2/3/2009 1:09:01 PM
Why Is This Man Smiling?
It’s been said that Joe Lunati built “some of the ugliest cars ever raced,” but competitors who failed to take him seriously did so at their own peril. Ungainly as it may look, Lunati’s Devin-bodied “Trouble Maker” was a strip terror. He won the Street Eliminator title at the 1964 NHRA Nationals at Indy and repeated the feat in 1966. That would be the last year he raced the Devin, as Lunati entered the emerging Funny Car ranks in 1967 with a Corvair.
Lunati worked for an engine rebuilder in his Memphis hometown during the mid-’60s. After hours, he would grind his own racing cams, and his interest in cam design grew further as he developed a close working relationship with Harvey Crane. Theirs was a mutually beneficial relationship: Crane would send Lunati new camshafts to test on the strip, and Lunati’s race wins helped Crane sell cams.
A year after he switched to Funny Cars, Lunati was ready to make a career change as well. In 1968, he opened the cam-grinding business that would soon cement his reputation among racers as a provider of high-quality camshafts and other high-performance components.