Decades ago before the sanctioning bodies began putting the kabosh on innovation and outside-the-box ingenuity in the sport, multi engine dragsters were a common sight at major events across the country, albeit in particularly low numbers and with limited success. Several remain significant parts of drag racing lore to this day, such as the quad-engine behemoth of Tommy Ivo and the early siamese Pontiac’s of Eddie Hill. Another of those that many will remember and has stood the test of time thanks to a complete restoration some years ago is the famed “Freight Train” of John Peters.
At the time of Top Gas’ demise in 1972, the Freight Train was considered to be the top machine in the country, setting tracks records all across the land. After the NHRA dropped the category, the twin engined terror was stripped of its parts and hung in the rafters for close to 30 years.
John and his partner Nye Frank built the original Freight Train in 1959 that featured a pair of Chevrolet’s with a single 6-71 blower overdriven through a Halibrand quick-change with an inlet duct that ran over the top of both engines. Later a top mount 6-71 was added to the second engine. Following the original, several Freight Train’s were built, all twin engined and all twin supercharged following the ’59 season.
Throughout the 50’s and 60’s, Top Gas was considered one the most exciting eliminators in all of drag racing featuring some of the most innovative machines in history. And the competition was fierce, with qualified fields more closely bunched than many sixteen car NHRA fields today.
In 1967, the Freight Train threw down the gauntlet on its competitors, cranking out elapsed times in the 7.4-second range that scared away many of its rivals who simply refused to race against it. The Freight Train was truly the car to beat anywhere it showed up. By 1971, in an act of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” the competition stopped trying to beat Peters and the Freight Train and put together their own twin engine dragsters. Thus, by the time the 1970’s rolled around, Top Gas had been overrun by dual engines.
The final incarnation of the Freight Train sported two 428-inch blown Chrysler’s mated to a two-speed transmission. Despite it’s incredible popularity, the NHRA discontinued Top Gas in 1972 as it’s done so many times since and lumped it into the handicap start Competition Eliminator category.
During it’s tenure, the Freight Train featured a who’s-who of pilots, including the likes of Craig Breedlove, Tom McEwen, Mickey Thompson, Gerry Glenn, and the infamous Floyd Lippencotte Jr. aka Bob Muravez.