Garlits in renaissance: Eighty-two year old sets quarter-mile record with electric dragster and targets 200mph

By Ben Mozart, June 30, 2014

DonGarlits-electric-SwampRatAlmost fifty years ago, in August of 1964, Don Garlits distinguished himself as the first man to reach 200mph over a quarter-mile distance from a standing start. His current challenge is to repeat the achievement under electrical power.

On April 30, 2014, at IHRA’s Bradenton Motorsports Park, Florida, the 82-year–old drag racing legend and 17-time world champion set the quarter-mile record for an electrically powered dragster. He recorded a pass of 7.258 seconds at 184.01mph in the Swamp Rat 37, surpassing the previous record of 7.95 at 156.00mph.

Currently, the chassis has been returned to Lawless Industries, the electric motor specialists in Ohio, where they are carrying out revisions to the drive systems that link the dragster’s six motors.

In an earlier pass, sand entered an electric motor when the dragster penetrated a sand trap. “Despite the failure of one of the motors on the last run, the incremental times looked really good,” said Garlits,

Work should be completed and the car returned to Florida by July 14, at which time they will set a date for their next record attempt, which is likely to take place at Bradenton around July 15 to 18.

The Swamp Rat 37, which is powered by a 1,500-amp lithium polymer battery pack constructed by High Tech Systems of Aurora, Colorado, was built by Brad Hadman and project manager Mike Gerry who is based in Las Vegas.

Garlits’ legacy?

“This challenge is very important to me,” explained Garlits. “It has been 50 years since I broke the 200mph barrier in Top Fuel and I would like to do that again this year, hopefully before the 50-year reunion celebration of that run in August. But more importantly, I’m keen to show the world that there is another avenue that drag racing can take that is cleaner and much less expensive, allowing more people to get involved.”

Lead image Garlits&GooseDuring a career that spanned nearly four decades, Garlits won 144 national events, including a record eight U.S. Nationals. Moreover, he broke nearly every barrier drag racing presented. He was the first to exceed speeds of 170, 180, 200, 240, 250, 260 and 270 in a dragster and succeeded in winning 17 championships across the three major hot rod associations.

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