By Drew Hardin
In this rare color photograph from the Petersen Publishing Company photo archive, Connie Swingle pulls the front wheels in Ed Pink’s Old Master Top Fuel dragster at the 1966 NHRA Winternationals.
An image like this is “rare” for a couple of reasons. First, Petersen photographers didn’t shoot all that much color film in those days, even well into the ’70s, as there were very few pages of any of the Petersen titles printed in full color. And the filing of those color images was also a bit more haphazard than the much-more-orderly storage of the black-and-white negatives. Case in point: Swingle popped his wheelie at Pomona in February 1966, but the coding on the film file at the archive indicates that this image and dozens of other color shots from that race weren’t cataloged until January 1972. So those of us who pore through the archive looking for gems like this stumble across them accidentally more often than actually “finding” them.
How did Swingle do in the race? After winning two rounds of Top Fuel eliminations, he faced Steve Carbone, driving Gene Adams’ and Jack Wayre’s dragster in the third. Bob Leif’s coverage in the May 1966 issue of Car Craft said Swingle “had a bit of a problem getting the car running since it was only going on seven cylinders, having lost a piston on the preceding round. Getting a face full of oil at about the 100-yard mark, Swingle was forced to shut off.” Carbone, meanwhile, was having “handling problems,” Leif wrote, but he “corrected his car and blasted on for the win….”
Dick Wells’ story of the same race in the May 1966 Hot Rod told a different story, though. According to Wells, Swingle shut off mid-track “when he assumed that Carbone…had crossed up and gone over the center line,” apparently due to those “handling problems” Leif mentioned. However, NHRA officials ruled that he had not strayed over the line. Either way, Carbone advanced but fell to Jim Dunn in the next round. Dunn would ultimately face—and lose to—Mike Snively, driving Roland Leong’s Hawaiian dragster in the Top Fuel Eliminator.