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Pro Stock legend Bill 'Grumpy' Jenkins dies

by John Jodauga, National DRAGSTER Associate Editor

NHRA Pro Stock icon Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins, a master of the internal combustion engine and a legend among the Chevrolet faithful, died March 29. He was 81.

Jenkins, voted No. 8 among NHRA Drag Racing's greatest racers in a 2001 experts poll, scored just 13 NHRA national event wins but earned his well-deserved spot in drag racing's top 10 because no other individual has contributed more to the advancement of normally aspirated engines for drag racing competition than the legendary "Grump."

“Everyone at NHRA is saddened by the passing of Bill ‘Grumpy’ Jenkins, not only a pioneer in the sport, but also an iconic figure in NHRA Pro Stock racing,” said NHRA President Tom Compton. “He was there from the beginning, playing an integral role in the formation of Pro Stock, and remained involved in NHRA for decades. His presence and trademark gruff exterior and cigar will be missed but never forgotten at the starting line at NHRA Full Throttle events.”

Jenkins always took greater pride in his mechanical achievements than in his driving. Among his innovations are drag racing's first dry-sump oiling system, the first kickout oil pans and Pro Stock strut-style front suspension, and gas port pistons, slick-shift manual transmissions, cool cans, and the electric water-pump fan.

Though these accomplishments had long been noted by Jenkins' peers, it was his fielding of the sport's fastest Chevys that caught the attention of fans. When Chevrolet dropped out of racing in early 1963, Chevy owners needed a banner carrier, and Jenkins filled the void. He gained national prominence in 1966 with his 327-cid, 350-horsepower Chevy II that could outrun most of the 426-cid, 425-horsepower Dodge and Plymouth Street Hemis. He exploited the "giant killer" approach in 1972 when he won six of eight national events with his 331-cid small-block Pro Stock Vega.  Click Here for more
Pictured is Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins with Linda Vaughn