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Remembering the Stone, Woods and Cook Dark Horse 2 Funny Car
In 1967, many racing fans were shocked to learn that the team of Stone, Woods and Cook was trading in their famous AA/Gas Willys team for the Mustang funny car. The team dominated the A/GS and Swindler A Willys classes, and many expected them to continue competing in the gasser class.
Funny car racing is where all the money was, however, the “Pebble, Pulp and Chef” team was ready for new challenges. So they put the Willy aside in favor of a blown Mustang they called Dark Horse 2.
Although fiberglass funny cars were starting to come into their own, the SWC Mustang was no flopper. Instead the team put the Mustang’s steel shell on a heavy tubular chassis, with a long fiberglass front clip. Driver Doug Cook got into the car and opened the doors, where the pickup could be removed to work on the engine.
Following the same strategy as their popular gassers, the SWC team chose a Chrysler hemi-powered exhaust. Because Stone, Woods and Cook were so successful in the gas field, some people mistakenly refer to the Mustang as a gasser. At first the car was running on alcohol, with a blast of nitro. Over time, the group began to use more nitromethane.
The Mustang funny car immediately followed in the footsteps of the Willys gassers, winning the 2400 pound class at the famous Bakersfield March meeting two days in a row. From there, the team set out on a journey to beat the storms that often coincide.
It seemed that every racing fan wanted to see the Stone, Woods and Cook Mustang in action, and every track owner wanted to fill the stands in order to save the race. Pick up any issue of Drag News since 1967, and you’ll find countless stories detailing the adventures of Stone, Woods and Cook in various ways.
In addition to running at many five-star venues, Dark Horse 2 has also appeared in smaller hole-in-the-wall venues; dragstrips with poor asphalt, poor lighting at night and inadequate parking spaces. The fans wanted to see Doug Cook in action, and the team was ready to give what they wanted.
Running several times a week, the SWC raced against many of the funky cars of the era, taking on lightweights, convertibles and other blasted metal. Cook wasn’t always successful, but he did get a win/loss advantage.
Just when the team of Stone, Woods and Cook seemed to be at the top of their game, tragedy intervened. An accident destroyed Dark Horse 2 in Alton, Illinois. Doug Cook, one of the most famous and respected athletes of all time, suffered a back injury that ended his racing career.
Stone, Woods and Cook weren’t done, though. They built a new Mustang that was a close copy of the original. The Ghost of Dark Horse 2 continued the fast pace, as several hired drivers replaced Cook behind the wheel.
By 1969, even the SWC team couldn’t stay competitive with the metal car, and they built a flopper Mustang, handing the driving duties to Dee Keaton. In the early 70’s, Tim Woods built the first Pinto funny car and drove it under the Stone, Woods and Cook banner with Mike VanSant as the pilot. Later, a Chrysler powered Corvette gasser ran under the banner of Stone, Woods and Cooke. That is not a typo; on the ‘Vette the name Cook was spelled with an e at the end. Allegedly, none of the original three had a Corvette.
After a while, all three members of this beautiful team stopped running. Doug Cook died in 1999.
The legacy of Dark Horse 2 continues. Mike Cook, son of the famous driver, is rebuilding Dark Horse 2. Photos of the car’s construction can be seen on Cook’s website, as well as photos of the complete restoration of the Swindler A and Swindler B Willys.
Forty years have passed since Dark Horse 2 Mustang barns entered racing history. It’s good to know that Mike Cook doesn’t want the legendary car to be forgotten.
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