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Touring Don Garlits’ Garage

“Big Daddy” Don Garlits is truly one of the pioneers of top fuel, and the innovations he fostered throughout his career have certainly tricked down to many other areas of the sport besides the class he’s most famous for competing in. He’s a true living legend, and as you might imagine, he has some amazing stories to tell. Sit back and enjoy a couple, including the infamous moment when a catastrophic transmission failure cost him half of his foot, a moment that would revolutionize the sport in a huge way.

While he’s telling his war tales, pay attention to what’s going on around “Big” in his garage. Not only does he have an awesome collection of old flathead engines – each of which are sitting, ready to fire at a moment’s notice, on engine stands – but he also has many of his famed Swamp Rat dragsters, along with many more rides that you can see as he and this pair of fellow gearheads take a walk down memory lane.

Since he doesn’t go into detail about what came after the transmission exploded and took off the front half of his right foot, I’ll give you the cliff’s notes version of the story. The dragster itself was what we know as a front-engined design, which was the only way dragsters were built at the time, and was nearly sawed in half by the transmission as it came apart. While he recuperated from the incident, Garlits set about building a dragster chassis that put the engine behind the driver, the layout still used in Top Fuel today thanks to Big Daddy’s refusal to accept the status quo.

It may have cost him half his foot, but his rear-engine concept certainly changed the game from both safety and performance standpoints. While the idea would have eventually come to somebody, one of the true innovators of the sport losing a couple of inches of foot seemed to propel the idea ahead several years ahead of schedule.


Big Daddy Don Garlits takes me on a tour of his personal garage. At 87 years old he is as sharp as ever. Amazing human being. Worth watching the whole video. Mark Spencer

Posted by Spencers Speed Shop on Monday, 28 January 2019

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