GAS RONDA

TS3X65MPH

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GAS RONDA
« on: February 23, 2017, 08:40:53 PM »
Remembering Gas Ronda’s original A/FX Mustang
Words And Photos: Rod Short

It’s 50 years old. It makes a lot of noise upon starting. The miles are low, but there’s no warranty, radio, or air conditioning. The stock gauges don’t work, and the fuel consumption is bad. The original owner drove it really hard. It sounds like a used car you’d be better off walking away from, but Nick Smith didn’t think so, for this classic racer was flat out born to run!

“I’m an old Ford dealer and drag racer, and I ran against Dyno Don, Phil Bonner, Tasca Ford, and those guys,” Smith says. “Gas Ronda was always at the top of the heap more often than not, and I can’t think of anyone else’s name on the side of a Mustang that means more. Collectors are sometimes hesitant to show their cars, but their legacy might slip away if we don’t. We’re really just caretakers hoping to pass this history on to somebody else someday.”

The Gas Ronda Mustang is significant to drag racing in several different ways. Having won the Top Stock season championship with a Thunderbolt in 1964, Ford saw the new Mustang as the ideal platform to continue their winning ways — and develop even more momentum to sell some new cars.

After its introduction at the World’s Fair in April 1964, Ford’s Mustang was enjoying phenomenal success. But it wasn’t widely considered as a muscle car until the fastback 2+2 with the K-code 289 small block was introduced in August of that year. Utilizing lessons learned from an earlier test mule, 11 fastbacks were pulled from production and built specifically for NHRA’s Factory Experimental, which resulted in a total production of just 12 cars. Dearborn Steel Tubing did the initial engine and transmission swap, after which they were shipped to the famed Holman-Moody shop in Charlotte, North Carolina, for completion.

With the heightened popularity of stockers, Factory Experimental was considered the perfect place to showcase the new Mustang. Entries in the class were limited to current production year vehicles with manufacturer’s optional equipment. Engines were limited to 427.2c.i., blowers were not allowed, and gasoline was the only allowable fuel. Three different classes were available based upon the total car weight divided by the total cubic inches of engine displacement.

Ford had been very successful with the 427 wedge engine in 1964, but knew that more would be needed to counter the Dodge and Plymouth Hemi cars. Utilizing Indy car technology, Ford engineers worked feverishly to develop a new engine combination that used as many existing off-the-shelf parts.

Amazingly, it was produced in just 90 days to be ready for the season-opening 1965 Winternationals.
 The result was the 427 SOHC engine that utilized a hemispherical overhead cam. With 2.25-inch intake and 1.90-inch exhaust valves, spherical 12:1 pistons, and D-shaped exhaust ports, the new engine was said to produce 700+ hp with dual quad 780cfm carburetors. Both the Ford and Mercury teams found the 427 SOHC to be a very potent weapon.

Yet, the engine people weren’t the only ones pushing to get ready in time for the NHRA season opener. Holman-Moody reportedly received 11 Mustang fastbacks they had to scramble to complete within just 30 days. Utilizing their race experience, the cars were stripped even further, cut and welded on, and redone. Ten cars were set up for competition, while the 11th car was built for show purposes. Just five 427 SOHC engines were available when the cars were built; the remaining Mustangs were built with 427 wedge head engines. Since he was the defending NHRA champion, Gas Ronda got one of the cammers in his car.

The haste in getting Gas Ronda’s car ready and transported across country to the NHRA Winternationals showed. In qualifying, Ronda had to abort a run due to a wiring problem. After repairs, he came back in the next round to record an 11.35 ET at 127.47 mph. Ronda improved to an 11.06 in a first round win over Al Eckstrand’s Hemi Plymouth and then ran an even better 10.92 in the quarterfinals, only to be edged by fellow Mustang racer Len Richter’s 10.91.

