George with Don Green's
The trailer swayed and bounced
alone the highway from Pomona at a steady safe pace. It followed
behind an old yellow Dodge pick-up. The driver was nervous and
unsure. Don rehearsed the opening lines, but changed it again
and again as the highway approached its destination.
He arrived at the opening gate,
"Are ya goin' ah race today?" The questioning teenager
and his apparent lack of enthusiasm was a bad sign. "I hope
" Don replied. "$25 bucks
race or no race."
The cash was a small investment for the hopes that Don placed
on it. There wasn't much cash left to work with. Like a final
bet on 'Red' at the roulette table, it was win or walk.
He parked his rig, not bothering
to unload his soul expenditure; he looked for the one who could
tame his biggest burden and breathe life back into his dreams.
Don had watched this man drive one of the most unusual and exciting
dragsters ever to run the quarter mile. It too was considered
undriveable. But George Hutcheson did the impossible, by controlling
and mastered the beautiful and exotic US Turbine 1 Dragster of
Fling Traylor. Don rolled the dice, hoping that the Stone Age
Man would take up yet another difficult challenge. So much was
written about George and his AA/FD and the Turbine car that it
seemed George Hutcheson bled ink.
George at San Fernando
The Stone Age Man was not hard
to find. The track announcer kept up a steady stream of air-time
hype about George's last run and his next pass. There was his
target, talking and laughing with a group of fan as he prepared
the sleek and sexy US Turbine 1 for its next thunderous pass.
I was wondering
if I might
if you want
what I mean is
my name is Don Green and
I own the Rat Trap AA/FA. Would
you like to try and help me figure out why the Rat Trap is so
difficult to drive?" Don, out of breath and showing all
his cards in one last play, waited for the inevitable 'no thank
you'. George looked into Don's sad hopeless face and answered
with, "Fuel Altered
hmm? Sure I'll give it a ride..."
Don immediately tried to give the gravest of warning, "It
can get really squirrely out of the gate, and it will twist to
the right, bounce wildly from side to side, I mean this sucker
really is wild
I've tried everything to get her under control
no one will drive it anymore.
Like a teenager getting a 'dare-to-ride'
George asked, "Where is it parked? Let's get her fired up."
After unloading and doing all the prep work, Don asked George,
"Are you sure you want to do this, I mean it can get nuts?"
George answered with "Watch me!"
It was mandatory to drive a half
pass for the Altered License. San Fernando Raceway seemed like
a good place to test drive anything with or without insurance
The AA/FA has a shorter wheelbase
than the standard Funny Car and Top Fuel. Same big 392 Hemi engine.
It's a lot more difficult to control do to the short length.
This was foreign territory for George. In the Stone Age Man AA/FD
the driver's seat was behind the differential. In the US Turbine
the driver laid flat on his back with his head up to see. In
the Fuel Altered, the driver sat up higher and in front of the
differential. The Rat Trap was fired up and drove eagerly around
to the staging lights. Don nervously stood to the side to watch
George's first half pass. This was just a test half pass on a
1500 horse powered bucking bull.
First ride in the
The green light signaled go.
Fast out of the gate, foot to the floor George found the front
end in the air and twisting to the right so that one rear tire
remains grounded. The back tires slid forward and jumped. The
car swung sideways to the left on three wheels. George fought
for control and demanded "No you don't!" The beast
swung to the right sideways on two wheels. Like a bull rider
in a rodeo, but at 140 miles per hour this was a learning curve.
It never went straight by the half way mark. So George shut her
It sputtered to a stop at the
end of the track. George hopped out and jerked off his helmet,
"I got you now, next time we'll go all the way
you like a book!" George shouted in delight. This was typical
end-of-the-track talk with George to his racecars.
Don Green raced up in his truck
ready to lay out a string of apologies and I-told-you-so's. George
was so excited as if he had just stepped off a roller coaster
ride announced, "Don, fuel her up again, we're going all
the way this time! Don't mess with the Lone Ranger!"
The second pass was where George
was going to teach the Rat Trap who controlled who. Don informed
George, "I've never had her over 185 mph, but I know she'll
do 200, ya just have to stay with her." Zipping up his fire
suit and reaching for his famous helmet, George replied, "I'll
have her singing my tune Don, just watch, I'll have her out to
200 mph for sure!"
Top Fuel Altered's are erratic
in nature, difficult to control out of the gate. The weight transfer
of the short wheel base has the back tires reaching around to
be in front. The front wheels also want to ride up causing the
racer to drift sidewise. Even after proper adjustments and fine
tuning with correct air pressure in the big Goodyear's, Altered's
want to dance and slide all over the track.
With George's signal the altered
was pushed up the track. Rat Trap rumbled and roared to life
jumping ahead of the yellow Dodge push truck.
The crowd at San Fernando rushed
to the fence line and stood up in the stands. They had witnessed
the Rat Trap's crazy wild half pass with the Stone Age Man at
the helm. This they didn't want to miss. George Hutcheson had
a well deserved reputation for driving the wild rides, and making
every pass exciting for the fans. The track announcer was in
full throat standing with microphone in hand, building the excitement
as if it was the last pitch in the World Series Baseball game.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, get on your feet, here comes the
Stone Age Man and Don Green's Rat Trap fuel altered, George is
going to ride it all the way through the lights this time. This
is going to be exciting friends!"
Waaaap! Ruuup! Rattt rattt
rattt around it came
to the staging circle followed by Don. Rattt rattt rattt
Waaaap! The Rat Trap shot down the track is a short burn
out on two wheels. Don helped direct it back to the staging area.
