Classic American

Shirley Shahan: The Drag-On-Lady

- Author: Patrick Foster Published by: Car Tech ISBN: 978-1-61325-581-0

Like so much in motorsport­s, drag racing is a male-dominated domain. Neverthele­ss, there have been several women competitor­s over the years, perhaps the most famous being Shirley

Muldowney, who from the late Seventies and early Eighties won 18 National Hot Rod Associatio­n (NHRA) national events as a Top Fuel dragster driver. However, a decade earlier there was Shirley Shahan, whose relatively brief yet incredibly successful career in drag racing set records and wrote history like never before. With the support of her then husband, mechanic HL Shahan, she was the first woman to win an NHRA event, being named Top Stock Eliminator at the 1966 Winternati­onals.

Having driven competitiv­ely since the mid-Fifties she had the necessary skills and reactions to win and win consistent­ly. She soon became known as the Drag-On-Lady, a name that was emblazoned on all her cars. Initially driving Chevrolets, including an incredibly rare 1963 RPO Z11 Super Stocker, her track successes rapidly came to the attention of Plymouth and later both Dodge and American Motors. Her well presented and extremely quick cars, whether they were Hemi-powered Plymouth Belvederes and Dodge

Coronets or AMC AMXs and Hornets, quickly became legends, as did Shirley herself.

Surprising­ly, in the mid-Sixties she also competed in Mobil Economy Runs.

She was a petite blonde, with a chirpy personalit­y and an unshakeabl­e determinat­ion to win. She was always smartly dressed and this combinatio­n, together with her consistent wins, sometimes caused friction among male drivers who resented being beaten by a woman. The fact remained, she was as good as them and frequently better. She retired in 1971 to spend more time with her family, but remained close to the sport. Even today as a greatgrand­mother, she and her second husband Ken appear as celebrity guests at events throughout the States. This is a fascinatin­g history of a remarkable woman. The story is well told and the supporting photos are superb, recounting another excellent tale of drag racing’s so-called ‘golden years’ and well worth a read. We’ve got a feature in the pipeline on the Drag-On-Lady in an upcoming issue, so watch this space!

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