Ronda would later miss the Springnationals after surviving a severe accident due to a broken rear axle, which would lead Ford to park all of their A/FX Mustangs until new axle shafts could be installed. With his car a total loss, Ronda would then inherit the Mustang show car, where he ran a 10.63 in the A/FX finals at the U.S. Nationals. He would also go on to win Stock eliminator honors with a 10.51 at the AHRA championships with this car. While Dyno Don Nicholson held the class record for much of 1965, Ronda came back at the year end to win a divisional event and both ends of the national record with a 10.43 at 134.73 mph.

By all accounts Ronda had a successful year with this 1965 model Mustang, though exhibition Funny Cars had become the most popular vehicles at the track. He was given a 1966 long nose Mustang that reportedly weighed just 1,700 pounds. His exploits behind the wheel led to him becoming one of the best known drivers despite the fact he rarely travelled east or made every event.

In 1967, he was named AHRA’s Top Driver of the Year after winning multiple events. He would eventually run a 7.26 at 200+ mph in a flip top Funny Car before a top end fire in 1970 left him with serious burns over 30 percent of his body. During recovery, Ronda made plans to get into a Pro Stock Maverick, but eventually decided to hang up his driving gloves for good.

Fame is fleeting, but many baby boomers still remember the name Gas Ronda and what he did in drag racing. Less than half of those original A/FX Mustangs still remain, but Nick Smith has done his part to keep that legacy alive.
You Aren't Living If Your Windshield Isn't Dirty.

TS3X65MPH

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Re: GAS RONDA
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2017, 08:41:54 PM »
Remembering Gas Ronda’s original A/FX Mustang
Photos: Rod Short
You Aren't Living If Your Windshield Isn't Dirty.

TS3X65MPH

  • Hero Member
  • THANKS TO MY DAD & MOM,WIFE GLYNIS & SON STEVEN
Re: GAS RONDA
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2017, 08:44:33 PM »
You Aren't Living If Your Windshield Isn't Dirty.

32CDAN

  • Newbie
Re: GAS RONDA
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2017, 12:12:48 AM »
Last week a neighbor who is a long time friend of Gas arranged a meeting for me with the legendary Ford shoe Gas Rhonda. It was indeed a privilege to meet one of my heroes. He is 91 years old and has had some serious health issues......some of which are related to his career as a driver.......but he remains a strong presence. He did it all. From the Super Stock wars of the 60's to the move to Factory Experimental and on to Funny Cars. His career chronicles the history of factory involvement in drag racing. Thankfully this was all back when racing was a heads up contest of the quickest cars and not the bracket boredom of today.
Thanks for the memories Gas.

29bowtie

  • Hero Member
Re: GAS RONDA
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2017, 06:46:06 PM »
Here's a beauty! 8)
Professionals built the Titanic, An Amateur built the Ark

TS3X65MPH

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Re: GAS RONDA
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2017, 12:44:13 PM »
His 63.
You Aren't Living If Your Windshield Isn't Dirty.

TS3X65MPH

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Re: GAS RONDA
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2017, 12:44:14 PM »
His T-Bolt.
You Aren't Living If Your Windshield Isn't Dirty.

TS3X65MPH

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Re: GAS RONDA
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2017, 12:50:01 PM »
His T-Bolt.
You Aren't Living If Your Windshield Isn't Dirty.

TS3X65MPH

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  • THANKS TO MY DAD & MOM,WIFE GLYNIS & SON STEVEN
Re: GAS RONDA
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2017, 01:30:47 AM »
Longnose Mustang.
You Aren't Living If Your Windshield Isn't Dirty.

TS3X65MPH

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Re: GAS RONDA
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2017, 07:29:27 PM »
His CJ.
You Aren't Living If Your Windshield Isn't Dirty.

TS3X65MPH

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Re: GAS RONDA
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2017, 06:49:05 PM »
Long Nose.
You Aren't Living If Your Windshield Isn't Dirty.

TS3X65MPH

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Re: GAS RONDA
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2017, 01:17:28 AM »
Gas Ronda
You Aren't Living If Your Windshield Isn't Dirty.