The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing Inc. in Ocala, Fla is a must see for all racing enthusiast. The facility was founded by Don Garlits and his wife in 1976 while officially opening its doors in 1984. The museum is also home to the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame which was instituted in 1991. Also, there is a separate antique automobile museum that features vehicles ranging as far back as the early 1900s. We knew the museum was going to be cool, but the quality of the collection exceeded all of our expectations!
Video Edited By Pat J. Moon
The museum entrance has a US Navy A-7 Corsair jet on display. The Corsair initially entered during the Vietnam War and was produced from 1965-1984. Don Garlits has worked with the United States Navy for many years now.
There are nearly 300 cars on display between the two buildings. When the Museum opened in 1984 it was 25,000 square feet and now it has expanded to over 50,000 square feet of display space.
The engine room is by far one of the coolest features of the entire facility. Some of the most iconic racing and production engines are on display in glass cases. There are a few cutaway engines that allow visitors to get an idea on how the internals of a motor work.
The Ford 427 SOHC was dubbed the “cammer’ in the 1960s. It was based off the 427 cubic inch side-oiler FE block. The “cammer” also featured a hemispheric combustion chamber that could produce around 600 horsepower in a gasoline dragster.
A Don Garlits built race car is called a Swamp Rat. This is the “Swamp Rat 1” which was built in Don’s home garage. This car was raced from 1956-1961 and helped Big Daddy set his first world record run.
- Best 1/4 time: 8.23 seconds
- Top speed: 180 mph
This “MONGOO$E” is an AA/FC Corvette that raced from 1976 to 1982. Tom McEwen won the 1978 U.S. Nationals in this car. In 1979 the Mongoose and Adolph Coors Co. joined up to create the first major corporate sponsorship on a drag car. After the car was retired in 1982 Tom McEwen donated it to the museum.
- Engine: 484 cubic inch
- Horsepower: 2500
- Best 1/4 mile time: 6.01 seconds
- Top speed: 239.54 mph
This wicked creation was driven by “T.V.” Tommy Ivo from 1959-1962. It is powered by dual 1957 Buick 467 cubic inch engines. As soon as his car debuted at race tracks it began to set records such as breaking the 9 second 1/4 mile pump gas barrier. Tommy Ivo also had an acting career that began in the 1940s with numerous movie and TV show appearances
- Best 1/4 mile time: 8.69 seconds
- Top speed: 143.74 mph
The “Wynn’s Liner”/Garlits-Streamer was raced from 1972-1973. The body was built by Robert “Jocko” Johnson for Don Garlits. The chassis was built by Big Daddy, Connie Swingle, and T.C. Lemons. This unique racer faced some uphill challenges such as mechanical failures and staying on the ground. The “Wynn’s Liner”/Garlits-Streamer made its way to the museum in 1983.
- Best 1/4 mile time: 7.00 seconds
- Top speed: 185 mph
This is the Terminal Van Lines top fuel drag bike that raced from 1979 into the early 1980s. It won over 90 percent of the races it was enrolled in. Its design was considered unusual during the time with a rear mounted exhaust and a front mounted supercharger. It won such awards as the I.D.B.A National Championship and the N.H.R.A “Best Engineered” award.
- Best 1/4 mile time: 7.08 seconds
- Top speed: 208.81 mph
Mooneyes have been one of the most iconic hotrod accessory companies since the 1950s. The Mooneyes cars are some of the flashiest in this collection.
This turbine dragster was built by Don Garlits and Tom (T.C.) Lemons. The dragster ran on kerosene and made 1400 horsepower at 22,000 rpm. It was an experimental car that was powered by a General Electric T-58-10 gas turbine and saw action from 1982-1983.
- Best 1/4 mile time: 6.46 seconds
- Top speed: 219 mph
This 27 T Roadster is known as the Speed Sport. It was built in 1957 and set the world fastest drag racing speed record of 169.11 mph. It is powered by a rear mounted 331 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi. Nicknamed “Old Noisy”, this race car was the first to use front bike tires.
- Best 1/4 mile time: 8.95 seconds
Have you ever heard of the term “death trap”? This small race car with an Allison V-12 airplane engine is certainly an excellent example of one.
The wrecked dragster shows the real dangers race car drivers face when things do not go as planned.
One aggressive looking jet powered funny car.
You can’t have a legit drag racing museum without something from the legendary John Force.
The Don Garlits Antique Automobile Museum features a collection that is beyond breathtaking. Many of these vehicles are so exceptional, you can consider them Concours d’Elegance caliber. Just like the racing museum, there was not a spec of dust on anything.
There are numerous displays that feature items ranging from vintage oil cans to antique tools.
This unique 1970 Plymouth Superbird is known as the “Root Beer”. With its distinctive color, it is a true one of one. When this car was new it cost $4,790.95, today it is worth around $250,000.
This device was created by Smokey Yunick in 1950. It is an octane level checker that was used to brew his own racing gas. Everything from nitro-methane to benzene may have been used with this machine to create all kinds of gasoline cocktails.
The Chrysler Victory Siren was used in the early 1950s after Russia obtained a 100 megaton hydrogen bomb. The Victory Siren was installed on building tops in major cities and may have been tested on a daily basis. Powered by a 331 cubic inch engine the entire unit weighs 6,000 pounds. The museum will fire up the Chrysler Victory Siren during some of the events held at the facility.
A cool Suzuki trike bike on display.
A sweet 1941 Willys truck.
The supercharged V8 lawnmower is the answer to any pesky kudzu that may be invading your property.
Don Garlits has recently unveiled the electric powered Swamp Rat “38”. This is the first race car that Don and his team have built from scratch in 31 years at the facility. At 86 years old, Big Daddy Don Garlits plans on setting a 200 mph 1/4 mile record in an electric dragster. Recently, the team was able to get the latest Swamp Rat to 182 mph at the Bradenton Motorsports Park.