Gene Snow was an American racing driver who pioneered funny cars ine the 1960s, 70's and 80's, bringing innovations such as a direct drive system using multiple clutches when rivals were still using automatic transmissions based on those used in production models. He was ranked #26 on NHRA's Top 50 drivers in 2001.
Drag racing career
Originally an engineering student at the University of Texas at Arlington, he opened a used car dealership and drag raced cars from the dealership to promote his business. After each win, he sold the car the next day, which gained him more attention. This led to him taking racing more seriously, driving a 1958 Chevy Impala with a 409 Cubic Inch Chevrolet "W-Block" engine made famous by The Beach Boys in their song, 409. He moved over to MOPAR by 1963, running a Plymouth Sport Fury.
As the 1960s progressed, Snow developed innovations such as stretching the wheelbase to improve handling, which lead to several class wins in 1966-'67. Stretching the chassis was his seminal contribution to the new Fuel Coupe, aka Funny Car class, which evolved out of the Altered wheelbase Factory Experimental (aka "FX") and super stock classes. Although funny car was not a class recognized by the National Hot Rod Association, Snow was allowed to run in the dragster classes, where he ran a 9.04 second quarter mile ET. He repeated he success in 1967, running an 8.67 second quarter-mile ET in the new Super Eliminator class. By 1968, he went to the gasoline burning classes and won B/Altered (a class for modified production vehicles).
At this time, Snow realized that the increased torque that was coming from engines like the new generation Chrysler Hemi engine would destroy a transmission, whereas direct drive would be more suited to the conditions under full load. He explained it this way: "We worked with Crower to come up with a four-disc Crowerglide centrifugal clutch. Though it was sluggish off the line, it would mow down the automatic cars, which always nosed-over at about 185 mph."
The idea being that as engine RPM increased, the clutches would engage and there would be no gearsets to destroy. With the simplified drivetrain, he was the first funny car driver over the 200 mph barrier in the autumn of 1969, at Dickson, Texas, later running 205.046 mph at Orange County Raceway. Snow said, astonished: "The sea level location gave us extra horsepower, and we went 200.88 mph on the first pass. I didn't think it such a big deal at the time, but we kept running more than 200 mph at just about every race after that."
By the late 1970s, Snow took a sabbatical due to costs as a result of the 1970s oil crisis and the political situation in the Middle East that precipitated it, along with sub-par seasons, returning in 1981 to race in Top Fuel. During this time he worked on developing his direct drive for Top Fuel cars.
Notable achievements in the 1980s include the first 4 second ET run in an NHRA sanctioned event at Houston Park Raceway. However, these have been overshadowed by allegations that he molested a male fan he met at a dragstrip in 1987.
After an accident in 1992, he retired from drag racing.
Snow was arrested for sex offences as early as 1978, though he was acquitted of all but one misdemeanor citation, for which he was fined. This did not stop him from drag racing in Britain, which was covered by Anglia Television's regional News program, About Anglia. More serious allegations came in 2007 when he was accused of molesting a teenage fan in the mid 1980s, who claimed Snow brought him to his house and seduced him. These allegations arose when the press reported his conviction for an unrelated sex offence against a child, which was plea bargained down to a lesser offence of injuring a child, which let him off registering as a sex offender. In response to the plea bargain, the Twin Falls, Idaho, District Attorney responded:
"That's horrifying, they should at least talk to (the alleged victim) or myself after the initial information that was relayed to their office by me. They should at least let (the alleged victim) know how the case is progressing since he is a witness who could greatly help their case."
Snow allegedly even went as far as drilling holes in the alleged victim's house to spy on the boy, according to the alleged victim's testimony. The sexual abuse allegedly occurred for several years, during which time Snow allegedly paid the victim for his services.
Snow pled guilty and was sentenced to three years probation.
- "NHRA's Top 50 Drivers". NHRA. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKRGD0DT8TE Anglia Television News Report of Gene Snow at Santa Pod