Jade Grenade AA/FD

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History

 

Green isn't supposed to be a good color to paint your race car, but apparently nobody told that to the owners of the “Jade Grenade” Top Fuel dragster. Pete Lenhoff, Bill Flurer and driver Ted Thomas were the moving forces behind this beautiful car and they proved that you can combine a machinist, a plumber and an architect and have the right ingredients for a top notch drag racing team.

The "Jade Grenade" competed mostly on the east coast and from 1970 to part of 1972 they were among the top dogs of the Pro Fuel circuit at some of the best tracks in the country. They won the 1971 Pennsylvania “Dutch Classic” race and then came back to successfully defend their crown a year later. At the ’72 race Ted Thomas drove the car to wins over some of the best drivers on the circuit including Sarge Arciero, Tom Raley and Fred Forkner. The final run saw Ted streak to a 6.48 which would stand as low elapsed time of the meet. This latest win came just a few weeks after the team had blasted to a sensational 233 mph speed at the National Open race at New England Dragway which was just one of the ten track records that the team set over a two year span. The “Grenade” also grabbed wins at the Top Fuel show at Quaker City Dragway, the Dixie Classic (where they beat Tommy Ivo) and the Atco NHRA World Championship series event.

Even though the car performed very well most racers and fans remember it for it’s beauty and workmanship. With a 205 inch wheelbase, the car was long for the era and with its Don Long chassis, a full body by S & W and paint by the legendary “Jim the Painter” it was prettier than most. A late model Keith Black 426 Chrysler hemi powered the car and like everything else on the “Grenade” it was always polished to perfection. To help keep the car stable at the speeds that it was achieving the team installed a front axle foil and, later, a pair of side wings.

 

Fluer, Lenhoff & Thomas - "Jade Grenade" - AA/FD - 1970

 

Ted Thomas heats the tires at Cecil County Dragway in 1970.

 

 

 

 

New England Dragway 1970
Brian Beattie Photo

 

In 1971 the car clocked a very impressive 233 which was one of the best speeds of the year.

 

Orangeline

 

Restoration

 

Like many dragsters of the era, when the rear engine car was built the then obsolete front motor car went up for sale. By all accounts the "Jade Grenade" bounced around the New England area being modified to race in lower classes until it would no longer pass NHRA tech inspections. It was then tossed aside and all but forgotten.

Enter successful contractor and car collector Don Trasin who, through friends, found out where the car was and in 2000 he purchased it. Like any old warrior it was in really rough shape but the basic components where there. Trasin took everything to master race car builder/restorer Pat Foster in Wichita, Kansas and basically said, "Fix it."

Giving Foster the green light to do whatever it took to bring the car back to its most perfect state, the makeover began. The project took Foster nearly 6 months but the end results were well worth the wait.

 

As with all restorations the first thing that gets fixed is the chassis. Damaged or bent pieces of chrome moly tubing were grafted in making sure all the original dimensions and alignment factors were perfect.

 

Fast forward to a finished chassis when Foster went about fixing some and replacing other parts of the body, and fabricating all the brackets, pedals and levers.

 

 

 

 

 

With the body and chassis done it was time to take everything apart for paint and chrome.

 

Back together in Foster's shop the results are obvious.

 

 

 

 

The finished car ready for delivery to Trasin.

 

Orangeline

 

In the "early days" every year a first-time Cacklefest car (aka "Queen of The Hop) was chosen (now two are chosen) to do a fire-up in front of the Double Tree Hotel in downtown Bakersfield on Friday night after the CHRR Honorees Award Presentation. In 2001 the green car got the nod. Since Trasin was not familiar with the procedures of a fuel dragster, the natural choice to put in the car was builder/ex-racer Pat Foster.

 

 

 

With Pat Foster in the seat, the "Jade Grenade" made its official Cacklefest debut late Saturday afternoon in what would be the last daylight version of the event. In 2002 the race program was changed which put Cacklefest as the days closer, at dusk - which still proved to be too light. In 2003 the first round of Nostalgia Top Fuel was run before the Twilight Memorial then there was the Cacklefest Parade then, in the dark, was Cacklefest proper.

 

 

Foster heads up track to his spot.

 

 

 

On Sunday Foster was back in the car to give it an acid test push start and burnout.

 

 

 

 

Foster's burnout didn't work as planned. The car launched like a rocket without a wisp of smoke.

 

Although he was "on a good one" Foster had the good sense to shut it off at about the 300 foot mark.

 

 

The "Jade Grenade" next appeared at the 2002 NHRA Winternationals Cacklefest. Here's Foster doing the push start in front of 30,000 fans - many of whom had never seen a front engine Top Fuel dragster before.

 

 

By the 2002 CHRR Don Trasin, under Foster's tutorage, had become familiar with and comfortable in the car.

 

 

 

Don Trasin - Cacklefest III

 

 

Since it spent the winter in the NHRA Motorsports Museum, the cars next outing was the 2003 NHRA Winternationals Cacklefest. The car needed to be service before it was towed across the fair grounds to the track so Foster and Trasin just rolled it out the front door of the Museum and said - "Hey, this looks like a good pit space."

 

Trasin push starts from the top end of the fabled Pomona track.

 

 

Trasin gives the classic drag racing "V" for victory.

 

 

After the 2003 Winternationals Trasin took the car out of the Museum and back to Columbus. It's next outing was the inaugural National Hot Rod Reunion at Bowling Green, KY. The "Jade Grenade" got its second Friday night hotel fire-up but this time Trasin was in the seat.

 

 

 

Saturday night Trasin was in the car for the "Big Show" - the first Official Cacklefest outside of Bakersfield, CA.

 

 

 

In 2004 the cars only appearance was at the 50th US Nationals at Indy. Here Don Trasin and crew pose for Hot Rod Magazine.

 

 

In 2005 the car made its second appearance at Bowling Green for NHRR III.

 

 

Look for this beauty at a future Cacklefest near you.

 

 

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