I would say that the first time
anyone heard or saw the name Frank Cannon was in the pages of
Hot Rod Magazine when the editors featured his Chrysler powered
T Bird on the cover that January 1958 issue. The inside article
titled Big Engines for Thunderbirds featured the detailed installation
of a hopped up '57 Chrysler hemi being installed in Frank's '55
'Bird by the Chrisman Brothers garage. Art and Lloyd Chrisman
performed the major surgery need to get that lump of fire breathing
cast iron into a smallish engine compartment.
It was Cannons "need for
speed" that prompted such an effort. Prior to the transplant
Cannon was running a Kenz and Leslie McCullogh supercharged 312
cubic inch Y Block and it was the car to beat at the Santa Ana
drags in Southern California. This three-carbed Ford engine performed
rather nicely turning 109 mph in the quarter (the fastest of
any street driven car) but as the Corvettes began to nip at his
heels, Cannon made a trip to the Chrisman garage and ordered
up a serious dose of horsepower from the two brothers who had
become famous for making lots of it. Thus instigating the transplant
and the resultant partnership that lasted for years and made
drag racing history.
The 'Bird literally flew with
its new 454 inch Hilborn injected Chrysler turning 116 mph and
smoking the tires the length of the strip. After several successful
trips down the quarter proving it's mastery of the street driven
class, Cannon got into a heavy conversation with Mickey Thompson
(then operator of newly built Lions Drag Strip. The discussion
led to a $300 bet that Cannons engine would run 150 in a dragster
with MT betting against it. Cannon of course turned to the Chrismans,
suggesting that they build a dragster and put his Chrysler in
it and take Mickey's money.
Art and Lloyd, seasoned veterans
of the drag race world took up the challenge and quickly laid
out the chassis on the floor of the garage---the chassis that
would eventually become the Chrisman Brothers and Cannon "Hustler".
Chrisman & Cannon's "Hustler
I" before paint at Bakersfield in 1959. Frank Cannon resting
on the roll cage.
With the engine on the hoist,
the new frame rails were rolled underneath and the big Hemi was
lowered into the waiting tubing and bolted to a LaSalle three
speed transmission and a quick change rear end.
A quick wraparound body was fashioned
and it was off to Lions to get Mickey's money. The first pass
netted 147 miles per hour and MT could see the handwriting on
the wall. He paid off ahead of time. The rail was returned to
the shop and an enthusiastic Cannon agreed to a partnership.
The hemi equipped rail was sent to Red Rose for a full envelope
body and the Chrisman's gathered the necessary parts to build
a new engine equipped with a front mount blower setup. This would
be an all out attempt to join the fast developing big time dragster
"Chrisman & Cannon Hustler
shortly after they set the OFFICIAL Standard 1320 record of 181.81
mph in 8.54 seconds, at good old Riverside RCWY.The body was
unpainted due to a bad blower explosion when Art had the blower
mounted down in front of the crank, sort of Potvin style. Body's
repaired but not yet painted. This car also made Great sounds!"
Photo & Commentary by Doug Peterson
The January 1959 issue of Hot
Rod Magazine showed results of the Chrisman and Cannon relationship.
This time it headlined "Best Engineered Dragster" along
with a color photo of Art, Lloyd and Frank beside the Hustler
turned out in its soon-to-be-famous Bronze and white bodywork.
Pomona, 1960. Chrisman Bros.
& Cannon "Hustler I". I believe the body on this
was done by Bob Sorrell.
Photo & Commentary by Doyle Hatfield
The NHRA fuel ban had been put
in place at the beginning of the 1957 season and most of the
local strips adhered to it faithfully. The Hustler did quite
well reaching speeds of 152 mph with et's in the 9.9 range.
Meanwhile, Don Garlits and Setto
Postoian and guys back east continued to run fuel and they were
gathering all of the glory in the drag racing weekly paper Drag
News, with speeds in the 160s and et's in the low nines. Cannon,
never one to take a back seat in the top speed race, suggested
that the Hustler be converted to run fuel.
Pomona, July 4th, 1960.
Frank Cannon with Hustler II.
Photo by Doyle Hatfield
A trip to Riverside Raceway (where
they allowed fuel other than gas) saw the Hustler run 163 on
alcohol but the front mount blower exploded and blew the beautiful
body work all to hell. Back to the garage. A top mount blower
with a Hilborn two-holer set up for Nitro methane was added to
the freshened engine and the body work redone just in time for
the up coming Bakersfield "March Meet"--- the very
first invitational dragster race that brought the fast guys out
from the east and placed them on the same playing field with
the best the left coast had to offer. When the dust cleared the
Hustler was in the winners circle and the Hustler entered the
history books as the first winner of the most famous dragster
race of them all. Cannon was very proud.
The Hustler was a regular at
weekly west coast races and the occasional national meet like
the 1961 AHRA Nationals in Fort Worth Texas where it made a good
showing on a very slippery track.
Not content to just participate
and race with Art and Lloyd, Cannon had the guys build a separate
chassis for him and they installed "Red" Wilsons blown
injected Hemi Dodge in it for Cannon to learn how to get it down
the course. It didn't take long and the little Dodge turned into
a full race Chrysler. The engine and tire technology improved
rapidly and very soon Cannon had a new Woody car-one of the first---and
he was smoking off the best of 'em at place like Pomona and Lions.
In the mean time Art and Lloyd
closed up the shop and took separate career paths while Cannon
continued on with an even newer car from the now prominent Race
Car Engineering products call Woody Cars. Hustler V was the latest
hot setup with a big Hemi built and tuned for Frank by one Dave
"Fat Davey" Zeuschel
built great gobs of horsepower and quickly had Cannon regularly
running speeds of 198 and 199 at Lions. The magic 200 mark had
not been broken on the west coast---those who did exceed 200
in the east were somewhat questionable---and Frank wanted to
be the first in California.
Frank Cannon hazes the tires
in Hustler V AA/FD at Lions in 1964... new "zoomies"
= 200 MPH for real.
Woody Gilmore's Race Car Engineering
was always a hot bed of activity on any given day and it was
during a gathering of racers that the idea of upswept headers
pointing just above the tires might be the source of some performance
improvement. The exhaust used thrust used to clear the tires
of smoke and the resultant force should aid in keeping the front
end down. Jim Ward fabricated a set of headers in the new shape
and Paul Sutherland welded them together---planning to use them
on his own car. The weekend rolled around and Paul's car wasn't
ready. Enter Frank Cannon and the Hustler V. The new "Zoomie"
headers were installed and the rig loaded and off to Lions.
Frank Cannon & Crew
after running 2000 in 1964.
Ron Parenti Photo
It happened in September of 1964
at Lions Drag Strip, and Cannon was the one who did it. The first
one to run 200 miles per hour on a drag strip where the times
were undisputed Two hundred point eighty eight to be exact. The
bubble had been busted. He grinned and lit one of his ever present
"Woody House Car" -
AA/FD StreamLiner at Bakersfield in 1965
This is a rare shot indeed as this car only ran this one time
before Woody scrapped it. It was Gilmore's first attempt at streamlining
and the car was built in-house on his dime using a "Jocko"
body. Frank Cannon supplied the engines and Pete Ogden
Glenn Miller - Trackside Photo
Frank left us in the fall of
2002 and it was a sad day for those of us who knew him well.
He was a kind gentle soul with a large streak of generosity.
He helped lot of people. He is missed by all of us in the drag
Rest in peace, Frank Cannon.
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