PUSHING THE ENVELOPE (1997)

by

Washington, DC, October, 1997. We are now on our second margaritas. I am cranking into high gear as I tell the Curator of Technology Emeritus from the Smithsonian Institute about the hijinks and absurdity that transpired on the Mach 1 shootout out at Black Rock.

I was telling him how the guy from RACER magazine had spotted my “Jocko’s Porting Service” t-shirt and commented on it. The Curator was a member of the Selecting Committee for the Drag Racing Hall of Fame – among his choices for inductees were “Jet Car Bob” Smith and Robert “Jocko” Johnson – and he had something to say about Jocko’s refusal of the honor.

“If anybody ever asks you where you got this, you tell them you don’t know.” He pushes a manila envelope across the table, between the basket of chips and my salted glass. “If anybody ever asks me if I gave this to you, I will tell them ‘No.'”

I open the envelope. Inside is a xerox of a fax, addressed to the Don Garlits’ Museum of Drag Racing, home of the Hall of Fame and whose board of selectors included Wally Parks and Don Garlits. It reads as follows:

October 16, 1997

Museum of Drag Racing Ocala, Florida

In reply to your letter of October 9, 1997 I hereby inform you that due to my disgust with Don Garlits’ handeling [sic] of my streamliner known as Wynns-liner I do not want any connection with him or anything he has a hand in. It is no honor to be connected with Garlits, the liar and thief. Another major reason that I decline induction is that statue of Wally Parks standing on a plinth with the names of all the inductees carved below his feet. I was never under Wally’s direction at any time and want no connection with him in the present or future. It is politically incorrect to have any man standing above all the others. An inanimate object such as the starting lights would be more appropriate. This statue should be dismantled. In the meantime the pigeons will do on it.

Drag racing is a pollution institution and should be abolished and forgotten. DRAG RACING SUCKS!!

My feelings were hurt by Don Garlits playing a game with my ‘liner and telling everyone that it lifts at 150 MPH then giving it to some one other than me (its rightful owner). Then he supposedly bought it back later for the museum. All the other people who I gave a ‘liner body for trial gave them back when they were finished, but not Garlits, he made a mockery of it and tells how it cost him money when in fact it made him a lot of money when he brought it to OCIR in 1973, this including sponsor money.

I heard from a crewman that Jim Tice paid the biggest show fee ever paid in the history of drag racing for that car to appear at OCIR and I got $0.00 for my year’s worth of effort creating the body that attracted all those folks to witness the 1/2 runs Butch Maas made according to Garlits [sic] mandate. So, is it any wonder I’m so pissed? Garlits called me to inform me I was voted into the Hall of Fame. I don’t believe he called out of friendship, but feared that I would do something to upset his ego trip. If that is the case he was right on. I will upset him and his quest for domination of all drag racers. I am sending my story to the TV networks because people like to get the truth. If they see my video and decide it is “news” they will do what is right.

My personal integrity means more to me than anything you people can do with all your agrandizement [sic] routines. So delete my name and lose my address and phone number.

Sincerely,

Jocko Johnson

Then, there was a follow-up addressed to Garlits:

Garlits,

It’s been 25 years since you screwed up big time and threw away your chance to show how to run the 1/4 mile with a true downforce streamliner body. Your own idea was a bust when you showed how to go airborne and do backflips with a dragster. Boy did I get a big laugh when I saw you go airborne with two of your own designs. I bet you can’t produce photos or videos of the Wynns-liner lifting off the deck because it didn’t happen and can’t happen.

Now that all those mindless followers have all had a taste of Garlits-aero I think it’s about time I build another ‘liner that looks just like “our” Wynns-liner but with some major differences, no Don Garlits, no lies, no ego driven motives, just proven aero that gives the desired results. You did delay the coming of streamliners, but you did not stop it. You held me back and now you want to categorize me into the Hall of Blame or is it the Wall of Shame, no the Ball of Flame that all of you has beens are in, but I’m just starting my run at the straight line race track. I’m not a has been or dead so don’t even think of putting my name at Wally Parks’ feet!!! Like it or not you are HISTORY Don and there you shall stay.

Jocko

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