Doug Marion
January 1, 2009
In 1969, the Cobra Jet Mustang was reclassified one class lower to SS/G. On May 3, John set the NHRA E.T. National Record at Englishtown Raceway Park at 11.31 seconds.

John, Jim, and their track support crew also stepped up in 1967 and got matching blue slacks and embroidered shirts, just to show everyone how dedicated Ford racers should look. John pretty much always had his driver's "game-face" on, as he essentially built the engines while Jim did most of the team's prep and mechanical work at the track and handled the D&R public relations. The duo signed autographs and such at the track, in restaurants, hotels, and motels. Today, if any Ford fans have Jim's or John's autograph from the '60s and '70s, they could be worth a small fortune.

Early in 1968, the feared and ultra-rare 427 Fairlane was advertised for sale in NHRA's National Dragster weekly newspaper. It was purchased by southern Illinois dragstrip owner Gibby Andrews. He also later bought their '68 SS/F Mustang. Andrews re-named the Fairlane "The Going Thing"-which was Ford's moniker at the time. Sometime later, Gibby sold the Fairlane to Bud Gross, who wrecked it while in competition in Kentucky. The engine and driveline were installed in another Fairlane, but it was said that his car never ran like the Healy-built original.

This is said to be the only photo of John (left) and Jim Ryan (right) ever taken together. Why? They were too busy racing and winning. Who had time to stand around for a photo? It was taken in 1969 next to their torrid Cobra Jet Mustang.

In May 1969, D&R set the NHRA SS/G class e.t. record at 11.31 seconds with its '68 Cobra Jet. The previous record was said to be 11.65 seconds. With John driving, it went 11.10! He called it, "The neatest car I've ever driven." D&R also won class with this car at the NHRA Summer Nationals in Dallas.

Later in 1969, the '68 Cobra Jet was sold and replaced with a '69 Cobra Jet Mustang, running in SS/GA. This car was campaigned successfully at eastern tracks and at the '70 Nationals at Indianapolis.

Downing & Ryan Racing ran all NHRA eastern and central events and several West Coast National meets in S/S from 1967 to 1970. Wanting to go quicker and faster, Downing & Ryan jumped into the NHRA Pro Stock fray with both feet in 1971. A wrecked Maverick was acquired from Werner Ford in Garfield, New Jersey-their sponsor at that time. Using their extensive S/S experience, Jim and John built one of the first Pro Stock Mavericks with a 427 tunnel port motor. In this early configuration, the car was competitive locally but not performing well enough for National meets. The duo soon decided to look for ways to infuse more power into the car. A Boss 429 engine appeared as the solution.

Here's the '69 Cobra Jet Mustang in action at the '69 U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. To this writer, the '68-'72 factory CJ Mustang was the neatest and best-looking one-ever. John said that early on he often used "Neutral" (wheel-spinning) starts, but they were eventually outlawed by the NHRA.

1971 Super Stock & Drag Illustrated MagazineLocated in nearby Maryland, SS&DI magazine learned of the D&R plans and asked if they could do a series on the Maverick with its now-new Boss 429 engine. Done deal. Most of the stories were written by the legendary Jim McCraw. The Maverick was painted in a spectacular candy orange scheme by legendary FoMoCo paint specialist, Lou Mazzarella of Montclair, New Jersey, and it won Best Appearing Car laurels at several local and national events. At this time, D&R moved its operation to the C-K Speed Shop complex in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. While other cars were in the 10.40s, the D&R Boss 429 Maverick ran consistent 10.11-10.15-thanks in part to John's hogging out the combustion chambers to full hemi-head configuration.

In late 1971, the Downing & Ryan Pro Stock driveline was swapped into a Pinto. Its chassis was built by the famed Bob Dayrheim Race Cars of New Jersey. The Pinto was raced nationally in late 1971 and throughout the 1972 season. Jim left FoMoCo in 1972 and went to work as the Parts and Service director for Mullane Ford in Bergenfeld, New Jersey. He retired from drag racing in 1973. The D&R shop, run by John, also moved to expanded facilities in Waldwick, New Jersey, where it ran very successfully through 1981.

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