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As we saw in Part One of this Garlits visit last month, Don’s a serious collector of all things related to the sport of drag racing. Peppered throughout the museum are artifacts like this pair of vintage steel fuel containers. Though Racing Fuels Incorporated (RFI) was the dominant supplier of nitro methane, the Christopher Brothers was a Detroit outfit that made Chris-Go racing fuel (left). The can of Nitro-X on the right was produced by Prosser’s racing fuels of Columbia, TN. A close read of the labels reveals these companies offered gasoline, gasoline additives, alcohol and nitro methane racing fuels. Fine print on the Nitro-X can reads; “The type of fuel in this can will be marked on the top of the can”. Also seen here is a rare MPC 1/25 scale plastic model kit of Don’s Wynnscharger dragster from 1969. The illustrated box art seems to replicate Swamp Rat 12-B with its fully enclosed chassis and vibrant red-on-black graphics. This is not Swamp Rat 13 which reverted to an exposed frame. Swamp Rat 13 is the car in which Garlits would lose part of his right foot at Lions drag strip on March 8, 1970 when his transmission exploded on the starting line. Amazingly, Garlits rebuilt the cut-in-two chassis and sold it for $4,500 to semi-partners T.C. Lemons and Connie Swingle who campaigned it through 1971 – helping to fulfill match race dates while Don’s foot healed. Swamp Rat 13 is also in Garlits’ museum and appears as it did just prior to the accident.
Out of sight to regular museum guests are several storage buildings that are packed with vintage goodies like these early Chrysler FirePower Hemi heads. The top row of heads are from 1957-’58 392 engines – we can tell by the yellow grease pencil markings put there by Don. The lower shelf is mostly full of 1951-’54 331 heads which have smooth ends since they lack the raised water pump cross-over passage mounting bosses found on 1955-up Chrysler Hemi heads. The raised-bosses visible on the last pair of heads identifies them as 1955-up castings. Don uses these heads on his many restoration projects.