|About Us||Activities||Articles & Stories||Bookstore||Classifieds||Directory|
|Drag Strips||Forum||Free eCards||Links||News||Photo Gallery|
Bogan Renfroe - Cat Skinner Willys
Bogan Renfroe (born in Atlanta, Georgia on November 6, 1942) is best known for his series of immaculate Cat Skinner Willys gassers that he raced all over the Southeast. Growing up in the Doraville/Dunwoody area, his first exposure to drag racing came when his older brothers took him along to the races. He soon became hooked on drag racing and it was just a matter of time before he started racing, himself. Known to many as Cat Man, Bogan had some of the quickest and fastest full-bodied cars to race in the Atlanta area during his drag racing career which spanned the years 1960 -1970.
His first trip down a drag strip was at the Newton County Drag Strip (Covington, GA) in 1960 when he entered his 1953 Ford Club Coupe. Bogan stated that he didn't fare too well at his first race in this flathead powered stocker, but by 1961, he was racing a street/strip 1960 Ford Starliner with a 352 engine. This car was soon modified by installing a 390 HP engine and 4.11 gears and it was raced in S/S.
In 1963, Bogan established his grading business, which would soon change his approach to drag racing.
A 1957 Ford modified production car powered by a 427 low riser with 2 four barrel carbs followed in 1964.
In 1965, the 22-year-old Bogan bought his next car, which was to become the first Cat Skinner Willys gasser. The wild, wheelstanding Cat Skinner got its name from Bogan's occupation as a bulldozer operator.
Bulldozer operators were known as cat skinners and Bogan thought that would be a good name for his car.
When purchased from Bill McLendon, the 1940 Willys had a Chevy engine, but Bogan, being a Ford man, soon switched the car to Ford power. He purchased a new 427 hi riser with 2 four-barrel carbs from Ford factory driver and fellow Atlantan, Phil Bonner. Gene Wilson (Big Daddy) blueprinted the engine and helped with the set-up. A nine inch Ford rear end, a T-10 4-Speed transmission, and rear disc brakes were some of the features installed in the first Cat Skinner Willys. The Willys had a metal body with fiberglass fenders, doors, and 4 piece front end. Fuel injection was added, but since no fuel injection intake manifolds for the Ford 427 wedge engine were available at that time, Bogan and Gene Cromer machined intake manifolds (which were used on the Ford 427 in the Can-Am road racing circuit and designed for Weber carbs) and adapted them to accept Hilborn fuel injectors. Bogan chose to race a Willys in the gas class because he had always admired the gas coupe & sedans that he had seen in the hot rod magazines.
By this time, Bogan had a "good little grading business going" and he was making some money with it. Always safety conscious, he constructed well-built, safe cars that were as nice looking as they were fast. His successful grading business made it financially possible to purchase factory experimental parts and install them on the Willys.
Bogan competed frequently in open competition and match races against fellow gasser competitors Frank Groves & Lamar Bobo (Bunky) with their hemi-powered Hemi Hurricane Willys (from Rome, GA) and Gene Cromer's Moonlighter Willys from South Carolina. Bogan stated that his toughest (and most fun) competitors during his drag racing days were these two teams and that he was never able to defeat Bunky Bobo's hemi-powered Willys with this wedge powered car. Bogan recently said that Gene Cromer was like a mentor to him during these years.
Bogan also had match races against various Factory Experimental/Funny Cars during the wild and wooly mid-to-late 1960s, when just about everything was attempted in the search for lower elapsed times and a better show. Bogan recently stated, "I was making a lot of money, and I was outrunning a lot of folks. We started pouring the fuel to it, lowering the compression, and match racing the factory experimental cars that had already went to injectors. That's what people wanted to see - full bodied cars running."
Bogan said that he "broke this car all to pieces -the car was twisted and the body was wrinkled" from wheelstands and torque stress. The first Cat Skinner was raced from the summer of 1965 until late 1966.
Cat Skinner II, another 1940 Willys, was purchased in 1966 as a running C/Gas car (with a 300 cubic inch Chevy engine) from Bill McLendon. Bill had campaigned this car as the Sprinter 1. This car had beautiful candy-apple red paint and real gold leaf lettering applied by Jack The Mad Striper Baldwin. The late John Reed (John Reed's Chassis Engineering) helped with the set up and tuning of this car. Cat Skinner II was raced for only about six months in 1966 while Bogan was constructing the Ford 427 SOHC powered Cat Skinner III. Cat Skinner II was sold to Bogan's brother-in-law, Archie Bud Marchman, and Russell Hodgson. Archie and Russell raced the car for several years with a 440 cubic inch Chevy and later sold it back to Bogan. Mr. Renfroe still owns this car today and has intentions of making a street rod out of it.
Bogan's last race car, Cat Skinner III, was a Ford cammer-powered 1941 Willys. The Willys body was purchased from Frank Groves, and a new Ford 427 SOHC engine, purchased from Phil Bonner, was bolted in. Bogan fabricated and installed a four-wheel disc brake system so that he could stop the Willys on the short drag strips that were common in the Southeast. John Reed also helped Bogan with some tuning tips and fabrication on this car. This fuel injected gasser was first raced in late 1966 with an automatic transmission, but the car would not come off the line fast enough with this set up. Bogan experimented with various torque converters, but wasn't able to improve the launch greatly. The problem was solved when he installed a clutch-flite transmission (an automatic transmission with a manually operated clutch adapted to it) that Bill Tanner helped sort out.
The front end of this car was low to the ground, unlike his previous Willys race cars. The previous cars, with their high front end stance, were going fast enough in the quarter mile so that they were becoming light on the top end - sometimes even smoking the tires at high speed like fuel dragsters! Cat Skinner III went as quick as 9.80s on gas and 9.50s on fuel and it won four first place awards at the 1967 Atlanta World of Wheels car show. A true show and go race car! Bogan drove the Cat Skinner III until mid-1970.
(You can see photos of Bogan's cars, including one at the Atlanta World of Wheels, at his Bogan Renfroe photo page.)
Ronnie Davis drove this car for several months with a big block Chevy engine (swapped out of the recently reacquired Cat Skinner II) after Bogan quit driving. The Ford cammer parts were becoming hard to find by this time, and Bogan's grading business was growing and demanding more of his time. Since he wasn't able to devote the time necessary to drag race seriously, Bogan decided to retire from drag racing and concentrate fully on his grading business.
Reflecting on his racing days, Bogan said that he always enjoyed the interaction with the people at the drag strips, especially the children. "It made me feel good - not cocky," Bogan stated. Cumming Dragway was his favorite Atlanta drag strip, while the drag strip at Jackson, SC was his favorite overall. Bogan never crashed any of his race cars, but he recently recounted the drag racing incident that he said that he'll never forget. He was racing at Jackson, SC and, unknown to the racers and officials, a car had previously oiled the track. "The tires lit in high gear, so I pulled the chute. The car went around and I was looking back at the grandstands through the windshield when I saw the chute blossom in front of the car! It pulled the car back around straight and saved me. I went through the lights backwards at 154 miles per hour!"
Apart from the touring pros, Bogan was one of the few people in the golden years of drag racing that actually turned a profit with his race car. For example, in 1968, Bogan netted $28,000 from his drag car due to booked in match races and his many race wins. In today's dollars, that would probably be worth around $100,000! Mr. Renfroe, who still attends the NHRA Southern Nationals yearly, has three grown children (two boys and a girl) and currently lives on Lake Lanier with his wife, Judi. He will be inducted into the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame in October, 2004 and he continues to operate his successful Renfroe Mining and Grading company.