A Tale of Jungle Jim and Porky the Pirate
by Bill Doner

Competition Plus is a wonderful online magazine about drag racing - and especially it's "carachters". In the depths of the holidays, when news is slow, they have a "War Stories" elimination contest.

Bill Doner was a pioneering track operator and promoter, and has certainly met some of the "unique" individuals in the sport - Fremont Raceway in Northern California was never my favorite. I could never seem to wrap my arms around the place, but there was one race every year that was very successful.

On New Year’s Day we ran the Nitro Bowl at Fremont and always packed the place. The radio ads went: "Are you tired of This” bowl and That bowl...well get off the couch and get out to Fremont Raceway for the NITRO BOWL! Of course the event featured an all star cast of funny cars, usually the top eight we could book in along with a couple of wheel-standers and jet cars.

A little known fact was that Jungle Jim Liberman was originally from Fremont although he lived most of his adult life in the East. Jungle begged me for years to come run the Nitro Bowl. Well, this one year I signed him up and we used him big time in the ads. Naturally, he didn't show up.

I got several calls and a half dozen or so people came to the tower and demanded their money back because of no Jungle.

I was, to put it mildly, pissed.

Wouldn’t you know the following years Jungle whined and whimpered saying he would make it up to me if I gave him another chance. And so, God knows why, I decided to book him again along with Don Prudhomme, Tom McEwen, Ed McCulloch, The Blue Max, Gordie Bonin and an all star cast.

Several days before the race Roland Leong called and wanted to know why I wasn’t using his Hawaiian car. ”There’s a lotta Hawaiian boys in the Fremont area, Donah,” explained Leong, “and besides, you know Jungle won’t even show up.” New Year’s happened to be on a Sunday and the day before I went out to the track to make sure everything was ready. Leaving I stopped at the gas station next door...the attendant came by and asked if I had something to do with the track. When he found out I was the main guy he asked, “Will the Hawaiian be running tomorrow?” “Sorry, pal, not this year,” I answered.

“That’s a mistake,” he blurted, “there’s a lot of Hawaiian boys around here.” Obviously a Roland plant, but it got me worried especially since it was 50-50, maybe not even that good of odds, Jungle would even show up.

New Year’s Day arrived bright and clear with a long line at the front gate. And who’s at head of the line at the pit gate? Surprise of surprises, Jungle Jim, in person.

“Hey man,” said Jungle, “told you I’d be here. We came out around midnight, smoked a couple of beers and slept right here.” With a huge crowd certain, you’d think not much could go wrong at this point.


Here comes Jungle to the head of the staging lanes at 10 a.m. and demands to make a test run. I argue to no avail and of course he blows up in the lights.

“Sorry man,” Jungle whines, “I blowed up my fuel tank and it can’t be fixed.” McEwen is standing in the back of the tower and whispers to me-“Tell Jungle you won’t pay him a single cent and see what happens.” And I did.

“You can’t do that, man,” cries Jungle. “I tried.” “No deal, Jungle,” I said. “No run, no money. First round is at noon. Be there or be square.” Not even 10 minutes later, Jungle comes to the tower and asks to have Porky the Pirate paged and have him report immediately to Jungle’s car.

Now let me tell you about Porky. He’s a grubby looking guy with only one leg who wears a World War One, chrome German helmet with a spike on the top. He has a hollow aluminum leg which he fills with a gallon of rum and runs a plastic line directly up to his mouth.

If you catch Porky early enough, he’s a helluva welder. Later in the day all bets are off. Wally Parks nearly went into convulsions when Porky snuck into the U.S. Nationals one year and he went up to the starting line and started waving a flag on the end of a long pole directly in Don Garlits’ face as he staged.

At 11:55 exactly, I played the National Anthem and on the final notes fired up the first pair of funny cars. Guess who? Jungle himself, against the legendary US Army Plymouth Arrow and the Snake.

With the crowd going crazy, Jungle somehow whips the Snake and from there on the day seems uneventful.

After the storm, the racers get paid, the fans leave, and I sit down to have a cold one and relax.

Just then a nice-looking man in the blue blazer and slacks along with his young son, asks, “Are you Mr. Doner?” “I’ve got a big problem,” he says.

“Tell me,” I answer.

“It’s not something I can tell,” he explains. “It’s something you got to see for yourself.” A couple of security guards, off-duty Fremont cops, are standing by and I decide to take them along for this adventure.

It’s dark and I mean REALLY dark. We’re using one security guard’s flashlight to guide us through the pits, up to where the man is leading us.

Finally we arrive at his car and half the side has been torched off.

“That’s just the half of it,” he says. “Look at this.” The front of his car has somehow been welded to Porky’s truck.

When the security guard looks around with his flashlight, there’s Porky complete with his helmet in place, passed out, right in the dirt.

“Don’t touch a thing,” says the security guard, “I’ll be back in 10 minutes.” “You’re not going to arrest him, are you?” I ask.

“Hell no,” says the guard, “I going to get my brother. He’s a professional photographer. I need a picture of this. Nobody will believe me otherwise.” If this was ever made into a movie, the credits would now roll with the following information. The nice gentleman in the blue blazer had a door and fender replaced on his car and received a complete new paint job.
Further he received two lifetime passes to all seven International Raceway Park facilities.

Porky the Pirate was placed on Double Secret Probation.

Jungle Jim smoked a couple more beers and went down the road playing his harmonica and describing the incident as, “Far Out!” Bill Doner received an 8x10 glossy photograph which he still has somewhere.

Taken from competitionplus.com




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