Chris Karamesines met Don Maynard
at the ATAA World Series of Drag Racing at Cordova, IL the weekend
before Labor Day 1957. Chris was a member of the Schlitzers (Schlitz
was a popular Midwestern beer brand brewed in nearby Milwaukee)
Car Club from South Chicago. The club helped staff the starting
and staging areas at this race. Maynard was a member of the Lords
Car Club from Tucson and one of the owners of the already famous
Speed Sport Roadster. The two entered into a racing partnership
and became good friends. Not long after, they built the Chizler
with tubing and bends purchased from Scotty Fenn at Chassis Research.
The car was originally built with a carbureted 354 Chrysler.
By 1959 a supercharger and injection had been added and the car
was a full fledged top fuel car.
Which brings us to the subject
car at hand. There was a time in our history when the best number
crunchers in the country declared that it was "impossible"
for a piston powered vehicle to go 200 MPH from a standing start
in a quarter mile. And for a long time it looked like they may
have been right. That is until April 24, 1960 when "The
Greek" and Maynard unloaded an incredible 204 MPH speed
at Alton Dragway.
Disclaimer: Although we have
given photo credits when known, there are some that remain anonymous.
If anyone knows who took the uncredited photos, let us know.
Here is the earliest
pictures of the Chizler that we are aware of. Phil Hobbs of Hirata/Hobbs
fame took these at Onondaga Michigan in 1959. Notice the front
wheel, the tire says John Bull and the hubs have a funny flange
shape. These are the wheels and tires that are on the car now.
The car initially
ran with 8 carburetors on Nitro. The rear wheels are also identical
to what was on the car when it came out of the Museum. We had
to substitute a different pair of wheels because the bolt pattern
was wrong for the rear end Alex Mikkelsen installed at American
On the left,
a very young Don Maynard, George Schreiber and an equally youthful
Chris Karamesines. The year, 1959 and the location, possibly
looking south in the pits at Union Grove near Racine, Wisconsin.
Schreiber was the Greek's brother in law and part owner of the
car until he went into the army.
Don Maynard in early 1959, at
what looks to be Route 30 near Gary Indiana . Note it still has
the square scoop on the injector. Later in the year, they returned
to Route 30 for the Meet of Champions and split top eliminator
money with Speed Sport when the event was called because of darkness.
These next two shots were taken
by "Slatts" Nelson at Oswego, where Slatts was track
Note that the car had better
lettering and an interim scoop, more rounded than the original
square design, but less artistic than the Speed Sport scoop soon
to be added.
Riverside Raceway in Dec. 1959.
The 162 car along side is Chuck Jones' Sidewinder II, driven
by Jack Chrisman, with very little success.
from Riverside in Dec. 1959. This was the first of many pilgrimages
to the West Coast. Note the addition of the "Speed Sport"
blower scoop and the header style that the car "wore"
most of the time after this. Over the winter the car was lengthened,
the rear end was moved forward and the chassis painted Black.
Bakersfield at the March Meet.
Over the winter the car was lengthened, the rear end was moved
forward and the chassis painted Black. You can readily see the
changes if you compare this picture with those above. A parachute
has been added also and in order for the push board not to contact
the chute, an additional upright has been added to the push bar
on the car.
It is believed this was
taken at Alton just before "The Run".
This would have been in 1960
prior to about August when they stretched the car. They towed
with 57-8 Chrysler 300's, note one to the right in the picture.
Don Maynard leaning on the engine, Greek behind car.
The Drag Racing world is still
divided into two camps. Believers and skeptics. However, when
the car was removed from the Garlits Museum in March 2006, Don
said it was the first car to go over 200! If Garlits believes
it, it was undoubtedly a fact!
Greek in the car in the
luxurious pits at Alton Dragway.
This is a Christmas card from
Bobby Langley's photo album that he got from Chris and Don in
The Greek at Great Lakes
Dragway in May of 1960.
Here we see the Chizler and the
Swamp Rat down by the finish line at Union Grove, as they wait
for the signal to begin the push start process
The Greek and Garlits raced twice
on the day. Once for A/FD and once for Top Eliminator. This is
the race for A/FD.
