Hemi Under Glass
In 1964 George Hurst was looking for a car for the 1965 drag racing season that would serve as a test bed and promote the Hurst brand and his aftermarket shifters and wheels. Hot Rod Magazine Tech Editor Ray Brock liked the new-for-1965 A/FX class, and explained to Hurst how putting a Hemi in the back of a Barracuda would give excellent weight transfer and be very quick off the line. Brock even had a name for the creation: the Hurst Hemi Under Glass. He sketched the idea onto a napkin over dinner, which Hurst took back to his shop with the question, “Can we build this?” The answer was typical of any self-respecting bunch of hot rodders: “Sure, we can build whatever you want.”
The finished car, however, was not what Hurst wanted - at least not at first. The Hemi’s mid-engine location and vast power reserves made it all but impossible to launch the car hard without instantly lifting the nose skyward in quite dramatic fashion. What looked like a major problem, however, turned out to be a huge hit with the fans, and so was born the most popular series of crowd-pleasing wheelstanders in drag racing history.
The original 1965 Hurst Hemi Under Glass set the pattern for a succession of cars that appeared at major events across North America until 1975 and then again from 1992 until 2009. Bob Riggle was there every step of the way, first as a Hurst mechanic and fabricator and then as one of only two men ever to pilot the Hurst Hemi Under Glass.
Bob and I met at the Spring Fling in Van Nuys, California in 2004; he had both the ’66 and the ’68 cars with him. At first, I wasn’t interested in the cars, but after a day of discussion I decided to buy the ’68 car. The following year, I bought the ’66 car from him. After he restored the ’67 car, it seemed right that I would buy the car because I show them and the public gets to see them in action. Bob and I have done a lot of shows where he drives the car. It’s also nice that we were able to keep the brand together the entire time. In addition to its many public exhibitions with Riggle at the controls, the 1967 Hemi Under Glass was also on public display at the NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California, from 2011 to 2013.
Theoretically, Bob Riggle retired in 2003 and here is a video that was shot at that time. This video was shot at Mopars at the Strip in Las Vegas. That's where he was presented with the rocking chair seen in the video. In reality, he kept driving the cars until 2016. Some people just have a hard time making retirement stick!
Periodically, we would take one of the cars to the drag strip or a car show. Before he would drive the car down the strip, he would always come visit me in Phoenix to go through the car and make sure everything was ready for the trip. Bob was very disciplined when it came to maintaining the cars. He took nothing for granted.
When I bought the '67 car, I bought the rights to "Hemi Under Glass". As well as hundreds of pictures and articles, I also got possession of the Hemi Under Glass Rocking chair. I used to sit in it in my garage with a glass of wine and enjoy my collection. The chair is one of the best things I ever got!
Over the years we’ve known each other, there are times when either I would ask Bob or Bob would ask me if we could take the car to a show somewhere. Our answer has always been the same – of course! This included twice when we were invited to bring the car to the "Goodwood Festival of Speed" in Chichester, England. I've been fortunate to be the passenger as he piloted the '68 car down the track on 4 different occasions. It's what we used to call an "E Ticket Ride" at Disneyland. While preparing for a run down the track at Mopars at the Strip, a friend took this video of us getting ready.
After buying all 3 existing Hemi Under Glass cars from Bob, we got together and decided that it would be really great to build a 4th ’69 car. Our initial thoughts were to put a new generation Hemi in it with a big blower on top. We were going to go new school with the technology and make it more modern. At the end of the day, we decided not to. These cars are a piece of nostalgia, and it didn’t seem right to modernize it too much. We went with the original style drive train with a few improvements. It really seemed like the right thing to do. In the end, we were both happy with the result. This was actually the most powerful of all 4 cars.