Russell James

ccshof logo Inducted
2019
Historical


Russell James "Jungle Jim" Liberman
Drag Racing • West Chester

Russell James Liberman was an American funny car drag racer, nicknamed "Jungle Jim". He was named #17 on the list of the Top 50 NHRA drivers.Liberman was known for driving backwards at 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) after doing his burnout.

Liberman was a flamboyant showman who primarily toured the United States at drag racing match races events. During his career, he averaged an estimated 100 events per year during the 1970s. He refused to lift off the gas when a run was completely out of shape.[6] He was regarded by many as the "greatest showman the drag strip has ever experienced".

Liberman was born in Pennsylvania. He dropped out of high school in his junior year and began racing when he moved to Northern California.

He began drag racing in the Stock division at Fremont Raceway in 1964 and made a jump up to funny cars in 1965, driving an injected Nova on nitromethane dubbed Hercules. Later that year he started on the national scene as the driver of Lew Arrington's supercharged GTO Funny Car, Brutus.

In 1966, Liberman went out on his own in his first supercharged (steel-bodied) Chevy II, the first to wear the "Jungle Jim" name. In 1967, he went on a tour that established him as a household name within drag racing circles across the country. Despite making eight second runs in his Chevy when other top dragracers in factory-sponsored cars made runs in the seven second range, he gained a large fan following. Liberman was more interesting. He won the hearts of the spectators after he did wheelstands for the full length of the track in a two race match race against Don Nicholson.

Liberman met 18-year-old Pamela Hardy two weeks before she graduated from high school in May, 1972 when he spotted her walking while driving his yellow Corvette. Hardy, who had been accepted to West Chester State, intended to major in business. Instead, she became Liberman’s girlfriend and toured with him for four years.

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