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Jungle Jim and Jungle Pam - Drag Racing Legends

Years before John Force arrived on the scene, drag racing's original flamboyant showman was "Jungle Jim" Liberman; a larger-than-life individual whose flaming burnouts, glib personality, and boundless energy helped endear him to fans in a manner that eluded other drivers with better winning records. Liberman was much more than a touring professional; with his wild wheelstands, 100-mph backups from burnouts, stubborn refusal to lift on even the most out-of-shape runs, and his curvaceous companion, "Jungle Pam" Hardy, Liberman provided all the entertainment of a traveling circus. Liberman's life, like the lives of many fast-living icons of youth such as James Dean, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin, was as short as it was fast-paced. He died at the age of 32 after suffering fatal injuries in a head-on collision with a bus on Sept. 9, 1977. His premature passing left a void in the sport that wasn't replaced until Force's explosive personality emerged in the late 1980s. Today, the legend of "Jungle Jim" lives on with "Jungle Pam," his constant companion in his heyday who titillated race fans with her skimpy outfits and provocative on-track actions. "At every race track that I go to," said Hardy, "everyone comes up and asks for my autograph. They ask what he was like and if he was as crazy as they've heard. The fans really miss him, and they miss the fun part of drag racing. The sport has become so professional now that there's no room for any of that anymore." "I was just 18 when I met him. I was still attending high school in West Chester, Pa., and had never been further away from home than the next town over. I was walking down the street one day, and here comes this yellow Corvette speeding down the street. This guy walks out, comes up to me, and says, "Hi, I'm Jim." I had never been to a drag race before, but the next thing I knew, we we're heading for his match race in Xenia, Ohio. He showed me how to back him up after the burnouts, and from then on, my life was just a whirlwind tour all over the country." Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song "American Girl" was released in 1977, the same year Jungle Jim passed away. Well she was an American girl Raised on promises She couldn't help thinkin that there Was a little more to life Somewhere else After all it was a great big world With lots of places to run to Yeah, and if she had to die Tryin' she had one little promise She was gonna keep Oh yeah, all right Take it easy baby Make it last all night She was an American girl It was kind of cold that night She stood alone on her balcony She could hear the cars roll by Out on 441 Like waves crashin' in the beach And for one desperate moment there He crept back in her memory God it's so painful Something that's so close And still so far out of reach Oh yeah, all right Take it easy baby Make it last all night She was an American girl This video was created from clips from the Diamond P video "Fabulous Floppers" and photos that I took of some of Jungle Jim's cars at 131 Dragway back in the '60s. The photos of Jungle Jim and Pam at 1:48, 1:53 and 1:59 are courtesy of Tom McCrea tmccrea. Photo at 2:36 is by Steve Scott. Other pictures are from unknown photographers.


 


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