George was ready, this time it was personal. Fans returned the
'V' to George as he got it staged. Every eye was on the Rat Trap
and George's bright red plums dancing atop his helmet. The other
drivers and pit crews stopped working and rushed to trackside
to see what would happen. They did this every time George ignited
Fling Traylor's US Turbine 1 and rocketed down the track followed
by hell fire and thunder. One driver was over heard saying, "Oh
God, what's Hutch going to do now?"
Down the amber lights blinked,
green! Waaaap! The Rat Trap lunged forward on two wheels twisting
to the right. Briefly standing on one back tire it came to earth
on three tires and slid to the left. George kept his foot in
it and brought it back to center track. Drifting to the right
the tires finally gripped the track and the Rat Trap shot down
the track ahead of the other racer. Passing through the light
trap it recorded 205 mph with the parachute at full flower. Shutting
down it sputtered to a safe stop. George climbed out removed
his famous Roman plumed helmet and face mask, pulling off his
glove he said firmly to the big yellow altered, "See, I
told you. You do that every time we'll be friends."
As Don Green drove up he was
yelling out of his Dodge pick-up, "I knew it, I knew it
would go 200, you did it George! Thank you so much." This
was all that Don lived for. He invested all that he had in his
big yellow fuel altered. He was out of money and parts, his dreams
were all but fantasy, until now. Don was now chocked up and his
eyes welled up with tears he throw his arms around George, "Thank
you George, thank you
Don continued to bounce with
in a victory dance. George remarked, "That's a hell-of-a
ride!" Don grabbed George by the arm and said, "Next
weekend at Irwindale is a 32 car Fuel Altered Eliminator meet
"32 Fuel Altered's
It's going to needs some work, that engine shakes really bad
and the brake handle is all wrong. Let's do it Don, piece of
cake!" George agreed to do the driving chores.
During that week, George took
the Rat Trap to RCS shop and did some modifications and adjustments.
The Rat Trap was held together by some plumbing pipes, and other
homemade parts. It needed a push brake arm, not a pull arm, a
different parachute release and the throttle needed adjustment.
George made only two passes with the car at San Fernando. Now
he was taking on 32 fuel altars'.
At the Irwindale meet was "Between
Heaven and Hell", "The Winged Express" with Wild
Willy Borsch, "Lo Blow" of the Campos Brothers, "The
Magnificent 7", "Nancok", "Pure Heaven",
"Stone T" and "Groundshaker Jr." This was
a tough field. These boys knew their cars and the crews were
top drawer. The difference between driving a Top Fueler and the
US Turbine 1 was as far apart as driving a wild and uncontrollable
top fuel altered. Don was worried sick, George couldn't wait.
The pits were full of AA/FA cars
and crews. Don Green's Rat Trap was never a threat at the track,
but George was. The crews would stop working and look up to see
George Hutcheson walk the pit area. He was out of place; however
the news all over the town was about the Stone Age Man driving
the Rat Trap. The press ink never stopped. At times it would
isolate George. Every driver wanted his chance to put George
out of the race. They were gunning for him. Willy Borsch came
by, grinned through his grizzled beard, put his big hairy arm
over George's shoulder and said, "Stone Age Man, it's a
death trap George, a death trap
" Pulling George in
closer face to face, he finished with a big grin, "Stone
Fuel Altered's', wild
off the line, tough to control, hell-of-a-ride!
Five match races of 16 cars,
than 8, and 4, and the final 2, and 1 winner. Don went to George
before the start and pleaded, "I know you take a lot of
chances, and ride it to the very edge, but it's OK to loose a
few." Don was worried George would take it too far and get
" George answered with a smile, "I
may lean over the edge a bit, but I know when to pull out, stop
and we never just loose a few."
The competition was hard and
fast. Round after round George in the Rat Trap would advance
to the next round. Two drivers red lighted wanting to beat George
out of the gate. The Rat Trap drove hard and was all over the
lane. Most fuel altered's drove wild and drifted, lifting its
wheels. That was the real show; AA/FA drove crazy and seemed
out of control. It was the way they were.
After 30 tough races, it came
down to The Winged Express and the Rat Trap. The Winged Express
driven by Willy Borsch. The premier AA Fuel Altered racer and
driver. Willy Borsch was a crowd favorite, and he always put
on a show with his one handed driving style. The fans loved him,
but he was also big, hairy and scary looking. That's why he was
called 'Wild Willy Borsch".
Both racers were pushed up track
to the starting line. They arrived at the staging area together.
The crowd went wild. Here was the Stone Age Man matched against
Wild Willy Borsch. They were racing for the title and top spot.
Everyone watched as these two legends were about to do battle.
The swaggering dance commenced. First Willy, then George performed
the ritualistic ceremonial burnout. Satisfied that the tires
had the needed traction, they went to the lights. As the amber
lights dropped, the spectators held their breath and covered
their ears. This was one great show.
Waaaap! Waaaap! There was no
'red lighting' with these two pros. The stocky beasts heaved
forward, both racers fought for control as traction grabbed for
a bite of the track. Both cars had one or two wheels in the air,
sliding right and left they were side by side at mid way. 195,
200, 210, 220 mph they dueled to be first. The Rat Trap drifted
left crossing the line into Willies lane. George pulled to the
right, but it would not correct. The Rat Trap's front wheel drifted
between the Winged Express front and rear tires marking the red
body of Willies ride. Willy glanced over at George as the two
separated into each lane and through the timing lights with the
Winged Express first. The Rat Trap crossed the line nearly sideways
with a front wheel up.
As each racer came to a stop
at the tracks end, the drivers unbuckled and climbed out. Willy
Borsch walked over to George, grinned through his grizzled beard,
put his big hairy arm over George's shoulder and said, "Stone
Age Man, it's a death trap".
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