Chevoom Funny Car – Maynard’s Mid Engine Moon
Ever since I bought my first Mooneyes T-shirt in 1965 I have loved that logo. To this day, I always dot the eyes if there are two O’s together in any word and anything Moon yellow gets my attention. Example: I was recently in the Orange County, California, shop of my friend Bob Marianich and there on the wall was a big photograph of Maynard Rupp’s Chevoom – a Funny Car before there were Funny Cars. Drawn by the eyes, I asked, “How come you have this on the wall?”
“I worked on that back in Detroit.” he replied. “There’s my name on the rear quarter.” Sure enough, right behind the rear wheel it said Paint and Body by Bob Marianich The Carriage Shop. Intrigued, I asked Bob what the story was behind the car.
In the formative years of Funny Cars, before today’s cookie cutter layout had been defined, there was what was called experimentation. It was what made early drag racing so fascinating. Evolving from the Factory eXperimental class, the first Funny Cars were the ’64 Dodge Chargers built by Dragmaster. They were quickly followed by Jack Chrisman’s Comet with a blown 427 and the wheels pushed forward—it looked funny and the name stuck. Then, in January 1966 “Dyno Don” Nicholson unveiled the first tube-frame Funny. He was not alone….
Watching these developments was Detroit Top Fuel racer Maynard Rupp. In 1965, the team of Ron and Gene Logghe, Roy Steffey and Maynard Rupp driving The Prussian AA/FD won two of only four NHRA national events: The Spring Nationals and the World Finals and clinched the Championship. The Prussian, so named because of Steffey and Rupp’s German heritage, was displayed at the 1966 Autorama alongside a new car, Chevoom that Rupp had begun developing the previous year. Being rear engined, technically it was actually mid-engined, Chevoom was a beautiful car and went on to win the famed Riddler Award—only the third car to ever do so. Soon after the Autorama the car was shipped out to California for the Winternationals when Dean Moon photographed it. It was also to also grace the cover of the May 1966 issue of Drag Strip magazine—formerly Modern Rod.
The body for the car was created by Bob and Nancy Mangold at B&N Fiberglass, Dayton, Ohio. According to Rupp he borrowed the front fenders, doors, trunk lid, bumpers and a hood from a local Chevy dealer, however, Bob Mangold confirmed that the actual Chevelle two-door hardtop body actually came from the local GM factory and B&N splashed it all. What was unusual was that it had opening doors, hood and deck lid. Even the head, tail and interior lights worked in the early version, however, later action shots show the headlights removed.
Incidentally, Bob Mangold is still in business making fiberglass Corvette bodies at www.backtothefutureproductsllc.com in Oak Harbor, Washington.
From Ohio, the body went to Detroit, Michigan, where Rupp built the frame in a muffler shop belonging to Gratiot Auto Supply (GAS). Located on Gratiot Avenue, Detroit, not far from the famed Woodward Avenue, GAS was owned by Angelo “Junior” Giampetroni and Bill Toia and in its day was one of the oldest and biggest speed shops in the country.
According to Bob Marianich the body was mounted on the frame then came to his shop that was not far from GAS. There, Marianich proceeded to hang the doors, hood and decklid making them all operational (the hood and decklid were held on with pins). He also fabricated the aluminum bulkhead, engine cover, wheel tubs and instrument panel saying, “I remember there was the usual rush to get it done and painted Moon yellow for Cobo Hall. After me it went to the striper Paul Hatton for lettering. Paul was well known around Detroit. He did all the lettering and striping.”
Chevoom’s powertrain layout was unusual as the Chrysler Hemi was mounted mid-ships over the driver’s right shoulder where the backseat would normally be. Rupp laid out the parallel tube frame and roll cage using round 4130 Chromoly tubing, however, the pivoting engine cradle was made out of rectangular tubing suspended in the rear with coil-over shocks. Interestingly, and unlike the other back-motored Funny Cars, Rupp sat not in the middle of the car but in the normal driving position.
The chrome front end was equally simple with a straight tube axle fitted with radius rods and suspended by a transverse leaf spring and tube shocks—there were no front brakes. If one considers the timing of this build, hot on the heels of “Dyno Don”, it’s obvious that Rupp was on top of the technology of the times with a mid-engined, tube frame, lift-off body Funny Car.
For power Rupp chose a Jimmy-blown ’56 354 ci Chrysler Hemi with Enderle injection coupled to an Art Carr Torqueflite transmission and a Dodge rear end. Incidentally, the ribbed 3-hole injector faced the rear rather than the front of the car. The engine was also fitted with a Schneider cam, finned M/T valve covers and Chetah Headers. Many of the parts were supplied by Gratiot or Mooneyes as part of their sponsorship packages.
To accommodate the powertrain set up, the rear M&H-shod Cragars were pushed back almost to the corners, there was just enough room there for Bob Marianich’s name. That was the opposite of most altered-wheelbase Funny Cars that usually had the rear wheels pushed forward for weight transfer. Note: There are several shots of the car with unpolished magnesium Halibrand wheels including spindle-mount fronts.
Unfortunately, despite all the ingenious work Chevoom, running in the eXperimental Stock class did not perform as well as Rupp had hoped. Indeed, none of the early back-motor’d Funny Cars did well: Doug Thorley’s Javelin flipped at Irwindale and Tom McEwen flew his Hemi ’Cuda on a test run at Lions. Jim Dunn actually had moderate success with a rear engine Funny Car which was well chronicled in the cult classic “Funny Car Summer.” But it took the ingenious Don Garlits to fully figure out the back-motor thing but by then it was too late and the Funny Cars had more or less settled on the front engine configuration.
For all his efforts, Rupp ran a best of 8.635 seconds at 166 mph which was right up there with his contemporaries. As part of the show Rupp also had a very cool Ford C-Series cab-over in matching yellow paint that predated other, similar drag car haulers. Nevertheless, Chevoom wasn’t fast enough and was soon eclipsed. Besides, the car was a little squirrely at the top end. Consequently, at the end of the ’66 season Rupp remembers selling the car to a young guy near Sandusky, Ohio, where it sat outside a barn with a blown motor until the early 80s when Ken Bigham of Gettysburg, PA, purchased it. Ken has owned the car ever since. However, it was advertised for sale in the March 22, 1968 issue of National Dragster with Sandra Haney as the contact.
Fast-forward 30 years to 2006 and the Holley Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Kentucky. There, looking a little sad was Chevoom, its paint rubbed out looking to all intents and purposes as if it was being readied for paint—you could just about make out Gratiot Auto Supply and the ‘voom of Chevoom. The price tag then was apparently $20,000. Not bad for a survivor.
Rupp, of course, went on to campaign another Funny Car with Steffey. Sponsored by STP, the SOHC-powered Cougar Country Mercury Cougar had the best and lightest parts the industry had to offer and yet the duo still did not fare well. At the end of the 1967 season they hung it up and pursued different careers—Rupp as a corporate pilot. As far as I know, Chevoom still sits in Ken Bigham’s garage.
Bob Snyder took these garage pics in 2008.