This '41 Willys Was Built With Big John's Gasser in Mind
Photography: Jeff Tann; Words; Jeff Tann
It was a warm summer afternoon at Lion's Drag Strip in Wilmington, California. The smell of nitro fumes and tire smoke mixed with the stench from the near-by oil refineries, but nobody really paid attention to the weird smell when the AA/Gas supercharged Willys came to the line. The announcer came on the PA system touting the gasser wars and all of the racecars and owners that were ready to do battle. Names such as Stone, Woods, Cook, KS Pittman, George Montgomery, and Big John Mazmanian were ready to face off. From the grandstands you could hear cheers after every name was called off. This was the best part of '60s drag racing - the gasser wars is what race fans came to see!
The first match race pitted Stone, Woods, Cook's blue Willys against an awesome candy-apple red Willys owned by Big John Mazmanian. Both cars did a small, smoky burnout and came to the staging line. Sitting nose high, the cars sounded nasty and looked awesome. The Christmas tree lights came down and both cards launched off the line with the front wheels in the air. It was a close race, but Mazmanian's candy killer crossed the finish line a nose ahead of Stone, Woods, and Cook. After the low-9-second, 146-mph run, Mazmanian was going to the second round against KS Pittman.