Racing Icon Passes Away
Larry Jewett - March 29, 2012 04:01 PM
Grumpy's Toy was a feared entry in the mid 60s.GM Corp
The racing world is mourning the loss of Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins, who passed away on March 29 at the age of 82. Between 1965 and 1975, he won a total of 13 NHRA drag races. Most of these wins were won with a manually shifted four-speed transmission. In 1972, he recorded 250 straight runs without missing a shift.
Considered the "Father of Pro Stock", Jenkins-built engines were used to win five NHRA Pro Stock championships and three American Hot Rod Association (AHRA )championships. He was nicknamed "Grumpy" for having a no-nonsense attitude at races.
Jenkins grew up in Malvern, Pennsylvania. He became nationally known after helping to build 30 cars that set national records. Jenkins teamed with Dave Strickler to win the 1963 Little Eliminator Nationals with an A/FX 427 Chevy. His first driving victory was at the 1965 WinterNationals in a Dodge Black Arrow. Jenkins couldn't agree on terms with Chrysler for 1966, so he decided to run a Chevy independently by making his own Chevy engine package. Without factory support, Jenkins developed his first "Grumpy's Toy”. He was added to Chevrolet's team in 1967.
“Everyone at NHRA is saddened by the passing of Bill ‘Grumpy’ Jenkins, not only a pioneer in the sport, but also an iconic figure in NHRA Pro Stock racing,” said Tom Compton, president, NHRA. “He was there from the beginning, playing an integral role in the formation of Pro Stock and remained involved in NHRA for decades. His presence and trademark gruff exterior and cigar will be missed but never forgotten at the starting line at NHRA Full Throttle events.”
Jenkins always took greater pride in his mechanical achievements than in his driving. Among his innovations are drag racing's first dry-sump oiling system, the first kickout oil pans and Pro Stock strut-style front suspension, and gas port pistons, slick-shift manual transmissions, cool cans, and the electric water-pump fan.
Jenkins earned many honors, including induction into the Don Garlits International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1993, the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Novi, Michigan, in 1996, and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2008.