­tial of the 331, 354 and 392-cid Chryslers was clearly ev­i­dent. Gene teamed up with Jack Wayre and John “Zookeeper” Mul­li­gan, run­ning a his­toric 6.95 at Carls­bad Race­way in Oc­to­ber 1966, break­ing the six-sec­ond bar­rier with a 420-cid (bored and stroked 354) early Hemi and a 75% load of nitro.

How­ever, the es­ca­lat­ing cost of field­ing a Top Fueler prompted Gene to re­think his drag-rac­ing en­deav­ors. His next chal­lenge was to break the 200-mph bar­rier with a non-su­per­charged A/Fuel Drag­ster. Driver Don En­riquez ac­com­plished the feat, run­ning 202.24 mph in 7.68 sec­onds at an NHRA race in Septem­ber 1968 at OCIR. Three years later, Adams & En­riquez low­ered the record to a bar­rier­break­ing 6.94 at Indy.

In 1973, NHRA in­tro­duced Pro Comp, which com­bined in­jected nitro and blown al­co­hol-pow­ered drag­sters, Funny Cars and Al­tereds. Gene took to it like the prover­bial duck to wa­ter, with En­riquez top­ping

Ken Veney’s in­jected nitro flop­per with Gene’s blown

al­co­hol-pow­ered drag­ster at Pro Comp’s Su­per­na­tion­als de­but.

The Adams & En­riquez jug­ger­naut con­tin­ued with a rearengined Don Long car that won the 1975 NHRA Win­ter­na­tion­als and set a Pro Comp mark at 6.71, 207 mph.

Through much of his ca­reer Gene was a tech­ni­cal main­stay at Stu Hil­born’s Fuel Injection En­gi­neer­ing con­sor­tium. Count­less racers had their in­jec­tor sys­tems set up by Gene, who still of­fers fuel-injection ser­vices at his fa­cil­ity in the North­ern Cal­i­for­nia ham­let of An­der­son, just south of Red­ding.

Gene is also one of the few who mas­tered the Arias en­gine. In 1985, he helped for­mer Pro Comp an­tag­o­nist Jimmy Scott set the NHRA Na­tional Record in the Asian Flew Al­tered, and years later he built a huge 557-cid Arias that pow­ered Roger O’Don­nel’s A/FD to an un­heard of 253.16-mph record in 5.77 sec­onds.

Nos­tal­gia rac­ing came calling, and from 1994 through 2000 Gene worked his magic on Ron Pratt’s Jr. Fueler. The in­jected, al­co­hol-burn­ing Hemi (man­dated to have an iron block, stack in­jec­tors and a Pow­er­glide trans­mis­sion) won no less than four Jr. Fuel ti­tles at the Cal­i­for­nia Hot Rod Re­union.

In re­cent years, Gene has been in­volved with a car owned by

Kin Bates with Gene’s son Dean main­tain­ing the car and serv­ing as crew chief. The Sil­ver Flyer is with­out ques­tion the most dom­i­nant car in the A/Fuel class. Bates has won nine NHRA Her­itage Series cham­pi­onships since its in­cep­tion. The car is pow­ered by a Rodeck 392 Chrysler with Alan John­son bil­let heads and topped with a Hil­born two-hole shot­gun-style hat.

While some oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans would be happy sit­ting on a porch hum­ming a tune, Gene Adams prefers a dif­fer­ent sort of tune for his en­joy­ment: the sweet sound of an en­gine blast­ing down the quar­ter-mile. He’s a mae­stro.

ABOVE. The Al­bert­son Olds, owned by Gene and Ron­nie Scrima, was driven by Leonard Har­ris and later Tom McEwen. Cam­paigned in 196061, it won 12 straight Top Elim­i­na­tor ti­tles at Lions and the 1960 NHRA Na­tion­als held at Detroit. (L to R): “Stump" Davis,...

The Adams & McEwen Shark Car, fea­tur­ing a Kent Fuller chas­sis, was raced in 1962. Built to com­pete in Top Gas, it also ran in T/F with a light load of nitro. In that con­fig­u­ra­tion, McEwen beat Don Gar­l­its at the March Meet.

In 1966, Adams, Wayre & Mul­li­gan recorded six of the quick­est elapsed times of the year, in­clud­ing be­com­ing the first in the sixes with a 6.95 at Carls­bad. They also recorded three of the fastest speeds that year with a best of 221.12.

Gene and his son Dean have cre­ated an A/F mon­ster for Dr. Kin Bates. He’s to­tally dom­i­nated NHRA Her­itage Series A/F com­pe­ti­tion, win­ning the series cham­pi­onship nine out of 10 years. Since 2008, he’s won 21 series events (in­clud­ing four Hot Rod...

The Adams & En­riquez Jr. Fueler was the first un­blown car to run faster than 200 mph. It was pow­ered by a tiny 305-ci DeSoto Hemi. (L to R): Joe Squires, Don En­riquez (driv­ing), Gene Adams. In 1971 Gene and Don fielded the first Jr. Fueler in the sixes.

Adams & En­riquez’s Dou­ble Ea­gle (1970) was the last com­pet­i­tive un­blown T/F Drag­ster in his­tory and Gene’s last T/F. Photo by Jere Al­had­eff.

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