The Man who flew to close to the sun.

"Sneaky" Pete Robinson was an amazing innovator and genius!

The man loved to Tinker so he named his dragsters “Tinker toy”. He was always looking for and thinking up new ways to push his cars and the sport he loved.

He was not a fan of push starting with a push car, He thought it was both dangerous and took to much time. So He built a system that used compressed air to power an aircraft starter system. His self-starting system was eventually made mandatory by the NHRA, AHRA, and IHRA.

He was a early innovator of aerodynamics and down force in drag racing, trying winglets, front wings, rear wings, ground affects, and even a Vacuum car?

Another one of Robinson innovation was his front engine “vacuum cleaner” dragster. Pete lived by Collin Chapmen’s way of thinking when it came to lightness. Building his Machines as light as possible, But when it came to Chapmens famous quotes “Simplify, then add lightness.” Pete often made things a bit more complicated then his competitors cars, he was always pushing the limits, rules, and possibilities.

The "vacuum cleaner" that sat between the frame rails was a 15-inch wide by 4-foot long panel of honeycomb reinforced aluminum, directly under the engine. He made rubber "curtains" down from the panel making a powerful suction chamber under the car. This was plumbed with aluminum tubing hooked to the mouth of the blower that was ran by the mighty Ford 427 SOHC. As along as the engine was running the car was being pulled to the track, with his obsession with lightness, The whole system weighted 25 pounds.

To regulate the air he built a flap in the air tube, an adjustable spring to open when the suction became too much. During testing his new creation work so well that soon the NHRA heard about it, and immediately banned it. Just like Jim Hall and his Chaparral 2J vacuum cleaner car.

Sadly the world would lose this popular and talented man. "Sneaky" Pete Robinson clocked the quickest pass of his career, a 6.50, in his newest Tinker Toy with the “cattle catcher” wing, and decided to enter at the 1971 Winternats, just three weeks away. At Pomona on 6 February, he qualified with a 6.77, e.t. But this winter day would be his last.

During a qualifying run The new “cattle catcher” wing that resided below the engine produced so much down force that the chassis twisted, causing the front tire and wheel to buckle, sending the car to the right and into the armco guardrail, the car broke into pieces instantly killing Pete Robinson, he was just 37 years old.

Don Garlits was quoted in National Dragster: "If he had survived that horrible wreck, he'd be an engineer on some team right now. Pete was always on the edge of the envelope, and I always had respect for him. Pete just didn't stick somebody in the car when he had some idea. He was the test pilot, just like Chuck Yeager or any of them. He took the risk, and there's a lot to be said for that, too."

Icarus flew too close to the sun, but at least he flew. -Jeremy Robert Johnson

~Blanton Payne


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