The Joke was on the competition After winning the 1967 Division 6 Super Eliminator Championship, the perennial powerhouse duo of Dick Kalivoda and John Hamlin teamed with engine builder Ed Norton to field one of the most feared AA/Fuel Dragsters ever campaigned out of the Pacific Northwest. Piloted by Kalivoda, "The Joker" engaged in intense and spirited competition with arch rivals Jerry "The King" Ruth and Ed "The Ace" McCullogh to see who held the region's "top card."
Behind the wheel, Kalivoda set and re-set many track E.T. and speed records en route to winning NHRA World Championship Series (WCS) meets at tracks like Bremerton, WA, Firebird Raceway in Boise, ID and Deer Park in Spokane. And The Joker's antics weren't confined to the Northwest, as the trio made frequent appearances at such fabled tracks as Pomona, Lions, Fremont, and Sonoma, where Kalivoda runner-upped to Don Garlits' Wynnscharger at the inaugural Sears Point National Open in May of 1969. "The Joker" finished 1969 as Division 6 Runner-up and was also co-holder of the NHRA National E.T. Record of 6.68 seconds, set in June of 1969 at Bremerton, WA.
"The Joker" was propelled by a 354 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi, stroked to 398 cubic inches and mounted between Woody Gilmore frame rails. The 178" chassis was wrapped in a Tom Hanna aluminum body with intricate multi-color spider web and blue lace paint by Cerny, accented with gold leaf artwork and lettering by Kelly. One of the most beautiful Fuelers of the era, "The Joker" made a habit out of collecting victories as well as appearance awards.
A unique aspect of this "Fueler" was the 12/6 configuration of the steering wheel. Kalivoda did this for two reasons. First, he drove with his left hand only, leaving his right hand free to pull the brake handle and hit the parachute release. The second reason was that because of the direct drive, his knee would hit the steering wheel when he released the clutch. By moving the steering wheel ninety degrees, Kalivoda was more than comfortable as he piloted the "Joker" down another quarter mile blast.