Revised and updated: In this short film, we get a look inside the all-conquering Mickey Thompson funny car team of 1969. It’s one of the great stories in drag racing—check it out.
Mickey Thompson was more than the greatest hot rodder who ever lived. He was a force of nature. In MCG’s years working at Hot Rod magazine, one of his favorite feature story projects was an in-depth biography of Mickey, “Life at 400 MPH,” that appeared in the December 2008 issue. Studying Mickey’s life was better than any motivational seminar. M/T could do more in one of his absurd 20-hour workdays than most racers could accomplish in a month. “He went through life like a guy escaping a bank robbery,” wrote Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times.
It’s impossible to list all of Thompson’s exploits, from Bonneville to Indianapolis, in a single story. Today we’re going to focus on one: his 1969 drag racing team, which featured a pair of unbelievably quick Mustang funny cars. Ford Motor Co. provided the funding and the SOHC 427 engines, Pat Foster and John Buttera built the chassis, Foster and Danny Ongais drove the cars, and Thompson assembled and managed the operation—and often also drove the ramp truck, mixed the nitro, and tuned the motors, as this short video illustrates.
Across the world of motorsports, every so often a race car comes along that is so dominant, so superior, that it seems to be running in a different class. The blue ’69 Mustang driven by Danny Ongais was one such car. Many regard the package to be the first modern funny car. But in our eyes, the star of this little film is Mickey Thompson, a true American original.
(Another version of this video feature appeared at Mac’s Motor City Garage in 2014.)