Prudhomme

Prudhomme went on tour with Ivo as an errand runner and tire wiper from home to the East Coast and every state in between—he likened it to Drag Racing College, learning the ropes from a driven and committed drag racer. When Prudhomme returned home he knew drag racing would be his career.

"Prudhomme wanted to go drag racing with his own car," Ivo remarks. "My single-engine dragster was sitting in my garage. I said, ‘Take it. See if you like it. And if you do, pay me for it.'" Because Prudhomme painted cars, they horse-traded.

Prudhomme ran it with a Buick motor with fair results, so Ivo had a suggestion: "Dave Zeuschel worked at C-T Automotive and went into Tony Nancy's shop when I was there," Ivo says. "Zeuschel had built a blown Chrysler while he was working at C-T but had no car to put it in. I told Zeuschel I had a Chrysler in my single-engine car for a couple of weeks, but it kept breaking, so I went back to my Buick. ‘Why don't you put your Chrysler motor in Prudhomme's car?' I said ... ‘Just bolt it in.' That was the start of the Fuller, Zeuschel, and Prudhomme team."

In the meantime, Kent built an entirely different dragster and chose Prudhomme as his driver. Why Prudhomme? "When I was deciding who was going to drive my car, I had a little test," Kent says. "When a driver would walk into my shop, whatever tool I had in my hand, without warning I'd throw at him. If it hit him, he didn't qualify. Prudhomme grabbed it right out of the air."

In fact they were winning everywhere they took the car, right out of the box. At Half Moon Bay in Northern California, they won Outstanding Performer award by posting a 186.80 with low e.t. of 8.33. The young team won the 1962 March Meet. That was Prudhomme's first race driving a fuel car for Zeuschel and Kent. Drag racing was only 12 years old; a young sport in 1962, and so were the drag racers. Kent was 28, Prudhomme and Zeuschel were both 20.

"To go to Bakersfield and win the Fuel and Gas Championship (later called the March Meet) was a big deal ... it was a HUGE deal! I don't remember what we won, but I still have the trophy. That really launched our careers," Prudhomme exclaims, "and we got on the cover of Drag News. When that car came on the scene, Zeuschel had this power-blast engine and Fuller had this chassis that was way ahead of a lot of other cars."

Teams were forming at such a quickened rate after the Fuel ban was overturned in January 1962 that chassis and engine builders were never home: "When I started having a winning Fuel car, I suddenly sold five dragster chassis in one day," Kent recalls.

Greer-Black-Prudhomme

According to Kent, here's how the Greer-Black-Prudhomme team came about: "Rod Stuckey came out from Kansas City with a dragster he built for Bob Sullivan called ‘Pandemonium'. Sullivan owned it with a 331-inch Chrysler. (It was the first Midwestern car to break 150 in the quarter in 1956.) We got to be friends when Stuckey decided he wanted another dragster. We went down to Washington Hardware to buy some surplus chromoly tubing, and he bought enough tubing for two cars. (Kent built Stuckey a chassis as well, and then later Stuckey sustained severe burns at Half Moon Bay dragstrip when his Kent Fuller–chassis'd Fueler exploded and caught fire.) "He sold the car to a guy named Ivan who owned Cash Auto Parts. Ivan lost the car to Louie Senter (Ansen Automotive Engineering) because of a bad debt.

"After we won Bakersfield," resumed Kent, "Prudhomme and I quit running the car and Prudhomme was without a ride. I knew Tom Greer and Black didn't have a driver so I made them an offer. I'll do all the chassis work on the car for free for the advertising and you hire Prudhomme. In the meantime, I was going in with Chet Herbert (roller cam innovator) to put two side-by-side Chevys of Chet's in my car."

The classic three-legged stool relationship between Tom Greer (who funded the team), Keith Black (the engine building phenomenon), and wheelman Don Prudhomme was about to be set.

Tom Greer

To most of us, Tom Greer, of Westminster, California, a machine shop owner, is the least known of the three who made up that legendary team.

Greer was born in Los Angeles in 1927: "I went to Bell High School," Greer begins. "I took most of the shop classes in school. I had a '32 Ford roadster, later a '36 Ford three-window ... I wish I had it now. I went to Bell Auto Parts and got to know all the guys who worked there, like Jot Horne (Jot Horne Story Feb. '10 issue R&C). I was racing boats at the time. Keith Black was in the auto parts business and worked out of his house. In his garage he started building Flathead Ford engines. Then he got out of the auto parts business and started building engines at home.

"Since I was racing boats with Keith, I figured it would be a good thing to go drag racing with him. I bought a dragster from Chuck Guarth. Chuck built the dragster and after we purchased it, Chuck drove the car with Keith's Chrysler in it. It had a real short wheelbase and it was pretty hard to handle.

"Louie Senter heard how bad our dragster was going and called myself and Keith to tell us his was for sale. I went over to Louie's and bought the car. At that time we didn't have a driver."