09/24/1935 – 09/29/2007
...One of a Kind
Connie Swingle, 72, one of the true pioneers of drag Racing, passed away Saturday
evening, peacefully in his home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the city of his birth.
Connie had health problems for the last ten years and finally succumbed to Cancer. His
faithful nurse, Virginia, was at his side.
Connie served a hitch in the US Army in Africa and when discharged moved to Tampa, Florida. He
arrived at Garlits Automotive Inc. in 1960 and started welding. He became one of the best welders
in the world.
By that time Swamp Rat III-A had been started, so
“Swingle”, as he liked to be called, finished the
project and took the new chrome moley car on tour.
Swingle won many races with the car, the biggest
being the big Riverside Drag race in 1962 at
Riverside Raceway. Swingle was instrumental in
the success of the Garlits Chassis business from
1961 through 1964.
When I relocated to Troy Michigan, a suburb of
Detroit, Swingle went west and joined up with the
“Old Master” Ed Pinks. Driving Pink’s “Old Master” AA/FD car, Connie enjoyed his biggest win at
Fontana Dragstrip in the fall of 1965, when he beat me in the final for the “Mickey Thompson 200
MPH Meet and took home all the “gold”, about $10,000.00, a very large purse for that era.
When the weather got to me in Detroit and I moved
back to Seffner, Florida, Connie returned from
California and rejoined the Chassis business.
Together Connie and I built some outstanding
The best and fastest one, Swamp Rat XIII, blew the
transmission at Long Beach in March 1970. That's
when Swingle, T. C. Lemons and I proceeded to build
the rear engine dragster, something that would
change our sport forever.
Connie always referred to the new Swamp Rat XIV as
a “Front Driver” car, which it technically was. After
must frustration and many, many tests, Swingle said,
“If you think the steering is too fast, why don’t we slow
it down?” That was the missing link. The rest is
history and the drag racing world now has the
“Championship Rear Engine Dragster.” We can all
give Connie Swingle a great big “Thank You” for his
participation in this endeavor that took drag racing to
the next plateau.
Swingle finally wanted to slow down, so he opened a The last job that he did was the recreation of Swamp Rat IV, with the blown Dodge wedge on gas.
small shop in South Tampa and did small jobs to
make a living. As I look back, he was probably getting
sick then and didn’t have the energy to go the way I
He did a beautiful job, but I could see he was all done welding as his hands shook too much for
We all got together and moved him back to Oklahoma with his Mother and Dad, who have since
passed away. Connie is survived by his son Theodore “Teddy” Swingle, named after his Father
Theodore “Ted” Swingle.
Connie Swingle was installed into the Southeastern NHRA Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1991 and
the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1998. He also won the Drag News Invitational in
1962 held at Dragway 42 in Ohio.
He held the Drag News #1 spot several times and also the Drag News 1320 E.T Record of 7.88
seconds at 198.22 MPH.
Connie was also my Crew Chief during the Drag Racer Magazine Number One Spot held at Half
Moon Bay in 1966, which we won.
Connie was a tireless worker, could go for days without sleep and always had a new idea on how
to go fast. He left his mark on our sport, and he will be sorely missed.
|When you visit the DON
GARLITS MUSEUM OF
DRAG RACING near
beautiful Ocala, Florida,
be sure to let the fine
staff know that you saw
the museum featured on
|Connie Swingle...One of a Kind