Robert E. “Bob” Riggle, of Chino Valley, Arizona, a well-known figure in the world of drag racing and stunt driving, has passed at the age of 88. He is primarily recognized for his role in the “Hurst Hemi Under Glass” wheelstander. The Hurst Hemi Under Glass was a series of Plymouth Barracudas modified for exhibition wheelstanding, which is a type of stunt where the front wheels of the car are lifted off the ground, and the vehicle travels on its rear wheels alone.
Above: Bob Riggle oversaw the driving chores of the Hurst Hemi Under Glass for multiple decades. He entertained thousands of enthusiastic drag racing fans from 1965 to 2019. Riggle passed away in early September at the age of 88. (Videographer unknown)
Initially from Mansfield, Ohio, Riggle gained fame for piloting the Hurst Hemi Under Glass, owned by George Hurst. In 1966, Riggle took over the controls from “Wild” Bill Shrewsberry after working at Hurst-Campbell as a fabricator and technician since the wheelstander program’s inception in 1965.
The Hurst Hemi Under Glass Plymouths were all powered by stout Chrysler Hemi V8 engines, and the wheelstander became one of the most iconic exhibition vehicles ever. Riggle’s daring and skillful ¼-mile wheelstand performances thrilled audiences at drag racing events across the United States.
Above: The original premise of the Hurst Hemi Under Glass was to run in the Factory Experimental class (FX). However, on the initial series of runs, the Barracuda tended to lift the front tires to astronomical heights. The crowds loved it, and the wheelstander was born. Riggle added advancements over the years. The full-track spark shows became the norm for the Hurst Hemi Under Glass. (Photographer unknown)
Above: Early on, driving the Hurst Hemi Under Glass was like flying by the seat of your pants. Over the years, Riggle added brake controls to “steer” the rear tires to keep the Plymouths between the centerline and the guardrail. (Photographer unknown)
After Hurst was sold to Sunbeam Products in 1970, Riggle continued with the “Hemi Under Glass” sans the Hurst logo until 1975, when he experienced a horrific accident at US30 Dragway in Gary, Indiana. Riggle eventually returned to the driver’s seat in 1992 with a 1966 fuel-injected Hemi Plymouth and a 1968 Plymouth with a supercharged Hemi.
Above Left: After Hurst was sold to Sunbeam Products, Riggle continued to drive the wheelstander under the name Hemi Under Glass. (RAY-MAR photo) Above Center: Riggle ran several wild paint schemes on the Hemi Under Glass from 1970 to 1975. However, the green theme was famous for a few years. (Bob Boudreau photo) Above Right: When Riggle returned to the driver’s seat in 1992, he ran one Plymouth Barracuda with an injected Hemi and a second Barracuda with a blown Hemi. Both cars again flew the Hurst banner. (Photographer unknown)
Unfortunately for Riggle, after entertaining thousands of race enthusiasts for decades, he gained internet fame when he rolled the Hurst Hemi Under Glass Barracuda on June 26, 2016, while taping an episode of Jay Leno’s Garage with Leno strapped into the passenger seat. Luckily, neither Riggle nor Leno were hurt, but the Plymouth was severely damaged. Although his seat time was significantly curtailed after the accident, he officially ended his driving career in the summer of 2019.
Riggle’s performances will continue to be remembered as an integral part of the history of drag racing and automotive entertainment. RIP Bob Riggle.