Jim Liberman

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Jim Liberman
JungleJimBurnout.jpg
Jungle Jim burnout in Texas, 1976
BornRussell James Liberman
(1945-09-12)September 12, 1945
Abington Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedSeptember 9, 1977(1977-09-09) (aged 31)
West Goshen Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Previous series
Match racing
Championship titles
1975 Nationals

Russell James Liberman (September 12, 1945 – September 9, 1977) was an American drag racer, nicknamed "Jungle Jim". He was named #17 on the list of the Top 50 NHRA drivers.[1] Liberman was known for driving backwards at 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) after doing his burnout.[1]

Liberman was a flamboyant showman who primarily toured the United States drag racing events and averaged an estimated 100 events per year during the 1970s. He refused to lift off the gas when a run was completely out of shape.[1]

Background[edit]

Liberman was born in Pennsylvania. He dropped out of high school in his junior year and began racing when he moved to Northern California.[1]

Drag racing career[edit]

He began drag racing in the Stock division at Fremont Raceway in 1964[1] and made a jump up to funny cars in 1965, driving an injected Nova on nitromethane dubbed Hercules.[1] Later that year he started on the national scene as the driver of Lew Arrington's supercharged GTO Funny Car, Brutus.[1] In 1966, Liberman went out on his own in his first supercharged (steel-bodied) Chevy II,[1] the first to we the "Jungle Jim" name.[2] In 1967, he went on a tour that established him as a household name within drag racing circles across the country.[1] Despite making eight second runs in his Chevy when other top dragracers in factory-sponsored cars made runs in the seven second range, he gained a large fan following.[1] Liberman was more interesting.[1] He won the hearts of the spectators after he did wheelstands for the full length of the track in a two race match race against Don Nicholson.[1]

Liberman's success in 1967 prompted him to run a two car team in 1968.[1] His choice as the first driver in his second car was Clare Sanders. Others drivers using Liberman's cars included Ron Attebury, Jake Crimmins, Roy Harris, Russell Long, Pete Williams, and former partner Arrington.[1][3] The team went on to include a Steve Kanuika-owned and sponsored nine-second heads-up '69 Camaro and a Dutch Irrgang-driven '72 Vega Pro Stocker.[1]

Super Stock & Drag Illustrated had a story idea that required the total disassembly of a Funny Car down to the last nut and bolt for a true exploded-view picture. Nearly every leading driver in the category turned down the magazine's request. Liberman complied, and the resulting publicity only added to his legend.[1] Another one of his strengths was that Liberman was the main Chevrolet banner carrier.[1]

Sidekick[edit]

Liberman toured with a woman named "Jungle Pam" Hardy. Liberman met 18-year-old Hardy while she was in high school. She toured with Liberman, wearing skimpy outfits and provocative on-track actions. She helped him back to the line after his burnouts.[4]

She said of Liberman, "All that showmanship was his true personality. He just didn't turn that on at the track and then became normal like everyone else at home. He had that sort of flair even when we were just at the house or went out some place. You could always feel his presence wherever he was."[1]

NHRA[edit]

Liberman concentrated primarily on match races while touring the United States, not on racing on the NHRA circuit.[1] He had one national event win in NHRA competition at the 1975 Summernationals at Englishtown, New Jersey.[1] His second car was driven by Clare Sanders to victory at the 1969 Winternationals.[citation needed]

During 1972 and 1973, Liberman attended 100 race meets; this record was matched only by "TV Tommy" Ivo and Ed "The Ace" McCulloch.[5]

Liberman drove a Vega funny car, in three distinct incarnations.[6]

The first Vega, painted candy blue, appeared in August 1972, was also driven by Pam Hardy, and was on the cover of Hot Rod.ref>Burgess, Phil, National Dragster editor. "'Jungle's' Vega: Who knows which nose?", written 16 December 2016, at NHRA.com (retrieved 16 September 2018)</ref> Designed by Romeo Palamides, it was bodied by Ron Pelligrini's company, Fiberglass Ltd.[7]

The second Vega was driven primarily by Roy Harris, and was painted a darker candy blue than the first.[8] It was the subject of a Revell model kit.[9]

The third made its debut in 1974.[10]

Death[edit]

Liberman died in a head-on car accident in his 1972 Corvette street car with a bus on September 9, 1977 in West Goshen Township near West Chester, Pennsylvania.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "No. 17 'Jungle Jim'". National Hot Rod Association. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  2. ^ Burgess, Phil, National Dragster editor. "Favorite Race Car Ever voting: Early Funny Cars", written 21 July 2008, at NHRA.com (retrieved 1 October 2018)
  3. ^ Burgess, Phil (October 28, 2016). "The top three: Liberman". National Hot Rod Association.
  4. ^ Scherr, Elana (August 23, 2013). "Take 5 With 'Jungle' Pam Hardy". Hot Rod. ISSN 0018-6031.
  5. ^ Motorsport.com (retrieved 14 September 2018)
  6. ^ Burgess, Phil, National Dragster editor. "'Jungle's' Vega: Who knows which nose?", written 16 December 2016, at NHRA.com (retrieved 16 September 2018)
  7. ^ Burgess, Phil, National Dragster editor. "'Jungle's' Vega: Who knows which nose?", written 16 December 2016, at NHRA.com (retrieved 16 September 2018)
  8. ^ Burgess, Phil, National Dragster editor. "'Jungle's' Vega: Who knows which nose?", written 16 December 2016, at NHRA.com (retrieved 16 September 2018)
  9. ^ Burgess, Phil, National Dragster editor. "'Jungle's' Vega: Who knows which nose?", written 16 December 2016, at NHRA.com (retrieved 16 September 2018)
  10. ^ Burgess, Phil, National Dragster editor. "'Jungle's' Vega: Who knows which nose?", written 16 December 2016, at NHRA.com (retrieved 16 September 2018)
  11. ^ Fitzpatrick, Frank (February 24, 2017). "Frank's Place: When Jungle Jim Liberman ruled in Funny Cars". The Philadelphia Inquirer.

External links[edit]