IN MEMORIAM: GAS RONDA

Hot Rod Deluxe - - Roddin’ @ Random -

The Funny Car pi­o­neer, WWII vet­eran, and for­mer dance in­struc­tor who fought back from child­hood po­lio, near-fa­tal rac­ing burns, and two re­cent strokes, suc­cumbed to cancer at home in Palm Desert, Cal­i­for­nia, on Oc­to­ber 25, 2017. He was 91.

Fa­mous for his se­ries of Poppy Red fast­backs, Ronda rode a Mus­tang dur­ing the pony car’s five-year evo­lu­tion from 1965’s car­bu­reted, gaso­line-burn­ing “real” car into the tube-framed, ni­troburn­ing, “funny” fac­sim­ile that trapped him, on fire, in Jan­uary 1970. Com­ing just two months af­ter a huge vic­tory at the pres­ti­gious Man­u­fac­tur­ers Funny Car Cham­pi­onships, the Phoenix in­ferno ended two decades of win­ning that be­gan with a 1950 Hud­son Hor­net and pro­gressed through Buicks and a Corvette. Ronda was lured to Ford in 1960 by his first free car and re­mained faith­ful to the blue oval for the re­main­der of his ca­reer.

Ronda was fur­ther re­mark­able for dress­ing as sharp as any dance in­struc­tor—which he was, prior to turn­ing pro in 1962. In child­hood, he was taught danc­ing by his mother to strengthen po­lioweak­ened legs. Gas went on to win nu­mer­ous com­pe­ti­tions and open dance stu­dios in San Fran­cisco and Oak­land.

—DAVE WALLACE

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