Gallery: Milodon Puts Mopars in the ’68 Nationals Winner’s Circle

The 1968 U.S. Nationals was dominated by the who’s who big-name Mopar drivers. As described in the National Dragster magazine (newspaper) Milodon advertisement, the winners and those that established top speed or low elapsed time for their class were motivated by a Hemi engine.

Above: Milodon took out an advertisement in National Dragster to congratulate the 1968 winners and the top speed and low elapsed time drivers, all of whom were Mopars. Milodon also took the opportunity to mention its superior products. 

Fan favorite “Big Daddy” Don Garlits won the Top Fuel eliminator for the second year in a row, “Akron” Arlen Vanke took Super Stock, and Bill Schultz and Jack Jones (Schultz and Jones) earned a Top Gas Eliminator win. Additionally, the Beebe brothers and John “the Zookeeper” Mulligan (Beebe and Mulligan) set the event top speed, and Tom “the Mongoo$e” McEwen was the number one qualifier in Top Fuel.

Garlits is renowned for his innovations and contributions to the sport. He is credited with improving driver safety with the development of the rear engine dragster (RED) configuration, a mid-engine design. His innovation was preceded by a transmission explosion in his front-engine dragster that left him seriously injured, with part of his right foot removed in the incident.

Above: “Big Daddy” Don Garlits’ Swamp Rat 12B (SR12B) was a stripped-down front engine dragster (FED) that handled the 1968 NHRA Nationals Top Fuel field. The FED was the standard of the day for the kings of the sport. (Photographer unknown)

Throughout his career, Garlits realized numerous accomplishments and set copious records, earned multiple National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and American Hot Rod Association (AHRA) championships, and earned nearly 150 event wins. He was the first to exceed the 170, 180, 200, and 250 mph marks in the quarter mile. Garlits continues to operate his museum in Ocala, Florida.

Above: Garlits’ Swamp Rat 13 (SR13) was similar in construction to SR12B. On March 8, 1970, at Long Beach, California, for the AHRA Grand American, in the final against Richard Tharpe, Garlits’ experimental two-speed transmission exploded, cutting the car in two and severing Garlits’ right foot. Because of his accident, Garlits developed the rear engine dragster (RED), which placed the Hemi behind the driver. The RED would revolutionize the Top Fuel category. (Photographer unknown) 

Vanke raced from 1961 through the early 1970s. While Vanke is best known for his prowess with Mopars, he also drove Chevrolets and Pontiacs. At the 1968 Nationals, Vanke marched through the Super Stock eliminator class to take the win in his ’68 SS/B Hemi Cuda.

In 1970, the first year of Pro Stock eliminator, Vanke had a momentous year with a Hemi-powered Duster; he won the five-race NHRA Division Three championship. With the costs of drag racing escalating in the early 1970s, Vanke called it a career and hung up his helmet.

Above: “Akron” Arlen Vanke ran a 4-speed Hemi Barracuda in the 1968 Nationals. He waded through the Super Stock class to win the eliminator. Vanke would move to Pro Stock in 1970, and his success would continue until he retired in the early 1970s. (Photographers unknown)

Schultz made his name as an engine tuner in several decades of NHRA drag racing. In the 1960s, he was the king of Top Gas dragster tuning. Schultz adjusted the knobs on the Schultz and Jones dragster to the 1968 Nationals win. In the late 1970s, after a five-year hiatus, he was the crew chief for the Over the Hill Gang Top Fuel team, and throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, he was a multi-time tuning winner for the Funny Car drivers Tom McEwen, Dale Pulde, Al Segrini, and Mark Oswald, among others.

Above: The Schultz and Jones Top Gas dragster defeated the Gas House Gang in the final. Driver Jack Jones displayed the victory sign as he neared the finish line. Jones retired from driving in 1971. However, Bill Schultz continued tuning nitro burning Hemis for several additional decades. 

Jones only raced nationally from 1967 through the 1971 Winternationals. His accomplishments include two U.S. Nationals wins (’68 and ’70) and a 1968 World Finals crown. However, although not known by many, Jones was the “model” for the NHRA trophy, better known as a “Wally.”

The NHRA founder, Wally Parks, asked Jones to pose for the trophy. At every national event since the 1969 Winternationals, each winner receives an 18-inch tall, 12-pound trophy with Jones’ likeness in an antique brass plating over a standard metal mix on a solid walnut base.

