Connie Swingle, 72, one of the
true pioneers of drag Racing,passed away Saturday evening, peacefully
in his home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the city of his birth.
Connie had health problems for the last ten years and finally
succumbed to cancer. His faithful nurse, Virginia, was at his
Connie served a hitch in the
US Army in Africa and when discharged moved to Tampa Florida.
He arrived at Garlits Automotive Inc. in 1960 and started welding.
He became one of the best welders in the world. Swamp Rat III-A
had been started, so Swingle, as he liked to be called,
finished the project and took the new chrome moley car on tour.
A publicly shot of Don Garlits
(behind car) and Connie Swingle in 1963. Connie drove several
of Don's cars in the early years.
Garlits running against Connie
Swingle in a match race at Miami's Masters Field, in November,
A great candid shots of the legendary
Connie Swingle (sunglasses) in 1963. He was driving for Garlits
at the time.
This is a great picture of SR-8
at Bakersfield. Connie Swingle drove Swamp Rat 8, powered first
by a 392 then the new 426 Dodge hemi (below) and the car did
in fact had a rear torsion suspension built by Bruce Crower.
We took it out when we returned to Tampa though as it was now
working as we planned. In 1966 we stretched the 150" wheelbase
to 175" renamed the car SR-10, and painted red. There is
a diecast of it by "1320". In 1967 we two toned the
car red and black and that is how it rests in the museum today.
Swingle won many races with the
car, the biggest being the big Riverside Drag race in 1962 at
Riverside Raceway. Swingle was instrumental in the success of
the Garlits Chassis business from 1961 through 1964. At which
time Don Garlits relocated to Troy, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit,
Swingle went west and joined up with the Old Master
Ed Pinks. Driving Pinks Old Master AA/FD car,
Connie enjoyed his biggest win at Fontana Dragstrip in the fall
of 1965, when he beat Don Garlits in the final for the MickeyThompson
200 MPH Meet and took home all the gold, about $5,000.00,
a very large purse for that era.
When the weather got to
Garlits in Detroit and he moved back to Florida, (Seffner),
Connie returned from California and rejoined the Chassis business.
Together Connie and Don Garlits built some outstanding Slingshot
dragsters. The best and fastest one, Swamp Rat 13, blew the transmission
at Long Beach in March 1970 and Garlits, Swingle and Lemons proceeded
to build the Rear Engine car. Connie always referred to #14 as
a Front Driver car, which it technically was. After
much frustration and many, many tests, Swingle said, If
you think the steering is too fast, why dont we slow it
down?, the rest is history and the drag racing world now
has the Championship Rear Engine Dragster. We can
all give Connie Swingle a great big Thank You for
his participation in this endeavor that took drag racing to the
in 1971. This was the debut of Garlits' first RED that worked
(once Swingle figured out the steering).
Swingle finally wanted to slow
down, so he opened a small shop in South Tampa and did small
jobs to make a living. As I look back, he was probably getting
sick then and didn't have the energy to go the way I was racing.
The last job that he did was the recreation of Swamp Rat IV,
with the blown Dodge wedge on gas. He did a beautiful job, but
I could see he was all done welding as his hands shook too much
for welding. We all got together and moved him back to Oklahoma
with his Mother and Dad, who have since passed away. Connie is
survived by Heusen Theodore Teddy Swingle, named
after his Father Theodore Ted Swingle.
Connie Swingle was installed
into the Southeastern NHRA Drag Racing HOF in 1991, the International
Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1998. He also won the Drag News Invitational
in 1962, held at Dragway 42 in Ohio.He held the Drag News #1
spot several times and also the Drag News 1320 E.T. Record of
7.88 seconds at 198.22 MPH. Connie was also my Crew Chief during
the Drag Racer Magazine Number One Spot held at HalfMoon Bayin
1966, which we won.
Connie was a tireless worker,
could go for days without sleep and always had a new idea on
how to go fast. He left his mark on our sport and he will be
International Drag Racing Hall of Fame
13700 SW 16th Ave.
NHRR 2004, you can bet that whatever
Fats is saying to Swingle it was rip your guts out funny. At
least Carl Olson found it amusing.
Connie lived life at 250 and
many will muse - how did he ever make it to 72? He drank like
a fish, chain smoked and forever threw caution to the wind. The
answer is simple, he was "Swingle". There will never
be another like him.
I talked to Connie often and
about a month ago he told me he was history, eaten up big time
with cancer, he knew he had no chance and chose to not treat
it to much degree. Like when Jerry Garcia passed, I was amazed
he made it as far as he did. Connie has been in trouble for years
but also made no effort to change his lifestyle.
He was my good friend whom I
loved and so admired for his unique talents, as he did it all,
we're talking ALL here, drove em', built em', towed em' with
trailers he built, designed some cars of note from chalk lines
on the floor, painted em' and made Garlits a legend, plus a few
others. Perhaps Connie can find peace now, he deserves some!
I love ya' Swingle, RIP -
- - Pat Foster
On top of all that you say, Swingle
was a very "funny" guy to be around. When Foster crashed
the Woody rear engine car, he said to me and others that: "He
(Foster) did a double muthuafukka into the niggah hot dog stand".
I laughed till I could no longer stand.