AMERICAN talk-show host and petrol head Jay Leno is no stranger to crazy high-horsepower machines, but a wheel-standing 60s-built Barracuda Hemi Under Glass has to be up there with some of the wildest machinery to hit his Jay Leno’s Garage video series. The Hemi Under Glass cars are something of an icon of the sixties American drag racing scene because of its unique engine position.
In 1964 George Hurst was looking for a new car to race in the experimental drag racing category for Bob Riggle to pilot in the upcoming season to help advertise his line of wheels and race shifters. He turned to then Hot Rod Magazine Tech Editor Ray Brock for ideas and he came up with a concept for a mid-engine Barracuda. With the heavy engine in the rear closer to the back wheels they thought it would get better traction off the line so they went with it.
The first time they tested the car it lifted the nose straight off the ground and sat on the rear bumper until Bob came off the throttle. No matter what they did it wouldn’t launch properly but they had already spent their time and money on the car so they entered it in the experimental race class anyway and while it was never particularly fast it became a crowd favourite as they toured America with famed exhibition driver Wild Bill Shrewsberry.
Four Hemi Under Glass cars in total were built by Hurst over four years and the final version had a blown and injected Alcohol-drinking Hemi hooked up to a four-speed. It also had two brake pedals – one for each rear wheel so driver Bob Riggle could steer and a clear firewall meant he could also see where he was going.
The Hemi Under Glass Barracuda travelled around North America for drag racing events from 1965 to ’75 when it was retired. Of the four cars, one was wrecked during a testing accident, while the other three were stored away. In 1992 driver Bob Riggle was convinced to bring back the Hemi Under Glass so he rebuilt the crashed ’66 version and it went on tour from ’92 to 2009, even heading over to Europe for the Goodwood Festival Of Speed in the U.K in 2005. Bob also restored the ’69 version for then owner of all four cars, collector Bill Sefton who auctioned them in 2013.
Now 80-years-old Bob was able to get his hands on the ’69 Hemi Under Glass as he took Jay Leno for a ride around Irwindale Speedway for Jay’s show. For some reason they didn’t use the eighth mile drag strip, rather they opted for the oval track for the wheelie demonstration and once the wheels came down the car had already hit the banking and once Bob turned the wheel she went over. Fortunately, Bob nor Jay were injured in the accident as the car is fitted with a modern roll cage and safety gear, but the car will need a new shell. Ouch.
It’s only the second time Bob has crashed a Hemi Under Glass in the 50 years he has been piloting the crazy black and gold rockets, not a bad record!