Green isn't supposed to be a
good color to paint your race car, but apparently nobody told
that to the owners of the Jade Grenade Top Fuel dragster.
Pete Lenhoff, Bill Flurer and driver Ted Thomas were the moving
forces behind this beautiful car and they proved that you can
combine a machinist, a plumber and an architect and have the
right ingredients for a top notch drag racing team.
The "Jade Grenade"
competed mostly on the east coast and from 1970 to part of 1972
they were among the top dogs of the Pro Fuel circuit at some
of the best tracks in the country. They won the 1971 Pennsylvania
Dutch Classic race and then came back to successfully
defend their crown a year later. At the 72 race Ted Thomas
drove the car to wins over some of the best drivers on the circuit
including Sarge Arciero, Tom Raley and Fred Forkner. The final
run saw Ted streak to a 6.48 which would stand as low elapsed
time of the meet. This latest win came just a few weeks after
the team had blasted to a sensational 233 mph speed at the National
Open race at New England Dragway which was just one of the ten
track records that the team set over a two year span. The Grenade
also grabbed wins at the Top Fuel show at Quaker City Dragway,
the Dixie Classic (where they beat Tommy Ivo) and the Atco NHRA
World Championship series event.
Even though the car performed
very well most racers and fans remember it for its beauty
and workmanship. With a 205 inch wheelbase, the car was long
for the era and with its Don Long chassis, a full body by S &
W and paint by the legendary Jim the Painter it was
prettier than most. A late model Keith Black 426 Chrysler hemi
powered the car and like everything else on the Grenade
it was always polished to perfection. To help keep the car stable
at the speeds that it was achieving the team installed a front
axle foil and, later, a pair of side wings.
Fluer, Lenhoff &
Thomas - "Jade Grenade" - AA/FD - 1970
Ted Thomas heats the
tires at Cecil County Dragway in 1970.
New England Dragway 1970
In 1971 the car clocked
a very impressive 233 which was one of the best speeds of the
Like many dragsters
of the era, when the rear engine car was built the then obsolete
front motor car went up for sale. By all accounts the "Jade
Grenade" bounced around the New England area being modified
to race in lower classes until it would no longer pass NHRA tech
inspections. It was then tossed aside and all but forgotten.
contractor and car collector Don Trasin who, through friends,
found out where the car was and in 2000 he purchased it. Like
any old warrior it was in really rough shape but the basic components
where there. Trasin took everything to master race car builder/restorer
Pat Foster in Wichita, Kansas and basically said, "Fix it."
the green light to do whatever it took to bring the car back
to its most perfect state, the makeover began. The project took
Foster nearly 6 months but the end results were well worth the
As with all restorations the
first thing that gets fixed is the chassis. Damaged or bent pieces
of chrome moly tubing were grafted in making sure all the original
dimensions and alignment factors were perfect.
With the body and chassis
done it was time to take everything apart for paint and chrome.
Back together in Foster's
shop the results are obvious.
The finished car ready
for delivery to Trasin.
Fast forward to a finished chassis
when Foster went about fixing some and replacing other parts
of the body, and fabricating all the brackets, pedals and levers.
In the "early days"
every year a first-time Cacklefest car (aka "Queen of The
Hop) was chosen (now two are chosen) to do a fire-up in front
of the Double Tree Hotel in downtown Bakersfield on Friday night
after the CHRR Honorees Award Presentation. In 2001 the green
car got the nod. Since Trasin was not familiar with the procedures
of a fuel dragster, the natural choice to put in the car was
builder/ex-racer Pat Foster.
Foster heads up track
to his spot.
On Sunday Foster was
back in the car to give it an acid test push start and burnout.
With Pat Foster in the seat,
the "Jade Grenade" made its official Cacklefest debut
late Saturday afternoon in what would be the last daylight version
of the event. In 2002 the race program was changed which put
Cacklefest as the days closer, at dusk - which still proved to
be too light. In 2003 the first round of Nostalgia Top Fuel was
run before the Twilight Memorial then there was the Cacklefest
Parade then, in the dark, was Cacklefest proper.
Foster's burnout didn't work
as planned. The car launched like a rocket without a wisp of
Although he was "on a good
one" Foster had the good sense to shut it off at about the
300 foot mark.
The "Jade Grenade"
next appeared at the 2002 NHRA Winternationals Cacklefest. Here's
Foster doing the push start in front of 30,000 fans - many of
whom had never seen a front engine Top Fuel dragster before.
Don Trasin - Cacklefest
By the 2002 CHRR Don Trasin,
under Foster's tutorage, had become familiar with and comfortable
in the car.
Trasin push starts from
the top end of the fabled Pomona track.
Trasin gives the classic
drag racing "V" for victory.
Since it spent the winter in
the NHRA Motorsports Museum, the cars next outing was the 2003
NHRA Winternationals Cacklefest. The car needed to be service
before it was towed across the fair grounds to the track so Foster
and Trasin just rolled it out the front door of the Museum and
said - "Hey, this looks like a good pit space."
After the 2003 Winternationals
Trasin took the car out of the Museum and back to Columbus. It's
next outing was the inaugural National Hot Rod Reunion at Bowling
Green, KY. The "Jade Grenade" got its second Friday
night hotel fire-up but this time Trasin was in the seat.
Saturday night Trasin was in
the car for the "Big Show" - the first Official Cacklefest
outside of Bakersfield, CA.
In 2005 the car made
its second appearance at Bowling Green for NHRR III.
Look for this beauty
at a future Cacklefest near you.
In 2004 the cars only appearance
was at the 50th US Nationals at Indy. Here Don Trasin and crew
pose for Hot Rod Magazine.