On March 29th one of the most famous drag racing stars of the past 50 years, Pennsylvanian Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins passed away at 81. I remember seeing him race at the Grandnationals just outside of Montreal and also once or twice at Cayuga near Hamilton. If there ever was an iconic Chevy racer, Grumpy was it.
with early partner, Dave Strickler in 1962
Jenkins started out around 1962 tuning engines for Dave Strickler's Belair 409 - the must have car for any serious drag racer. These pics show the good old days when some work went on outside the garage before the car got towed (or was driven) to a race. No big enclosed semi trailers back then.
Jenkins was a serious guy at the track and sometime in the mid '60's, picked up the nickname "Grumpy" and it became so synonymous with him, that from 1966 onward all his cars were called "Grumpy's Toy". His real fame began in the late '60's and early '70's with a string of Camaros and Vegas (not exactly like the ones you would see rotting on the street).
The '68 Camaro on the cover of this book about Jenkin's cars was one of his most successful. It was eventually replaced with a '69, but then brought back again when the '69 proved to be disappointing. But his real success/fame came with his first Vega........
In 1972, he won so much with this car and made so much money, that he was featured in Time magazine. At about $250,000, his income tied with (I believe) Wilt Chamberlain as the highest paid pro sports figures that year and brought him to the attention of the mainstream media.
After he stopped driving in the late '70's, he still fielded cars with other drivers and eventually just supplied motors to competitors. A great success story of someone doing something that they loved. Of all the car models that I have in my office, 12 are well known drag cars of the late '60's, early '70's and three of those are Jenkin's cars.
Time goes on, but the memories last forever.
Until next time.......
- Barry (the Carguy) Thomas
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- My passion is also my business, as I am with the Toronto based Hav-A-Kar Auto Group. I sell or lease any make of car, van or truck available in Canada. My interest in all things "car" has helped me with my many clients in Ontario over the past 20+ years. Please give me the opportunity to assist you.