Art Chrisman, Drag Racing Legend with Santa Ana Shop, Dies

Art Chrisman in 2006
Art Chrisman in 2006
Photo by John Gilhooley/OC Weekly

Here's what the late, great Theo Douglas (late not as in deceased, but late as in he has been absent from his desk at OC Weekly for a really, really long time) wrote in October 2006 about NHRA drag racing legend Art Chrisman:

High speeds require concentration; this may explain why Art Chrisman, who has focused his life on building fast cars and driving them, is a man of uncomplicated tastes. Not for him a season pass to Disneyland or a monogrammed wine locker at Morton's Steakhouse. Chrisman was the first man to hit 140 in the quarter mile ("Santa Ana, 1953") and then, a few years later, the first to top 180. He's never been to Disneyland.

Chrisman won't be going to Disneyland now, as he's really late (as in deceased). He died Tuesday at age 86.

Perhaps the Magic Kingdom had no rides wild enough for the fifth member of the Bonneville 200 Club, which is reserved for drivers who hit the double century mark at the Salt Flats. There are hundreds of members now.

Chrisman moved with his family from Compton to Cypress in 1964 and was still in the same house when Douglas caught up with him in 2006.

Years after his Hustler I slingshot dragster, with a supercharged 392-cubic-inch Chrysler engine, hit 181.81 mph at Riverside Raceway, won the Best Engineered Car award at the 1958 Nationals and graced the cover of Hot Rod Magazine in 1959, Chrisman went to work at Ford’s Autolite Spark Plug Division, AutoWeek reports.

As that source and Douglas previously reported, Chrisman and his son Mike later opened Chrisman Auto Rod Specialties (CARS) in Santa Ana. The father would often show up at 7 a.m. to work on race cars then take them out on the track to test them out.

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