Remembering Stone, Woods and Cook Dark Horse 2 Funny Car

Back in 1967, many drag racing fans were surprised to learn that Stone, Woods and Cook’s team was trading their popular AA / Gas Willys coupe for a fun Mustang car. The team dominated the A / GS ranks with the Swindler A Willys, and many people expected them to continue competing in the gasser ranks.

However, fun car racing was where all the money was, and the “Pebble, Pulp and Chef” gang was ready for a new challenge. So they sidelined the Willys in favor of a busted Mustang that they dubbed Dark Horse 2.

While the fun, flip-flop-style fiberglass cars were coming to life, the SWC Mustang wasn’t a flop. Instead, the team mounted a steel Mustang body on a lightweight tubular chassis, with a long fiberglass front clip. Driver Doug Cook entered the car through the opening doors, while the clip could be removed to work on the engine.

Following the same pattern as their famous gassers, the SWC team selected an early Chrysler hemi for power. Because Stone, Woods, and Cook were so successful in gas classes, some people mistakenly refer to the Mustang as a gasser. At first, the car ran on alcohol, with a touch of nitro. As time went on, the team leaned in and used increasing percentages of nitromethane.

The funny Mustang car immediately followed in the footsteps of the Willys gassers, winning the 2,400-pound class at the famous Bakersfield March competition two days in a row. From there, the team embarked on a fast-paced tour that has rarely been equaled.

It seemed like every drag racing fan wanted to see the Stone, Woods and Cook Mustang in action, and every track owner wanted to fill the stands by reserving the match runner. Pick up any 1967 copy of Drag News, and you’ll likely find numerous stories recounting the exploits of Stone, Woods, and Cook on different tracks.

In addition to competing on most of the five-star tracks, Dark Horse 2 also performed in small venues with holes in the wall; runways with uneven asphalt, dim night lighting, and inadequate closure areas. Fans wanted to see Doug Cook in action, and the team was more than willing to fulfill their wish.

Racing several times a week, SWC raced against most of the famous funny cars of the time, assuming the lighter weight, injected flip top cars, as well as other blown inlets with steel bodywork. Cook wasn’t always victorious, but he racked up an impressive win / loss count.

Just when Stone, Woods and Cook’s team seemed to be at the top of their game, tragedy struck. An accident destroyed Dark Horse 2 in Alton, Illinois. Doug Cook, one of the most popular and respected racers of all time, suffered back injuries that ended his racing career.

However, Stone, Woods, and Cook weren’t done. They built a new Mustang that was almost a copy of the original. The Phantom of Dark Horse 2 continued the torrid pace of the match race, with several hired drivers replacing Cook at the wheel.

In 1969, even the SWC team couldn’t remain competitive with a steel-bodied car, and they built a Mustang flopper, assigning the driving duties to Dee Keaton. In the early 1970s, Tim Woods built Pinto’s first fun car and drove it under the Stone, Woods and Cook banner with Mike VanSant as the driver. Later, a Chrysler-powered Corvette gasser toured under the Stone, Woods and Cooke banner. That is not a typo; on the ‘Vette, the name Cook was spelled with an e at the end. Reportedly, none of the original trio were actively involved with the Corvette.

Eventually, the three members of the colorful team withdrew from the races. Doug Cook passed away in 1999.

However, the legacy of Dark Horse 2 continues. Mike Cook, son of the famous driver, is rebuilding Dark Horse 2. Photographs of the car’s construction can be seen on Cook’s website, as well as pictures of the fully restored Swindler A and Swindler B Willys coupes.

It has been four decades since the Dark Horse 2 Mustang made its way into drag racing history. Good to know that Mike Cook has no intention of letting the famous hilarious car be forgotten.

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