Above: The above array of photos shows Jack Jones posing for the NHRA winner’s trophy, which became known as the “Wally.”  Additionally, there are a few photos of Jones behind the wheel. (Photographers unknown)

Tim Beebe started his drag racing career running Chevy-powered altered Fiats and Bantam Roadsters, with his brother Dave overseeing the driving chores. The brothers teamed up with Lee Sixt forming an extraordinarily successful West Coast team, with Dave still driving the vehicle. When Dave elected to step out of the driver’s seat in 1967, John Mulligan filled the position.

The team known as Beebe and Mulligan was one of the first touring teams in the country and always had a hard-running dragster. The 1969 season started great with an NHRA Winternationals win over Don “the Snake” Prudhomme. Sadly, at the 1969 U.S. Nationals, a clutch explosion damaged the front engine dragster and punctured the oil pan, which pumped burning oil onto Mulligan. Three weeks after the accident, Mulligan succumbed to his burns.

Above Left: The Beebe brothers and John “the Zookeeper” Mulligan teamed up in 1967. The team was one of the first successful touring teams, and their Hemi dragsters were always quick and fast. Above Right: A similar reconstruction of the dragster is still run at nostalgia events. (Photographers unknown)

The Beebe brothers regrouped in 1970 with an AA/FC (Funny Car) that they raced on the West Coast. In 1971, Dick Roseberg ran the team’s “Fighting Irish” Funny Car, and in 1973, Tim returned to Top Fuel with Jim Murphy driving. The team won the 1974 United Drag Racing Association (UDRA) championship.

By 1975, the team disbanded, and Tim opened B&B Transmissions. Yet, Tim Beebe returned from retirement in 2001, again collaborating with Murphy in Nostalgia Top Fuel. The team won the Vintage Drag Racing (VDR) Fuel and Gas Championship in 2004.

McEwen had a successful drag racing career in Top Fuel and Funny Car. He is best known for his “rivalry” with Don Prudhomme. Their fierce competition and theatrical match races captivated fans and played a significant role in popularizing the sport. McEwen’s business sense led to a partnership with Prudhomme and corporate sponsorships with Mattel Hot Wheels and, later, Carefree Gum.

Above: Tom “the Mongoo$e” McEwen was one of the most colorful drivers on the NHRA circuit. He is credited with bringing the first large corporate sponsorship to NHRA when he and Don “the Snake” Prudhomme inked a deal with Mattel Hot Wheels and later Carefree Gum. (Photographer unknown)

Because of his drag racing abilities and charismatic presence, McEwen left an indelible mark on the drag racing community and is remembered as one of the sport’s most influential and colorful personalities.

In 1957, Milo Franklin and Don Alderson founded the oil systems company MILO-DON. Don built and race vehicles for both drag strips and salt flats competition. Additionally, he was an aerospace engineer. The company’s engineering developed main caps, gear drives, oil pans, and fasteners that would not fail in the harshest environments.

Above Left: Milodon is highly recognized as an industry leader in oil control systems. The deep wet sump oil pan fits nicely under a big-block wedge or Hemi. Above Right: Milodon has high-strength, four-bolt mains for Mopar engines. 

Don and Joe Anahory of the Dead End Kids Top Fuel team developed the Milodon VII-liter aluminum block. All the big names in nitro fuel racing used the aluminum-sleeved block. Top Alcohol, drag boats, and tractor pullers also began using the block. It was known to have the “strongest bottom end in racing.”

In 1967, Milodon was one of the founding members of the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) organization. Milodon is one of 17 founding companies still participating in SEMA. Also in 1967, Milodon began supporting NHRA racers, and since then, it has expanded to the International Hot Rod Association and high-dollar bracket racing.

Above Left: Milodon has main and head studs for the increased performance potential of Mopar engines. Above Right: Check out Milodon’s line of Mopar water pumps. 

Although current Milodon owner Steve Morrison has extended Milodon’s influence to all forms of automotive street, performance, and marine competition, for many, Milodon is known for its oil systems. Milodon oil systems are designed to enhance the performance and reliability of engines, particularly in high-stress applications. These systems aim to optimize oil flow, prevent starvation, and improve lubrication to help engines perform at their best.

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Chris Holley

Technical Contributor Chris has been a college professor for 25 years; at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA. for the last 20 years. Chris instructs automotive classes in HVAC, electrical/electronics, and high-performance, including using a chassis dyno, flow benches, and various machining equipment. Recently, he added a vintage vehicle upholstery class to his teaching assignments. Chris owns a '67 Dart, a '75 Dart, a '06 Charger, and a '12 Cummins turbo diesel Ram, and he is a multi-time track champion (drag racing) with his '69 340 Dart, which he has owned for 34 years.

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