|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (July 2013)|
Russell James "Jim" Liberman (September 12, 1945 - September 9, 1977) was an United States drag racer from Pennsylvania, known as "Jungle Jim". He was named #17 on the list of the Top 50 NHRA drivers. Liberman was known for driving backwards, as his girlfriend guided him back to the starting line, (160 km/h) after doing his burnout.
Liberman was known as a flamboyant showman who toured the country. He primarily toured the United States at drag racing events. He 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.
Drag racing career
He began drag racing in the Stock division at Fremont Raceway in 1964. He made a huge jump up to funny car in 1965, driving a nitromethane injected Hercules Nova. Later that year he started on the national scene as the driver of Lew Arrington's supercharged Brutus GTO Funny Car. In 1966, Liberman went out on his own in his first supercharged Chevy II. In 1967, he went on a tour that established him as a household name within drag racing circles across the country. 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. Liberman was more interesting. Liberman 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.
Liberman's growth in 1967 prompted him to run a two car team in 1968. 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. Liberman's 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.
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. Another one of his strengths was that Liberman was the main Chevy banner carrier.
Liberman toured with a woman named "Jungle Pam" Hardy. Liberman met 18 year old Hardy while she was in high school. She toured with Jungle Jim wearing skimpy outfits and provocative on-track actions. She helped him back up after he did burnouts.
She described Jungle Jim: "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."
Liberman concentrated primarily on match races while touring the United States, not on racing on the NHRA circuit. He had one national event win in NHRA competition at the 1975 Summernationals at Englishtown NJ. His second car was driven by Clare Sanders to victory at the 1969 Winternationals.
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, PA.