Don Garlits is a drag racing legend. It’s why he’s known as “Big Daddy.” Garlits has set records, not only for the amount of wins, but also for eclipsed times, trap speeds, etc. He’s been active in the drag racing world for the better part of 60 years. Many credit him for actively starting to make Top Fuel drag racing safer. He’s learned the hard way on how unsafe old nitromethane dragsters are. His favorite engine is the 426 Hemi that propelled him to many a victory. Now, at age 81, he’s trying to set yet another record.
The eerie silence of electric vehicles is a bit creepy to some. Nowhere is it more apparent than a 1/4 mile dragstrip. Top Fuel dragsters make 8,000 horsepower, shake your body to the core, and easily hit 150 decibels.
Big Daddy’s Swamp Rat 37 isn’t what he usually drag races. This is evidenced by the fact that he went 323 mph six years ago. He regularly drag races a 2009 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak (Dodge’s equivalent of the Ford Mustang Cobra Jet and Chevy COPO Camaro, except it’s got a 600 horsepower Viper V10 under the hood). Anyhow, Swamp Rat 37 isn’t nearly as quick as other cars he’s sailed down the 1320 feet of a quarter mile in. But, his new record proves that electric dragsters aren’t slow, either. According to Wired, Garlits and Swamp Rat 37 just went 7.258 seconds at 184.01 mph at Brandenton Motorsports Park in Florida. That’s a little bit short of the 200 mph Garlits is aiming for, but he still went 24.16 mph faster than the previous record.
Very few electric cars make supercars look slow, though the Tesla Model S does come close – very close. However, Big Daddy’s dragster makes every supercar look slow. Swamp Rat 37 has six 7.5-inch DC electric motors. Total output from those motors is 1,500 kilowatts, equivalent to about 2,000 horsepower. Power for those motors is provided by four lithium-ion battery packs that store 420 volts and 3,600 amps. It’s a little bit more powerful than sticking your finger into an electrical outlet. Since he’s living his life 1320 feet at a time, there’s no such thing as range anxiety.
Big Daddy built up to full power over the course of several runs, turning in a 10.9, an 8.75, and on his fifth run, he hit 178.42 mph. His sixth run was the record-shattering run. For me, the most striking noise is not the whir of the electric motors, but the tires. The noise of the tires is always drowned out by the thundering engines used in Top Fuel dragsters. For some, this may devalue electric dragsters forever, but Big Daddy has shown the world that there’s potential in everything.
Enjoy the video of Garlits setting the record. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ea4igN8Thtg