Justin Malott’s Funny Car Is A Vision Come True, At A Rapid Pace

For the past several years, Justin Malott’s ambitions have been primarily racing open-wheel style drag cars with the engine in front of him. Recently, he made yet another progression in his racing career by building up this new 1957 Chevy showpiece.

You might bet that he has been into Funny Cars for some time, but this beauty is a culmination of Malott’s efforts following years of competing with his primary passion of front engine dragsters. “I started in Junior Dragsters back in 1994,” remembers Malott. “I liked open cockpit racing so much, we later back-halved my junior with a snowmobile engine.”

At the ripe age of 15, his open cockpit interest moved towards a front engine dragster in bracket racing at area outlaw tracks that would allow him to footbrake compete with his big-block Chevy dragster. Malott had a small break from racing when he became part of the management at Terre Haute (Indiana) Action Dragstrip at 17 years old.

The "Must Be Nice" team will compete throughout the greater Midwest in the Nostalgia Drag Racing League 7.0 index class while also stepping up to run at Funny Car Chaos events. Malott's ultimate goal is booking himself and the Funny Car at select match races.

During his management days, Malott sold his original dragster and began a new project with an S&W front-engine dragster chassis kit. “That car was so deadly accurate; I would double-dip in both Pro and Super Pro classes while bracket racing and began heavily attending Nostalgia Drag Racing League (NDRL) events competing in the 7.50 class.”

 We have wanted to go Funny Car racing for the past 10 years. One day, we started selling everything to do just that. – Justin Malott

While competing at NDRL events, his current “bug” hit him when he saw a ’57 Chevy Funny Car at one of the races. Malott wanted to go faster, and a shoebox Funny Car would be his next move. Subsequently, he sold his dragster, trailer and every racing part he owned.

A little over a year ago, Malott got to work on this ambitious project to immediately step into a spread of NDRL 7.0 index competition, Funny Car Chaos racing, and the ambitions to book the car into independent match races.

He was considering a change during his Pro Comp years, yet still wanted to keep the engine in front of him. The 1957 Chevy Nostalgia funny car design piqued his interest when a roller became available in Utah. “I initially traveled there to look at this ’57 Chevy flopper for sale,” Malott remembers. “By the time I flew home and immediately went to the bank for the money, the car had been sold. One thing came from the trip: I was dead-set on racing a ’57 Chevy Funny Car.”

Almost immediately, though, he moved on completely constructing a new car and, at a furious pace. He and his friends completely created this ride in just over a year.

As Malott put it, “John and Josh Dunn at Dunn and Gone Racing are crazy, in a good way. Their hard work on their self-laid fiberglass body, body mount structure, and tinwork show how much they are into Funny Cars and Altereds.”

The powerplant for the emerging combination is a 541 cubic inch big-block Chevrolet iron block design Dart Machinery. An Ohio Crankshaft specialized nitro billet crankshaft, MGP aluminum rods, and JE pistons make up the lower engine. On top is a pair of Dart Pro-2 380 heads and a 14:71 SSI Supercharger Systems blower with an RCD Engineering gear drive.

The nitro-burner sits in front of a Transmission Specialties Powerglide and torque converter, with the power continuing through a Mark Williams solid-spline driveshaft and then onto a Strange Engineering 9.5-inch live axle floater rearend.

The sleeker-than-shoebox body came from the Dunn and Gone Racing mold. The shop also mounted and completed the tin work onto the ProStart Race Cars chassis. Rolling hardware includes Strange Funny Car carbon-fiber brakes, Weld Racing wheels, and Hoosier Racing tires front and back.

Paint and “black chrome” airbrush are created at Patch Job Garage by Misty Fields, who handled the body and prep work, with Billy Fields laying on the paint and airbrushing. Also, Pro Glass Windows lexan windshield and side glass are on the body shell.

Inside the Funny Car electronics box are a Racepak V-300 data display and recording hardware, MSD Grid ignition, and Powerglide shift system.

To be safe while seated behind the nitromethane-burning engine, Malott is using a Fox Fire 20-pound fire suppression system, F1ER under-body fire coating, a DJ Safety Equipment  engine diaper, and an assortment of Impact Racing -20 custom fire suit, driving shoes, boot covers, head sock, helmet, and belts.

Photo gallery


Other incidentals on the Chevy include an Aerospace Components two-speed billet shifter and a K&R Performance Engineering onboard air pump to shift the Funny Car. A Holley Performance/MSD Grid ignition system works with a Racepak V-300 datalogger and dash.

Combining nitromethane header flames in contrast to the candy brandywine, root beer, and black cherry paint will be a vision as Malott begins to shake down the brand-new setup.

“We are going to race on nitromethane from the start,” Malott says. “We will compete in the Nostalgia Drag Racing League 7.0 class and definitely go after the Funny Car Chaos events. My biggest goal is to race at booked-in shows once some promoters see it run as fast as it looks.”

Just at story release, Malott hit the racetrack for the first time at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. Stepping into his shakedown and license passes, he gradually moved from 3/4-track to full passes. But the track would not hold the supercharged nitromethane power over his handful of runs. Despite big scoreboard numbers, he is encouraged by his comfort in the car and how he readily controlled it when it got loose.

Though the entire car is well worth looking over, the “black chrome” effect applied by Billy Fields at Patch Job Garage makes you stop and stare.

“I have nothing but satisfaction with this car following our first weekend,” Malott told us. “The car remained tight and under control, and nothing loosened up despite the gang checking every nut and bolt between passes.”

Like many high-caliber Funny Cars that look as good sitting still as going fast, it is no doubt that Justin, his team, and wife/backup girl, Emmalea Malott, will be quite busy during the summertime with this soon-to-be fan favorite.

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Todd Silvey

Todd has been a hardcore drag racing journalist since 1987. He is constantly on both sides of the guardwall from racing photography and editorship to drag racing cars of every shape and class.
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