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California’s Baddest HotRodding Family • The Chrismans ~ 1948-1965

What Was the Baddest Hot Rod I ever Saw..? Jack Chrisman in his Nitro-Burning Comet Super Cyclone~Fontana Drags, 1965

Ed Losinski/Chrisman’s Garage ’32 Highboy-El Mirage Dry Lake-1949

In the early 1950’s, Compton was a Respectable, Sleepy Suburb of L.A. I know, my Aunt Ruth & Uncle Bill lived there in a little white house with roses & a Bird Bath in the backyard.

Art & Lloyd Chrisman lived in Compton, too, and the Chrisman’s Garage turned out some of the Nastiest, most Innovative, Well-Designed -Built, Fast & Feared Hot Rods anywhere.

This is the Story of the Chrisman’s – California’s Baddest HotRodders.

In 1950 Art & Lloyd had been racing a modified ’32 Ford roadster on the dry lakes like Harper & El Mirage, north of L.A., near Palmdale in the Mojave. Then in 1953 they set their sights on the Salt Flats at Bonneville & built the nastiest Ford coupe they could conjure up. Based on a 1930 ‘A’ Coupe, Art & Lloyd built a very hi-tech for its day-tube frame, dropped in an injected, bored & stroked Flathead V8, running on a 50/50 Nitromethane & Pump Gas mix – behind the driver with a sectioned, lightened chop-top body channelled over the frame, and an ingenious streamlined nose made from 2 ’40 Ford hoods laid top-to-bottom, the Chrisman’s built what could be considered the world’s first Fuel ‘Funny Car’. A design concept basically shared by all Fuel dragsters & Funny Cars racing today, over 50 years later. but no one knew that…yet.

The Chrismans roll out the very High-Tech Chrisman Coupe – ‘Straight Outa Compton’, 1952

2 Very Rare Photos ~ The Chrisman Roadster & Coupe in the Background, Bonneville

The Chrisman Coupe • Wendover Motel, Utah ~ Ready to Make History

In 1954 the Chrismans returned to Bonneville, with a new Ford V8 in the Coupe, and used its previous engine for the Roadster, now fielding 2 cars on the Salt, and sponsoring a third. It would be 15 years before other Race Teams would have the organization, skill and funding to field 2 and 3-car teams. Today it takes millions of company sponsorship dollars to do so. Sporting a new Super-Flathead V-8, with Ardun ‘Hemi’ heads, the predecessor to all current drag-racing engines, The Baddest Motor Scooter of its Day. With about 285-300 hp available, the Chrisman Coupe was approaching 200 mph on the salt.

In 1955 The Chrisman Boys returned again, this time with a blown Chrysler Hemi, capable of pushing the Coupe well over 200 mph. The Chrismans withdrew from competition after a friend was killed that day in another car. Shortly thereafter the Chrisman Coupe was sold, never to be raced (by Art & Lloyd) again. In 2008, the restored version of this car was sold at auction for over $500,000.00 and is displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, not far from where it was built in the Chrisman’s Garage in Compton, not 5 miles away, 50-plus years before.

Evil Chrisman Bros. Coupe- Bonneville 1954. Nasty & Feared by the Competition.

The Chrisman Coupe set up for Drag Racing, Pomona, CA 1954 

In between runs, The Chrisman Coupe chasing the 200MPH Club at Bonneville

Jack Chrisman ‘SideWinder’ Dragster-Lion’s, Long Beach 1959

Keeping it All in the Family, along came nephew Jack Chrisman, following in his Father’s and Uncle’s footsteps…in the late 50’s, Jack built early innovative race cars for the dragstrip like the ‘SideWinder’ – one of the first with a rear-engine (and sideways-mounted, for balance), preceding the current practice not widely used until 15  years after this car was first built & ran, in 1959. About 5 years later, having earned a reputation as some of the Baddest HotRodders Anywhere, and now getting some albeit, Undercover Financing from the Ford Motor Company, Jack Chrisman stuffed a leftover 427 Big-block Ford engine into a brand-new ’64 Mercury Comet. My Mom drove the innocuous economy car street version. Jack Chrisman unleashed his Monster Comet on the Drag Strip and sanctioning body NHRA didn’t even know what to call it or how to classify it, the Ultimate Sleeper – The World’s First ‘Funny Car’. Chrisman created a spectacular Mind-Blowing Crowd – Pleaser – a California Hot Rod Revolution that would set Drag Racing on its ear, and Detroit scrambling to create cars to emulate that Evil ‘MuscleCar’ Style….The Chrisman Comet Super Cyclone. A Small, Safe-looking Family Car with a 750-horsepower Monster Motor . I saw it when I was 8 years old and, having seen a lot of Hot Rods already at that age, the sight of what looked like Mom’s Car laying down 500 feet of Nitro-burning tire smoke at 160 mph changed my life forever. The Baddest Hot Rod I ever saw.

Art, Lloyd & Jack Chrisman had and would go on to build several other Winning, Feared, and ultimately Legendary Hot Rods and Race Cars over 30 years, some of which now reside in Museums. Not all are shown here – But to me, because of their innovations – and adoption of into a sport known for design, technical innovation and  by nature, always moving forward – These famous Chrisman Dragsters are the most noteworthy.

The Compton, California Chrisman Boys, did first and best, initially without major financial sponsorship what would Evolve into the Multi-Million Dollar Industry that has become Today’s Spectacular Spectator Sport -Nitro-Burning Top Fuel & Funny Car Drag Racing- California Style.

Jack Chrisman-Nitro-Burning Blown Hemi Super Cyclone- The 1st ‘Funny Car’ -1964

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6 responses

  1. rocknrollratfink

    I think you have a bit of misinformation here. I believe Jack was Art and Loyds Uncle. Oh and the sidewinder was built by my uncle Paul Nicolini. Thanks for the cool story though!

    August 17, 2010 at 6:33 am

    • Ah ~ perhaps. Always thought Jack the youngest. At any rate, the Chrismans were the Baddest of the Bad !
      That Hemi tire-smoking Comet changed my life at 7 years old ! Cheers, Federico

      August 17, 2010 at 2:42 pm

      • Bob Chrisman--son of Lloyd

        The Comets NEVER had Chryslers in then. The white’64 had a 427 Ford, the updated version, the red car, had a 427 Cammer motor in it.

        May 5, 2014 at 1:14 am

      • Hey there Bob, this being the very first story posted ever here, it’s had some corrections and your was noted & made. To this day the White Comet is my favorite Drag Car ever… Thanks for checking in…F deC

        May 5, 2014 at 3:29 pm

  2. Hey would you mind letting me know which webhost you’re using?
    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 different web browsers and I must
    say this blog loads a lot faster then most. Can you recommend a good internet hosting provider
    at a honest price? Thank you, I appreciate it!

    May 28, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    • Hey there Lilliana ~

      this blog was produced in http://www.wordpress.com If you go & have a look around, it is fairly self-explanatory how to start & host your own site through WordPress there. I have produced several other sites for clients, ( I am a Graphic Designer ) with WordPress & recommend it. There is a also a link for support and if you follow that a real-live WordPress person will get back in touch with you. Good Luck ~ Federico

      May 28, 2014 at 6:20 pm

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