Better late than never!
The road hasn't been without it's twists and turns, however and despite reaching a relatively mature age, Kenneth Lunneborg from Härnösand in Sweden has no regrets about getting his first dragster. "In all my years it's the best vehicle I've owned", commented Kenneth.
BY. Ulf Forsberg
During February 2012 and after having replaced the telephone receiver, Kenneth said to himself, "If that isn't the damndest thing I've dared to do"! That was just after calling Merl Willis in Ohio, USA, to confirm his decision to buy Merl's old dragster. The money's been wired to Merl, so there's no turning back!
"I'd only seen pictures of the machine and probably not the best pre-requisisite for buying such a machine but after having talked to 70 year old Merl, I'd gained enough confidence to place my trust in him", said Kenneth.
Six weeks later, the 26th of March, the dragster arrived in southern Sweden and Kenneth was able to hitch up a trailer to his Chevy pick-up and travel 1 500 kilometers south to collect it, .
It was exactly in the condition that Merl had described it and included a few small extras. A good journey home with frequent glances in the rear view mirror allowed Kenneth the luxury of being able to admire his dragster scoop.
Back to the beginning of the 1970's! Kenneth is "nuts" about bikes and already as an 18 year old he built his first chopper based on a Triumph. "Right from the start it was all or nothing. If I was going to build a chopper, it was going to be mine regardless of what was written in the registration documents". In those days dragsters didn't enjoy the status they do today even though Kenneth had read a great deal about them in Start and Speed.
A few years after selling the Triumph, Kenneth turned his hand to building a H-D.
"Whilst I have tended to ignore trends, appearances and a feeling for the artistic element, have always been close to my heart. I've always chosen quality stuff", commented Kenneth.
As Kenneth has discovered, quality's not always been easy to find, such as a shortage of good colours for domestic use. As a result, Kenneth, together with a pal, plugged that gap by becoming agents for the American House of Colour.
Amongst others, they sponsored European Top Fuel Champion Monica Öberg! One can say that drag racing has always been in the frame. "We completely lacquered her Top Fuel, including decals. A lot of effort was put into it but the finished result was well worth it", said Kenneth.
Autumn 2009 found Kenneth in California at a motor racing circuit for tourists! It's the sort of place where the ordinary man in the street can try his hand at almost anything and everything to do with motoring. Kenneth chose a dragster!
Whilst competitive motor racing had never been of interest to Kenneth, his lust for things new, led him to give it a go.
Given instructions, that he listened to intently and focussing on giving a good account of himself, he climbed into the scaled down dragster. His neighbour led the countdown and at exactly the right thousandth of a second, he got it into second. Jeez, what power! Make your mind up time and a quick decision was needed, to keep the momentum or ease up? "Keep it going, I hadn't come this far simply to take my foot off the pedal! Decided to give it the full Monty and delay braking until crossing the line", commented Kenneth. The aftermath was a total adrenaline shock for Kenneth as he emerged from the dragster. However, it didn't deter him from joining the queue to give it another run.... and another... and another. 16 runs in all that Autumn day!
During the Winter Kenneth turned his eye to the WWW to check out older dragsters.
"It was Christmas 2011, just an inner feeling that came to me, suddenly I knew exactly what I wanted. An old style, good looking, FED front engined, dragster", said Kenneth.
It took a little time before he found what he was looking. He contacted the owner who had a degree of uncertainty in the back of his mind. Sell the dragster to Sweden, isn't that on other side of the big pond? Is it even possible to bring it to Sweden?
"As we talked it through it became apparent that we had similar backgrounds. Then, after I'd agreed to organise the shipping side of things, which seemed to dispel any misgivings the owner had, the deal was finalised", said Kenneth.
Once on Swedish soil, Kenneth set about obtaining a drag racing licence. "To take the licence at the grand old age of 55+ seemed somewhat misplaced however, Kenneth had always chosen his own roads to go down!
The initial trials were simply to test the dragster's performance. Then, in the Autumn, it was on to his local raceway, Kjula, to give the machine it's first full burn. At the end of the day, 5 burns and 5 personal bests was the result. The best ET was 8.92 secs. and a top speed of 238.7 kmh which compared favourably with the machine's best ET performance in the US of 8.56 secs at 259 kmh. "Not bad for a new kid on the block", commented Kenneth.
But what was the nature of the dragster Kenneth had bought? Mostly shrouded in mystery is the answer, originally put together in 1969 and actively competed up until 2004. During that time the dragster, or The Wizard as it was known, had been updated to conform to new safety requirements.
Until now, Kenneth has been unable to discover exactly who built the chassis, but is trying to identify the person(s) using contacts in the USA.
The motor is a petrol driven Chevrolet Small Block, 355 cui that according to information given, is capable of producing 595 hp.
The component parts are an enigma however, as long as everything seems to be working as it should, there seems hardly any point in dismantling the motor to find out.
Anyway, whoever it was they don't seem to have spared any expense, as they have used good quality gear during construction. The box is a reconstructed Powerglide with an 8¾ axle. Despite it's age it even has a foot brake that holds the dragster still prior to the start.
"It's entitled to be as is! I like the style and this is the most enjoyable vehicle I've owned throughout the years. I also continue to be surprised just how much fun drag racing is and how much can pass through one's mind during those 8 seconds or so".
Kenneth "Lunne" Lunneborg would also like to take the opportunity to thank his
sponsors that have kept the faith: Highway Hotel, Stay Cool, Bilskadeservice and Kalle & Co Bilmuseum.