In Memoriam: Art Chrisman

On July 12th, the auto world lost one of its record-breaking legends: Art Chrisman—one of the founders of NHRA Drag Racing and the first drag racer to break the 140 mph barrier—passed away at the age of 86.

chrisman2An early participant in the drag racing scene of the 1950s, Chrisman went on to become one of the sport’s early—and fastest—celebrities. Among his many early accomplishments, Chrisman was the first drag racer to exceed 140 mph. He beat his own record when he later hit 180 mph and—in 1952 while behind the wheel of Chet Herbert’s Beast streamliner—became one of the first five members of the storied Bonneville 200 MHP Club.

By the late 1950s, Chrisman was again pushing the limits of drag racing with his Hustler I, a Hemi-powered—392-cid Chrysler engine stroked out to 454—dragster that saw him speeding to countless victories into the early 1960s. It was in this car that he would blow past 180 mph (hitting 181.81 mph) on the back straight of Riverside Raceway.

Chrisman continued racing through the early 1960s before moving on to work for Ford’s Autolite Spark Plug Division. He also continued to make appearances at events through the remainder of his life. Today, the cars that carried him to legendary status—the #25 dragster and Hustler I—can be seen at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, CA.

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