Nobody Wanted To Fight
Who but Kent would build a tube chassis for a ’29 Model A? And in 1960 it was almost unhea
"Lo and behold," Prudhomme recalls, "Keith Black called me to see if I was interested in driving the Greer-Black car ... I got the call in Kent's shop. Kent said, ‘Keith Black wants to talk to you'. I wasn't aware at that particular time that Kent recommended me to Black.
"There were so many dragstrips in Southern California that guys would call me up to see where we were running—if we were running Long Beach, they'd go to Irwindale; if we were running Irwindale, they'd go to Long Beach ... they wanted to make some money! When we fired the Chrysler, nobody wanted to fight." (The team never lost a Keith Black motor, according to crew member Dick Burley.)
"My deal didn't happen with Chet Herbert because Prudhomme started winning races with Greer and Black," Kent says. "I didn't count on him winning races so quickly. I would never have been able to get him back as a driver for the twin Chevy car. I couldn't afford to do it on my own so I sold the car to Louie Senter, took the money and moved to Belmont in Northern California."
After Louie purchased the Fuller/Zeuschel dragster from Kent, Senter teamed up with Ed Pink, another master engine builder, and the car continued to rack up wins. The Ansen/Pink team won the AHRA Winter Championship at Fontana Drag City with Rod Stuckey driving. (I made the oversight in the Ed Pink Story, Aug. '12 issue of R&C, that the Ansen/Pink dragster became the Greer-Black-Prudhomme car, not realizing that Senter had purchased two dragsters at different times that Kent built.)
There were so many dragstrips in the L.A. area that if you loved the sound of a Fueler all you had to do was stick your head out the kitchen window. Drag racers didn't have a lot of money but there was money to be made. Not a lot at first, though. Top Eliminator money went from $500-$1,000 by 1963.
That’s Kent with his wife Evelyn, in front of his Volks Rod. Here’s how that happened: “I
One of Kent's best sales reps was driver Jim McLennan who also owned NorCal's Half Moon Bay Dragstrip and Champion Speed Shop in South San Francisco: "I would bet anyone driving one of my dragsters double or nothing if they would put their hands on their helmet and go as far down the strip as they could before they grabbed the steering wheel to see if the car oversteered itself. Jim went 180 mph before he grabbed the wheel. When someone called up to ask about how my cars handled, I'd say, talk to Jim McLennan." (McLennan was quoted as saying driving a Kent car was like driving a Cadillac.)
Life Goes On
Drag racing had become an enterprise, rather than a sport, with corporations sponsoring the teams. Kent called his insurance company inquiring how much his liability insurance would cost. He was told $10,000 per chassis. "I was getting $1,100 per chassis and said that ain't gonna work."
Kent built 260 chassis while in the business. "I quit drag racing altogether in 1990 and moved to Santa Rosa. I've been retired ever since. I have a shop to sit around in and work on my stuff and keep my junk. I'm not in business and I don't want customers. My wife Evelyn (married since 1955) is in real estate, who you might say is my sponsor. Looking back, I'd like to make my grandchildren proud of me."
Kent Fuller's legacy is the infinite times his chassis carried drivers at ever-increasing speeds safely, as well as the large number of Fuller-chassis'd dragsters that have been painfully and proudly restored to capture those bygone days.
One of them is Roland Leong's Top Fuel dragster the "Hawaiian". After winning Top Fuel Eliminator at the Winternationals in Pomona, California, and the U.S. Nationals at Indy in 1965 with Prudhomme driving, Leong pulled it off again at Pomona and Indy with driver Mike Snively in 1966. The "Hawaiian" is currently on display among the Formula 1 Alfas, Bugattis, and Ferraris at the National Automotive Museum in Turin, Italy.
Kent was inducted into the Oakland Roadster Show Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Don Garlits International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1996. Your grandchildren have a lot to be proud of.