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The Redhead streamliner set more records as a Ford powered (Flathead; ARDUN and small blocks) than with any other powerplant.
One of the most famous streamliners in the history of the Bonneville Speed Week, and one of the most photographed, thanks to its bizarre body design, the Redhead, also known as the “Coke bottle”, had one of the longest racing careers on the salt.
It appeared for the first time in 1962; then, owned and driven by different teams, it raced for thirty years (it was retired after Speed Week 1991) and set innumerable records in several different classes, pushed by a number of different engines. Without much change to its looks, apart for the location and shape of the bulges on the hood and the exhausts, depending on the type of engine.
The only main visible change occurred early in its career when the cockpit cover arrangement, which was shorter in the beginning, with just tiny slots to allow the driver to see the track, was replaced in 1964 by a more streamlined, clear plexi “bubble”. The front was rebuilt after an accident in the eighties, but remained virtually unchanged.
The chassis layout, a chrome-moly tube space frame, was typical of a slingshot dragster of the era, with the engine well back towards the rear axle (of Ford origin) and the driver's seat behind it. It used conventional size wheels front and back, though, instead of the cycle front and huge rear slicks of a dragster. Its unconventional and eye-catching body, was shaped from aluminum panels.
Originally an unfinished project of Romeo Palamides, of dragster fame, it was built by the team formed by Don Hammon, Bob Mc Grath (who was also the driver) and Roger Whipp. Its racing life started with a blown 394 cu.in. Chrysler and a B class record at 249.324 mph, which was bettered the next year, 1963, at 302.812 mph, the fastest record ever set by this car. A one way run at 331 mph in 1966 could not be confirmed for a record by a good return run, due to a transmission failure.
The Chrysler then gave way to a supercharged Chevy 259 for Class C. In 1969 Don Hammon, who had remained the sole owner and driver, installed a british Daimler 156, again supercharged, for Class D and renamed the car “Lil' Red”.
In 1971 Hammon sold the car to Ed Harding, who fitted it with a vintage Ford flathead, for which there are special classes at Bonneville, and immediately set a new record in Class X. In 1976 the car was sold again to Jim Lattin and Elmo Gillette who ran it for the next fifteen years, with Jim Lattin and sons Bill Lattin and Greg and Mark Gillette all setting records and getting in the 200 Club with it.
Classes had been changed in the meantime, so the new Ford small block 260 cu.in. engine put the Redhead in class E, where again it set a new record right away. The then car ran regularly every year, both at Bonneville and at El Mirage dry lake, setting a number of records in different classes, using Ford or Mercury flathead or Ford small block engines.
The model pictures the car as it looked in 1987, when it set a 212.040 mph record in class XX/GS (where the G stands for gasoline, as opposed to F, for unrestricted fuel). In 1990, looking exactly the same, except for a couple of sponsor stickers, it pushed this record a little bit further, to 213.554 mph. Not bad at all for a thirty-years old car! To this day this record still stands.
The Redhead is still owned and preserved by Jim Lattin.
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