Flashback Friday: Sammy Miller’s Hydrogen Peroxide-Powered Dragster

Hmm, y’know, this here blown Nitro Funny Car is pretty neat and all…but it just doesn’t have that zip I’m really lookin’ for. And those darn skin grafts do make it pretty difficult to get an even tan. Hey, I know! I’ll just lose that heavy old drive train and stick a hydrogen peroxide rocket in there! Now, where did I leave that big hunk of titanium, I gotta carve me some rocket thrusters!

Tell ya what, Sammy Miller is someone we actually knew in real life. He was articulate, educated, talanted..a real nice, down to earth guy who worked weekdays driving construction equipment for his family’s business and he was also hands down the baddest human our species has ever created.

Sammy was a mad genius who had a passion for things that were impossibly fast and over-the-top dangerous. After a couple of bad fires in his Fuel Funny, he was offered a ride in a rocket digger, the hook was set, and history was about to be made.

Now back in the early 70’s when all this was transpiring, Rocket cars were still relatively new on the scene and were known for two basic traits. They were ungodly fast, and, they just flat out killed people all the time; any chance they got. When a rocket car got ugly, it didn’t just kill ya, it smashed you like a tomato shot from a canon. The NHRA really started to frown on these things when it had to literally hose the remains of a driver off the guardrail in front of a National event crowd. But such was the nature of the beast, and Sammy was determined to make it his little ride.

Wanna see concrete burst into flames? Pour some pure hydrogen peroxide on it. Wanna blast a 1200 pound projectile down a quarter mile strip in a half a heartbeat over 3 seconds? Spray that Hydrogen Peroxide over a pure silver nickle screen, housed within a titanium canister with a little thruster poking out the back and hang on baby!

Realizing that Hydrogen Peroxide was like the ultimate hazmat, and that a handful of wildmen were just sloshing the stuff around and shooting their butts down the dragstrip with it, the US government placed all kinds of restrictions on the stuff. By the early 80’s, if Sammy wanted to do his thing, he needed to ship his act over to Europe, where nobody seemed to care. Over the next couple of years, Sammy made hundreds of passes in various self built Funny Cars and Dragsters, unofficially dipping into the 2’s on one occasion, and then eventually mounting one of his rockets on a sled and running a 1 second quarter mile pass on solid ice. Yeah, right…we know…

So how does one follow an act like this? Well, if you’re Sammy, you head back to New Jersey and drive back hoes and bulldozers while you ponder what to do with all this rocket science you’ve mastered over the years.

The last time we saw Sammy alive, he was showing us snapshots of his new street toy. A 305, 5 speed IROC Camaro with a rocket in the trunk. It was fully licensed, insured and daily driven on the streets of NJ,.and capable of 200 MPH quarters. That was just typical Sammy Miller.

So, how does it all end? Spectacularly! One of Sammy’s ideas was to use the insane power at his disposal to force oil out of wells that had stopped producing using normal methods. Yeah, wrap your head around this. He starts a company called Applied Force, and since he’s the undisputed master of hydrogen rocket technology, he gets all kinds of money to build a giant rocket, point it into a hole in the ground, and literally blast oil up to the surface. You can figure out what happened next.

Sammy Miller left this earth in a blaze of glory on October 29th 2002. There will never be another like him.

About the author

Tony DeFeo

Tony DeFeo was thrown out of school at 16 for stealing a bus. He went on to start a career as an auto mechanic and, on a whim, entered the field of automotive journalism, writing for Cars Illustrated magazine. Tony founded High Performance Mopar, and then launched Mopar Action a year later just to compete with his first book. He is currently building a twin-engined Fuel Altered, and in his spare time studies economics and abstract psychology.
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