There were twin-engine dragsters before the Bustle Bomb, but none were as successful as Lloyd Scott’s rather strange creation. That was due to several factors which Scott was able to use his noodle to overcome in the building of the dragster that would first break the 150-mph mark in the quarter-mile.
In the early and mid 1950s, 150 mph was a mythical number to drag racers, as it seemed to be an unreachable and certainly unsurpassable speed limit on the dragstrip. Academic types said that the 150 mph was the absolute outer edge of performance on the strip.
Most twin-engine dragsters to this point in history had stacked the motors one in front of the other, stuck out in front of the driver. While effective to a point, the cars still did not have very good weight bias to the rear tires and often gave up their horsepower advantage in tire smoke. Scott, and pals Noel Timney and George Smith, combated this by hanging a motor off the end of the car. The extra weight of the mill behind the driver basically guaranteed plenty of traction for the rear tires.
The seemingly odd engine placement was not the only thing that got people’s attention. There was the fact that the motor in the front of the car was a 348ci Olds plant and the engine in the rear was a 391ci Cadillac piece. The story goes that these were the two motors that the guys had laying around to use, so they put them to work. The engines were not incredibly worked over but featured ported and polished heads, Weiand intake manifolds (as Weiand was a sponsor of the car), and (we’re guessing) each had a Howard cam as Howard Racing Equipment was the other major sponsor of the effort.
This car was the bleeding edge of drag race technology in its day. It cost nearly $5,000 to build and that was in 1950s money, so it was not a cheapskate deal, either. The tube chassis was all hand-built by the three imagineers in their Long Beach, California, headquarters. The front suspension was a standard I-beam axle with a transverse suicide spring to soak up the bumps. The rear axle used a torsion bar and swing-arm setup, which was neat, but probably a little wasteful as the majority of racers were hard-mounting their axles to the frame at this point. The brakes, shockingly, were discs on all four corners, and the wheels were magnesium Halibrands shod Firestone slicks in the rear.
The real interesting part is the actual driveline. How did these guys get the two motors working on opposite ends to cooperate? The Olds engine was hooked to a Ford transmission (of course, right?) that used only second and high gear. The Cadillac was not equipped with any sort of transmission. Instead it was engaged and disengaged by operating a dog clutch that locked its output shaft right into the pinion of the rearend.
That rear engine also had a neat throttle timer that started working as soon as the car left the starting line (on the front engine). Two seconds after the car had left the starting line that Caddy engine would fire up and go full bore, helping the Olds do the work of moving the 1,800-pound car (equipped with nearly 750 ci) down the track.
The car was a winner or threat to win virtually everywhere it managed to show up. It was one of the strongest cars on the West Coast. Wanting to test their mettle against the best in the business, the three guys towed the car from California to Great Bend Municipal Airport, site of the original NHRA Nationals, in 1955. Although they did not win the event, the car was seen by many and the legend of its performance and potential grew. Ironically, though, that day at Great Bend would represent the high water mark of its performance.
The bomb’s notoriety was also its undoing because a crop of lighter, faster, more advanced dragsters hit the scene and suddenly those two big lumps of iron on either end of the car didn’t seem like such a good idea.
A recreation of the car now sits in Don Garlits’ museum in Ocala, Florida.