This was the annual Memorial
Day event where all the top Fuel dragsters from east of the Rockies
Art Malone driving Don Garlits
"Swamp Rat" vs. Chris "The Greek" Karamesines
Top Eliminator Title run, Union Grove, Memorial Day, 1960. On
this day, the Swamp Rat took home the Cheese!
Photo by Ron Johnson
The article above has a very
thorough explanation of the components that went into the car.
Note they used a stroker crank to reach 442 cubes and used aluminum
rods when most fuel cars were running junkyard short blocks!
They were also among the first to "blueprint" a top
fuel motor. This level of attention to detail might explain why
they ran so well and rarely broke. It was seldom, indeed, that
they were unable to return for another round of competition!
The picture above and the next
four were taken by Ron Johnson at Minnesota Dragway in June and
July of 1960. Chris and Don autographed the one above on their
next trip to Minnesota.
Also from the Langley Scrapbook
- Chris with Jack and Judy Langley. They aren't kids anymore.
That is Bobby Langley's "Scorpion" on the right. This
was taken in June of 1960 at Minnesota Dragways.
This shot was also taken at Minnesota
Dragway, photographer unknown. At some point after the above
pictures were taken a rectangular Valvoline decal was added to
each side of the nose.
This shot and the one below were
taken at the Oswego, IL track owned by the Smith Brothers. Above,
left to right Al Thompson of Al's Speed Shop, Ron Leek, who would
go on to become the owner of Rockford Dragway, Bud Roche, fellow
Schlitzers Car Club member and 1/3rd of Bud, Don and John "Guzler"
fame. On the right are Chris and Don. This track may have been
considered the "Home Track" for the Chizler which appeared
Between rounds maintenance out
of the trunk of the push car, as was the norm of the time. Their
pit area was wherever they chose to stop to do the work. This
shot was taken by Norbe Locke at Oswego. The tall guy with the
crew cut and the camera, leaning against the rear door of the
push car, is track photographer "Slatts" Nelson.
"The Greek Ready
to do Business" 1960
Mark Haefs photo
Three shots from Sanford,
Every year from 1957, the World
Series of Drag Racing has been held at Cordova the weekend before
Labor Day. You will note in the list of Champions above, Neil
Leffler won in 1960. Leffler was a partner with John Loukas in
the Leffler/Loukas Competition Coupe.
In this shot Loukas is on the
left and Larry Jones is on the right behind the Chizler at Detroit
in spring 1961 during a match race the Garlits/Swingle Swamp
Some of the heavy hitters posed
for this group shot at the 1960 AHRA Nationals in Kansas City.
From left to right, Art Malone & Al Williams, Bobby Langley,
Bob Sullivan, Don Garlits and Chris Karamesines. These cars were,
arguably, at the top of the class of Fuelers east of the Rockies.
Photos by Slatts
Another view of the group. Karamesines
on the far right, a youthful Art Malone with hands on hips in
The shots above and below were
taken (the same) weekend by Pete Garramone.
Below is a shot of the car, brought
back to Minnesota Dragways in September 1960 to check out the
effect of another chassis stretch. This one was about 12-15 inches.
The radius rod formerly extended right to the leading edge of
the belly pan. See picture above for reference.
Don Maynard looking for
Business card (front
& back) circa 1960
The shop on 68th Place in South
Chicago. A new nose has been built for the car which is now in
it's final configuration.
In the picture
above the new radius rods have been added, replacing the hairpin
style which were used up until this point. Note also that the
"Speed Sport" scoop and two-port Hilborn injector is
gone,having been replaced with a Four-port Hilborn and traditional
This picture was taken at Fremont
and a new Speed Sport scoop has been added to the four-port Hillborn.
A very rare (maybe the only one)
shot of the two Karamesines & Maynard 1960 project cars.
The very lightly raced behemoth twin (from the mind of Don Maynard)
and the featured 204 Car. Maynard drove the twin in its three
on track appearances.