RON PELLEGRINI 1935-2018
Drag racing pioneer Ron Pellegrini passed away due to natural causes at his home in Northern California earlier this week. At his side was his companion of 54 years, Adele Coyle. He also leaves behind his daughters, Denise and Deborah, and five grandchildren. He was 82 at the time of his death.
Although he had not been active in drag racing for some time, Pellegrini’s role in the development of drag racing as a professional endeavor cannot be overstated. He arguably fielded the first, real supercharged nitro-fueled Funny Car when he affixed a one-piece Mustang body — that he built himself — to a fuel altered chassis in 1964, after Ford engineers suggested that a tube-framed F/C wasn’t feasible. For the next two decades almost every Funny Car match racer and national event contender did so with a Pellegrini-engineered-and -built Fiberglass Ltd. shell.
But, long before he turned to Funny Cars and body manufacturing Pellegrini had made a name for himself behind the wheel of TV Tommy Ivo’s twin-engined and then four-engined cars, becoming the first exhibition car driver to appear at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in 1961.
Pellegrini played an active role in the long-forgotten ATAA organization, which became a part of the then-new NHRA, and a long-term relationship between Pellegrini and NHRA Founder Wally Parks ensued. Pellegrini’s managerial skills resulted in his helping make the Midwest UDRA organization a viable group, and under his guidance a series of successful, professional racing circuits stormed across the region in the late 60s and early 70s.
As the mentor and advisor to dozens of racers, aftermarket parts manufacturers, track operators and journalists, Pellegrini’s contributions to drag racing have been truly significant. He will be missed.
Per his wishes, there will be no formal funeral or remembrance to honor his passing.