Alaska's Fastest Grizzly
Racing is in the Bodenstadts’ blood.
Gary Bodenstadt, owner of The Gas & Diesel Doctor in Fairbanks, Alaska, started working on dragsters in the late 1960s. Since then, it’s been a progression, a constant drive to go faster.
“[We] started with door-slammers, and worked our way up to the gas classes and then into [fuel-altered vehicles],” Gary says.
Gary’s sons, Marty and Jamie, who both work at the shop, inherited their father’s drag racing infatuation.
“It’s something they grew up with. I don’t know if I really passed it to them,” Gary says. “They’ve just grown into it. … I think they want to do it as bad as I want to do it.”
The Alaskan Grizzly is the culmination of the Bodenstadts’ devotion to drag racing. The fuel-altered dragster is truly a family build.
Gary is definitely in charge, says Jamie, service manager at the shop, but “we all have our separate roles.”
Gary does all of the cylinder head and engine work. Marty works on the bottom end of the motor, along with doing the wings and bodywork. Jamie takes care of all of the clutch maintenance between runs.
“We all can do anything, but we all have our own little areas we tend to stick in,” Jamie says.
The Grizzly has been an evolution. First conceived when the family made the switch from running blown alcohol to nitromethane cars in 1991, the original Grizzly has been hacked, gutted and rebuilt, creating a timeline of the vehicle’s progression.
“I can go through the pictures and tell you what year it is by how the fuel tanks look or what mags are on the car,” Jamie says.
Today’s Grizzly runs a 426ci Chrysler Hemi that is bored and stroked to 500ci with a 14-71 blower, and a fuel pump that squeezes out 70 gallons a minute.
“We figure it’s making about 6,000 horse,” Jamie says.
That power helped the Grizzly achieve its best quarter-mile time of 5.44 seconds at 279 mph, making it one of the fastest in its class worldwide.
But a pass in the Grizzly isn’t cheap. Jamie estimates that during each run, the car drinks around 20 gallons of fuel (nitro fuel costs roughly $25 a gallon), five gallons of oil, and goes through 16 spark plugs. The total cost of getting it down the track once is somewhere around $2,000.
Jamie speculates that the family has put more than 100,000 man-hours into the Grizzly.
“It’s hard. Pretty much every pass, you’re pulling the thing down, putting new rods and pistons in it, rebuilding the clutch and then running it again,” Jamie says.
But all the hours are for a purpose. The Bodenstadts have a goal: break the five-second barrier at 300 mph to become the fastest fuel-altered vehicle in the world. It’s an ambition that does not come without risks.
“We’ve cut motors in half. I’ve bounced off the wall,” says Jamie, the car’s primary driver. “You name it, we’ve hurt it.”
Despite the cost, time and potential hazards, Gary and his boys will continue to inch the Grizzly toward their goal.
“I guess it’s the old saying,” Gary says, “the need for speed.”