The Hustler hit the cover of Hot Rod Magazine, January 1959, with the caption:"Best Engineered Dragster; Immaculate workmanship." The supercharger was mounted directly to the frame, driven by the crankshaft through a Hall-Craft boat reduction gearbox, which allowed the 6-71 blower to be driven 22 percent faster than the crank. Dual Stromberg updraft aircraft carburetors were used when Art ran gas, and Hilborn injectors when alcohol was used. Result: 163.33-mph record at Riverside on fuel and 152.80-mph at Long Beach running gas.
"The maximum speed, as calculated by formula, that any internal combustion engine-powered vehicle driving through its wheels will ever attain in the quarter-mile is 167 mph."
That emphatic declaration caught our eye in an article called "Dragin' Demons," meant to inform the first-time R&C reader about the growing phenomenon of legalized drag racing. A half-century ago, the math made sense to everyone except the drag racers; no one informed them they couldn't go beyond that number!
Keep in mind commercial drag racing was only in its third year when you read these excerpts from "Dragin` Demons:" "Unusual cars turn phenomenal speeds at Santa Ana. With the roar of the unmuffled engine and with the blue smoke curling upward from its spinning rear wheels another fishtailing, bodyless car went screaming down the airstrip. Many of the competing cars were built for this one use only and have become known as dragsters."
We also found that "Demons" had inadvertently omitted an up-and-coming drag racer's first name: "The Sunday before we attended, one rail job was officially clocked at a little over 140 mph. Since turning that speed, Chrisman lays claim to his dragster as being the fastest-accelerating wheel-driven vehicle in the world."
The story was referring to Art (Chrisman) and his famous bronze #25 car, but it could have been about his late uncle, Jack Chrisman. Jack began running at Santa Ana in 1953 and went on to become a major competitor in drag racing, as well. Jack won the inaugural NHRA Winternationals and NHRA World Championship in '61 and U.S. Nationals in 1962. He was also one of the early Funny Car competitors.
We spoke to Don Tuttle of Anaheim, California, who was the track announcer at Santa Ana when Art went one-forty. Tuttle has copies of all the results of every event at Santa Ana for the first seven years: "We played it up pretty big when Chrisman broke the 140 barrier," says Don. "February 8 of 1953 Art broke his own record of 138 mph and ran 140.08 mph-to be exact-in his Class D roadster...Class D was the big one.
"Up until the mid-'50s," continued Tuttle, "the timing clock at Santa Ana only went to 149 mph-the clock had 'Bingo' written on it for 150 mph. Some of the cars were running 146 mph at Long Beach, and I told [C.J.'Pappy'] Hart it was time to re-calibrate the clock, because it wouldn't be too long before the cars would go past Bingo. Pappy re-calibrated the clock to 167 mph."
The Art Chrisman StoryThe Chrisman family moved to Compton, California, from Arkansas after WWII. "Chrisman's Garage, Compton, California," became a familiar logo on Art's race cars and a magnet for hot rodders after the war: "When my dad got out of the service after WWII, he opened up a shop. I started there right out of high school. Later on, my brother Lloyd came in, and then Jack [Jack and Lloyd are deceased] got the gas station up front. We had the whole corner of Willowbrook and El Segundo Boulevard. Jack had the gas station in front of our shop. Lloyd and I used to build motors for Jack's Model A sedan. We built a flathead for it and a Chrysler for it. The flathead ran 116 mph, and the Chrysler ran 125mph at Santa Ana."