This original restored Funny Car was made famous during the popular “Snake vs. Mongoose” match racing promotion, which occurred from 1970 through 1972.
Owned and driven by International Motorsports Hall of Famer and legendary drag racer Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, the “Snake II” ’Cuda was built by “Lil’” John Buttera and was the second generation of Prudhomme’s first Funny Car — the 1970 yellow Hot Wheels Plymouth ’Cuda.
In addition to competing against Tom “Mongoose” McEwen during their exciting barnstorming match races, the “Snake II” also completed on the American Hot Rod Association (AHRA) tour, winning several events and setting several performance records.
During the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) historic 1973 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Prudhomme’s Snake II set the national elapsed-time record in the quarter-mile at 6.35 seconds. Prudhomme also drove the Snake II to its top speed of 226 mph. This is the original Snake II — restored, period-correct and in running condition (SFI-certified chassis #C30255). This historic Funny Car was also featured in the 2013 feature film “Snake & Mongoose."
|Vehicle:||1972 Plymouth Barracuda “Snake II” Funny Car|
|Number Produced:||Three team cars, plus a few others for privateers|
|Original List Price:||N/A|
|SCM Valuation:||$50,000-plus, dependent on race history and condition|
|Tune Up Cost:||$5,000|
|Club Info:||Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, NHRA|
|Alternatives:||Slingshot dragsters, fuel-altered cars and Funny Cars with race history|
This car, Lot 1345, sold for $220,000, including buyer’s premium, at Barrett-Jackson’s auction in Scottsdale, AZ, held January 14–22, 2017.
The 1970s Funny Car era was one of constant evolution and record-setting runs. Every season, the cars got faster and the drivers got more daring.
Starting in 1970, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme paired up with Tom “Mongoose” McEwen to match-race each other. Hot Wheels was the main sponsor of both the Snake and Mongoose rides. This program was wildly successful, running until 1972. After that, the cars were eventually sold off and lost.
In recent years, Prudhomme has found and restored a number of his old cars. Funny Cars had a disturbing habit of vaporizing, with a lot of them flashing into fireballs during runs when nitro loads got out of hand or a blower grenaded. Bodies burnt up and chassis were mangled when kissing a barrier at 100 mph. During a three-month spell in 1973, a noted photographer saw 18 Funny Cars die.
Don Prudhomme had better luck than most, but even he couldn’t resurrect the original Snake II body, which blew off in a fiery pass during the car’s first season. Still, Snake II was fast, with a 7.08 ET at 208 mph on its first run. It was a poster on many a bedroom wall in the 1970s. Prudhomme eventually got it down to a record-setting 6.35 seconds.
Restoring the Snake
Since the original body was gone, Prudhomme did the next best thing: He used a body that was built and sold to another racer but was never used during that era.
The chassis is a John Buttera piece from the days when he ran “Lil John’s Place,” making rail dragsters and building custom hot rods for fun. Lil’ John got famous in the mid 1970s for his fabulous street rods featuring beautiful custom machined pieces.
The chassis was drag raced in 1973, likely running with the yellow “Carefree Sugarless Gum” livery, which was Don’s main sponsor that year after Hot Wheels bowed out. The engine is a cast-iron 426 Hemi built by Ed Pink and mated to a Lenco 2-speed transmission.
Put it together and it’s a hot package. This is the last remaining original “Hot Wheels” car from the Wildlife Racing team era, as the drag race wars smoked two of the three originals. It’s complete with the biggest-name parts and hardware going: Ed Pink, Lenco, Chrysler Hemi engine and Cragar mags. Add a legendary driver who managed to set record after record and you have a special car worthy of any drag racing museum display and a sure-fire Cacklefest star.
Dollars and tenths
This car’s price point sits right below the valuations for Prudhomme’s 1982 “Pepsi Challenger” Funny Car, and well below the Snake 1 1970 ’Cuda Funny Car. The 1970 car went for approximately $450,000 at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale 2013 sale, if you break down the entire four vehicle package it was a part of. The 1982 “Pepsi Challenger” — iconic as the first Funny Car to ever break 250 mph — sold for $113,400 at Mecum’s Indy sale in May of 2012 (ACC# 6749761). Compare all of that to the 1989 “Skoal Bandit” — Prudhomme’s final career Funny Car ride — also sold at Barrett-Jackson this year for $126,500, and you’ve got a decent range of prices.
I think this car sold for a slight premium based on the iconic ’Cuda body styling and the vintage chassis by a name builder, albeit modified in front. It goes to show how important styling and having the right year are when it comes to selling. When it comes to Funny Cars, it’s all about rarity and evoking emotion.
The “Snake II” is one of one — a genuine Hot Wheels Funny Car survivor with chassis by well-known builder who crossed over to the street-rod world, plus it has Prudhomme involvement all the way from racing to rescue and restoration. All things considered, I think the price was right. The new owner got a slice of classic Funny Car history without flattening his wallet. Well bought and sold.