09/24/1935 – 09/29/2007

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 side.

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, 1963.


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.
Don Garlits


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 Pink’s “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 don’t 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 next plateau.


Lions 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 sorely missed.

Don Garlits
International Drag Racing Hall of Fame
13700 SW 16th Ave.
Ocala, FL34473


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.
Don Ewald

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.
Don Prieto


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