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Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Fastest Funnycar by Patrick J. Williams (also titled the Green Ghost)

This was written for a YA audience, but I would recommend it for anyone of any age who likes street rods and drag racing. It was written in the '60s and out of print now, but if you find it used somewhere, do pick it up!

I first read this book even before I got into cars, and enjoyed it then. As I did become obsessed with horsepower, my affection and appreciation only grew. Larry Cook is, superficially speaking, a stereotypical nerd--glasses, braces, and a talent for playing the piano. (But even before his epiphany, he shows signs of a rebellious, independent spirit: his secret jam sessions covering jazz numbers by Fats Waller and other niche legends.)

Then one day Larry sees a photo of a street rod on the cover of a magazine, and his inner rebel blossoms. With the help of a teacher, he rebuilds an old Ford (a Model A, I think). Then, after graduating high school (and loosing the braces), he is hired as the dining hall pianist at a snooty resort hotel (kinda' like the resort in Dirty Dancing). His summer promises interesting developments when he meets the spoiled, gorgeous debutante Barbera Wells, her filthy-rich grandfather, and her would-be suitor: Roger the Rednecked Romeo.

But the story really takes off when Larry becomes friends with the local mechanic and drag racer Finnigan. Finnegan's 392 Hemi-powered Green Ghost is the title vehicle. When Finnegan breaks his leg packing chutes for the Ghost, Larry must step in to drive in the upcoming drags, but without letting his hoity-toity employer...or any of the resort guests...catch wise to it.

The character interaction between Finnegan and just about everyone else is priceless (he's an incurable wiseacre), and Williams generates a feeling that something important is at stake concerning Larry and Barbera, without ever getting even close to mushy. Fantastic book for a teenage boy, especially one with an interest in fast cars, and a highly enjoyable book for men of any age, in fact.


  1. Boy, do I remember this one! (It's been probaly 40 years!) If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't know who Rimsky-Korsakov was (not that I care). And as I recall, the Ghost was a '41 or '42 Plymouth. This was excellent.

  2. Me neither, come to think of it. Finnegan called Larry a "wrench-bending Rimsky Korsakov" a few times, I think.

    The car on the cover of the book I have isn't a '41 or '42. Looks more like a early-to-mid-'30s model. But then cover artists don't always get it right.


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