Taming the Rat Trap
By Todd Hutcheson

George with Don Green's family


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 so…" 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 Raceway


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.

"Say George…I was wondering if I might…could you…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…but 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 like Aviva.

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 Rat Trap

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 down.

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…I read 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…hmmm. 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 Age Man."


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 hurt. "Don…" George answered with a smile, "I may lean over the edge a bit, but I know when to pull out, stop worrying…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".


More Todd Hutchenson "The Time of My Life"

Stone Age Man

Working for Pink

Big Daddy and I

A Gathering of Long Trailers

Email Todd

Join Now

Members Site Map || Visitors Site Map


Site Copyright 1998-2017. All Rights Reserved.