Father/son drag racing is alive and well, thanks to Jim (left) and Brett Henry, who spend their summers match-racing each other in their fuel altered roadsters. Another son, Brent, drives an alcohol funny car on the NHRA circuit.
Although the Henrys' 1948 Ford sedan looks more like an old-time street hot rod, cars like this actually began the "altered" class in drag racing. The barn-find car runs minus hood and fenders because Jim Henry didn't want to build another fat-fendered Ford that looks like everybody else's.
Jim Henry built the "Black Mariah" in a couple of weeks' time after the fuel-altered racing bug bit him again. The injected Hemi-powered car produces between 1,400 to 1,700 horsepower, depending on how much nitromethane is dumped into the tiny 3-1/2 gallon fuel tank just ahead of the engine.
A Dodge Dakota pickup gave up its bench seat for the Ford sedan project; it received the discount-store seat cover treatment. That's one of Jim Henry's fanciful art pieces on the seat, a "Bulgarian vampire skull."
With the front end of the '48 Ford open to the elements, Jim Henry chose a '34 Chevy swap meet grille shell with heavy patina to house the radiator. The traditional street rod-style headlights are mounted on old MoPar connecting rods.
The high-mounted twin Deist drag chutes can really snap the driver's head forward at the end of a 160 mph-plus run. Jim Henry says he tries to ease the impact by deploying the parachutes one at a time.
Driver accommodations in the Black Mariah are Spartan, at best: an unpadded aluminum seat, a removable steering wheel, "brass knuckle" brake lever, a single oil pressure gauge and a 2-speed racing Powerglide shift lever.
Front wheels on the Black Mariah are salt-flats-styled wheels similar to those used on the legendary Marcellus-Borsch AA/FA. Jim Henry chose 1940 vintage dirt track tires for his brief journeys down the quarter mile.
The Black Mariah currently puts power to the pavement via a set of Hoosier 12-inch wide, 29-inch tall drag slicks spun by an 8-3/4-inch MoPar rear end. Jim Henry says in his more than 50 years of drag racing, he's never broken a Chrysler rear end.
A classic set of Hilborn injectors with medium-length tubes sit atop the aluminum 426 Chrysler Hemi, which has been bored and stroked to 489 cubic inches. It uses a Vertex magneto and a Lunati roller cam, GRR aluminum rods and CNC-ported Stage 5 Top Fuel dragster heads.