You are in our memories forever
May 18, 1926 - July 21, 2006
In the glory days of the Gasser Wars, ask an
A/GS fan to name the top 5 cars in the country and, while you'd find
some regional differences, the name of "Big John" Mazmanian would
inevitably be near the top of that list! With equipment
that was always immaculate and ready to race, his cars were always at
or near the top of the heap! In the "drag rags" of the time, the "Big
June" and "Pebble, Pulp & Chef" ads were looked forward to on a weekly
basis and were one of the driving forces in the A/GS match race
Big John Mazmanian, 80; Race Car Owner-Builder
From the Associated Press
July 30, 2006
Big John Mazmanian, a legendary car owner and builder who towered over the "gasser wars" era of Southern California drag racing, has died. He was 80.
The 6-foot-5 Mazmanian towered over most of his fellow owners. The racer was born in East Los Angeles and was a football standout at Garfield High School. He enlisted in the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor and served in the Pacific. He received shrapnel wounds in the battle for Leyte Gulf.
He got his start building cars before he was old enough to drive them, rebuilding a 1932 Ford into a "highboy roadster" for an auto shop class at 14. "It just got into his blood after that," said his son, Vic Mazmanian. "He just loved building cars and he loved racing." Soon he was building or customizing other cars, painting them his trademark candy apple red and racing them at tracks around the country. He started with "gassers," customized versions of street-legal cars that were powered by gasoline. In this early period, he converted standard stock model Corvettes and Willys. His most noted car from this period was a 1941 Willys with a Chrysler Hemi engine.
In the 1960s, he moved up to "funny cars," more powerful automobiles powered by a potent mixture that includes nitroglycerin and whose large back tires emit a huge cloud of burned rubber smoke at the beginning of a drag race. His cars were driven by such well-known figures in the sport as Mike Snively and Danny Ongais.
Mazmanian, the owner and operator of Mazmanian Disposal, a Los Angeles waste management business, retired from racing in 1972 but remained a popular figure on the funny car circuit, signing autographs and letting people see his vintage cars. Although best known in Southern California, Mazmanian also raced throughout the country. He was inducted into the NHRA's Hall of Fame in 1989.
In addition to his granddaughter Jackie and son, Vic, Mazmanian is survived by his wife, Alice; a daughter, Cathy Sukiasian; another granddaughter and three grandsons.