Don Garlits Top-fuel Dragster Swamp Rat XXX

Don Garlits Top-fuel Dragster Swamp Rat XXX

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Swamp Rat XXX is a drag racing car of the top-fuel class, designed, built and raced by Don Garlits of Ocala, Florida. Garlits, better known as "Big Daddy," is one of the pioneers of drag racing, which is a test of acceleration on quarter-mile tracks. He began racing in 1950 in modified stock cars at Zephyr Hills, Fla., not far from his home in Tampa, shifting to drag racing in 1959. Over a 30-year career, he was one of the most innovative builders in the sport.
Swamp Rat XXX won the National Hot Rod Association championship in 1986 with a quarter-mile speed of 272.55 miles an hour. It crashed at a race in Spokane, Washington, and, along with Garlits, retired from active competition.
The vehicle displays the state of drag racing art in the 1980s: a very long wheelbase, small front wheels to minimize aerodynamic drag, engine in the rear, and a wing for added aerodynamic down force. The engine placement puts most of the vehicle's weight on the rear or driving wheels and behind the driver for safety reasons in case of an engine blow-up.
The car is covered with emblems, chiefly of sponsoring corporations. It carries a Christian cross and the words "God is Love," reflecting Garlits' experience in 1959 when, after an accident, his system could not handle pain-killing drugs. In severe pain, he cried out, "Lord help me," and his pain ceased.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Garlits, Donald G.
Garlits, Donald G.
Place Made
United States: Florida
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Don Garlits, Inc.
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Data Source
National Museum of American History
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It was said in the 80's, Big Daddy Rules and he still does. No Racer and I mean not one commands the respect that Garlits does. At the end of the film "Close Calls" he send a message to all of the children and it's good advice for us grownup kids too. Check it out. He is currently trying to break 200 mph in an electric powered dragster. Will never be another like him.
"Don IS the man. A little rough around the edges, but the man is a legend because he goes after what he wants. Terrific-if-brief interview with him on an online video series called Done In 60 Seconds: that he's sitting in his racecar for the interview!"
"I think it's wonderful that you have included not only drag racing, which may fall by the wayside with alternate fuels being explored, but also the one person I believe was the corner stone in top fuel. Big Daddy, in my book, is the godfather of the sport."

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