The late, great Herb Rodgers and his “Flyin’ Glass” moniker were two of the most familiar names in all of Canadian drag racing. The London, Ontario based racer first became active in the Alcohol Funny Car class in
1977 and since then ran a series of Ford-bodied alcohol Funny Cars. His claim to fame includes being the first class racer to ever run a “five” on Canadian soil, being chosen to represent his country Canada during NHRA’s
Dragfest in Fuji Japan in 1995, and a huge IHRA national event title at New York International Raceway in 1992.
Herb Rodgers’ driving career spanned 5 decades and his forty-year driving career will probably never be equaled.
Herb started campaigning drag race cars in 1964 along with his wife Elaine racing at local tracks in Ontario and Michigan. His first ride was in drag racing pioneer George Herbert’s D/Dragster in which he drove for one year before purchasing his own small block Chevy powered B/D. Herb raced the B/D for two years before stepping up to an injected nitro burning small block Chevy in a Logghe chassis built in Michigan.
In 1967 Herb put a blower on the little Chevy and appropriately named the car Mission Possible. Herb and Elaine
sold the car when they got the opportunity to team with “Hall ofFamer” Scott Wilson in a Ford Canada sponsored SOHC Ford dragster. Next up Herb then drove the MacGregor Auto Parts Top Fuel car for a season before
putting his driving career on hold to raise his family.
During his hiatus from Drag Racing and never one to sit idly around Herb decided to help his employer Pat Hodgson with his Super Modified Oval track car. The London Concrete Machinery Super Modified was a
force on the circuit with drivers Norm Mackereth, Harvey Lennox and Ron Peam. This time filled the gap from his true love of drag racing until 1977 when Herb, Elaine and the “Girls” Stacey and Jacki purchased their first of
many Alcohol Burning Funny Cars.
The first car was appropriately named “The Entertainer” as Herbie was always just that an entertainer. Famous for his long smoky burnouts Herb captivated the crowd and quickly became a fan favorite. Herb kept the Entertainer name on the car until he lost the Trans Am body launching it skyward after an explosion and “The Flying Glass” name seemed more appropriate and it stuck for next three decades.
Herb’s big break came with the marketing partnership with Big “V” Drugs and for the first time in Herb’s career he had financial backing to go to the next level. The 1992 season was a breakout year for the team as they won the IHRA Empire Nationals, plus running well in both IHRA and NHRA. Herb set the IHRA 1/8 mile per hour record in Huntsville, Alabama with a 187.42 pass. With the sale of Big “V” to Shopper’s Drug Mart the sponsorship deal wasn’t renewed but Herb and Elaine purchased a new Gordy’s Chassis with a Mustang body. Right out of the box the Mustang became the first Alcohol funny Car ever to run a 5 second pass on Canadian soil. Herbie continued to be a force in Alcohol Funny Car racing throughout the 90’s winning numerous match races, UDRA events and competing in IHRA and NHRA. Their successes were rewarded with a trip to Japan in 1995 to the NHRA/RCC International Drag Race where Herb represented Canada and finished runner-up in the all-star field.
Herb and Elaine continued to run the “Flying Glass” Mustang until the summer of 2002. Herb had battled Colon cancer and had developed a breathing disorder related to his working with asbestos which made it hard to breathe and he felt it no longer safe to drive a 3000 horsepower race car. The car was sold to Slave Lake Alberta’s Trevor Lebsack and Trevor still races the car competitively in IHRA Funny Car.
Throughout Herbie’s distinguished Drag Racing career he was always flanked by his close friend and crew chief Gordie Overbaugh and his loving wife Elaine known to all the racing family as “Toots”. Herbie was always
there to help up and coming young drivers and was a mentor and close friend to IHRA World Champion’s Todd Paton and Rob Atchison and NHRA World Champion Frank Hawley. Herbie was a legend who touched
the hearts of all who met him both on and off the track. His positive influence helped all those who were fortunate enough to meet Herb Rodgers. Herb Rodgers is a true Canadian Legend. His exceptional talent as a driver, car owner and builder are dwarfed by his great showmanship and compassion for drag racing. Few people will forget the legend and the accomplishments of this truly unique man without a big smile and story to share. His legend and his accomplishments live on through the many stories and tales told and retold time and time again acknowledging this truly remarkable Canadian racer.
Image courtesy of Lynn W. “Mort” Morton