The Ditmars Brothers Dragster was campaigned all over the Midwest by Bob, Skip, and Phil Ditmars in the early 70’s. They were regular working guys from West Liberty, Iowa who pooled their money, time, and skill to build a top-flight dragster in their mom’s one-car garage.
The Ditmars wanted to move up to the more illustrious Top Gas class, so they built up a blown 426 Hemi and widened the chassis of the SBC car to make it fit. Realizing that they would need a chassis that was designed to work with the Elephant, they ordered this car from Frank Huszar’s Race Car Specialties in Tarzana, California. It was supposed to be ready by October of ’69, but in fact wasn’t done until January of ’70. Undeterred, the Ditmars boys loaded up their Hemi in the back of a pickup and headed for California. They installed the engine in the parking lot at RCS and had the fresh, bare-metal car ready to compete at the Winternationals in Pomona at the end of January.
They ran the car all over the Midwest and qualified mid-pack for the ’70 US Nationals at Indy. A huge wheelstand during the first round of competition knocked them out of the running, but also provided the car’s only real moment in the sun. The car was photographed with the front wheels reaching for the sky, and that photograph would appear in Hot Rod Magazine as well as Super Stock and Drag Illustrated. The best finish for the Ditmars Brothers came later that season when they were runner-up at the 1970 NHRA regional National Dragster open in Columbus.
Fast forward to1993, when Shawn Dill was working part-time at an engineering firm in Minnesota while attending college. He was interested in the early days of the sport, when wild slingshot dragsters and unruly gassers ruled the strip. He carried that love with him into college and that part-time job at the engineering firm. One of his coworkers, aware of his love for mid-century mechanical mayhem, clipped a classified ad and placed it on his desk. It cryptically read “180 FED Roller.” Meaningless to most, but Shawn knew what he was looking at and a short time later made the trip toward the Twin Cities to claim his new-old front-engine dragster chassis.
After a 10-year restoration (protracted because he was always on the road racing), Shawn kept the car for another 10 years. When he decided it was time for the Ditmars Brother dragster to find a new home, he thought first of the Museum of American Speed. Not only would it be on display for the world to see, it would also stay in the car’s Midwest stomping ground.
The Ditmars Brothers may not have won the Winternationals. Their car was never given a magazine feature or cast in a movie. But, thanks to the dedication and love of Shawn Dill, it gets to stand proudly next to a few of the greats in its retirement, proudly telling the story of three brothers from a small town in Iowa who fought valiantly in the dragster wars.