Jr. Thompson has been into racing for almost 50 years. He started when he was about 17 in 1953. He was living in Downey, California when he and his brothers got into racing. His first car was a 1940 Ford convertible. It had a chopped Carson top and a flathead engine. He then got a hold of a 1950 Ford.
Next he moved back down in years to a 1941 Studebaker with a small block Chevy. This had a McCullough supercharger. This car seems to be the one that got him hooked for good. With it he won Little Eliminator at the NHRA National in 1958. This race was the beginning of the famous Gasser matches which included such well-known names as Tim Woods (of Stone, Woods and Cook) K.S. Pittman, George Montgomery and others. Jr. Preferred the appeal of the streetcars or "door slammers" as they were called, rather than the open cockpit dragsters.
His next car was one of my favorites, the 1941 Willys. This little purple dynamo set the national record for C/GS in 1962 and still held this record when he went into B/GS division in 1964. In 1965 Jr. Made the big move into A/GS. He got a 1950 Austin Sedan body and put Chrysler 57/58 engine in it. It ran 155 mph in 9.03 seconds. This was a revolutionary car in that it was built to the minimum allowable wheelbase, 92 inches. It was the shortest legal wheelbase and with it he set the NHRA and AHRA national records in A/GS.
In 1969 Jr. came out with a gasser in a late model body. It was a 1969 Opel Kadett with a blown Chrysler engine. Then in 1970 he built a flip-top Opel GT. This was another of my favorites. Candy apple red and running 173 mph in the low 8.00s he won the A/GS class at the last race ever at Lions Dragstrip in 1972. This was the one of the first gassers to go over 170 mph.
In the early 70's the popularity of the gassers began to wane. Not one to stay behind Jr. built a BB/Funny Car. His first was a Plymouth Satellite which he ran from 1974-1977. He ran this car on Methyl Eythl Alcohol going at speeds in excess of 200 mph at E.Ts in the 6.60s. Jr.'s last Funny Car was definitely a favorite. A gorgeous candy apple red and burgundy fliptop Corvette. He ran this car from 1978 until 1982 when he crashed it in a near fatal accident at an Ohio dragstrip. Someone had forgotten to remove 3 cinder blocks left in front of the timing lights in the center of the strip near the end. Against safety regulations they were put there so the bike racers wouldn't be able to kick out the timing lights. Well, they left there and Jr. hit them going Over 200 mph. The car flipped, end over end, at least ten times, completely destroying the fiberglass body. Thanks to the well built chassis Jr. miraculously sustained no broken bones. Though his helmet and the roll cage saved his life, the crash caused his head to beat severely against it causing a severe concussion and brain contusion. The effect was as if he had had a stroke. It took 5 long years, Jr. is fully recovered.
These days he doesn't drive racecars anymore but he is still in the business. In 1987 he bought a 1950 Ford Prefect. The nostalgia car craze was just getting started and he got that thing running in the 7.90s with his son, Tommy driving it. It had a 392 blown Chrysler Hemi and they remained undefeated in the Goodguys and NDRA competitions for 3 years.
Jr. is now building Chrysler engines for nostalgia racers, street rods and some A/GS engines as well. He can be found at most nostalgia races and other racing events where he even does some announcing. Although at times he may miss the thrill of being behind the wheel he realizes that he was very fortunate to be able to have a career doing something he loved to do.