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Ford Mustang Funny Car Pioneer And Hall Of Fame Drag Racer Gas Ronda Dies At 91
The Funny Car pioneer, WWII veteran, and former dance instructor who fought back from childhood polio, near-fatal racing burns, and two recent strokes, succumbed to cancer at home in Palm Desert, California, on October 25. He was 91.
Famous for his series of Poppy Red fastbacks, Ronda rode a Mustang during the pony car's five-year evolution from 1965's carbureted, gasoline-burning "real" car into the tube-framed, nitro-burning, "funny" facsimile that trapped him, on fire, in January 1970. Coming just two months after a huge victory at the prestigious Manufacturers Funny Car Championships, the Phoenix inferno ended two decades of winning that began with a 1950 Hudson Hornet and progressed through Buicks and a Corvette. Ronda was lured to Ford in 1960 by his first free car and remained faithful to the blue oval for the remainder of his career.
Ronda was further remarkable for dressing as sharp as any dance instructor—which he was, prior to turning pro in 1962. In childhood, he was taught dancing by his mother to strengthen polio-weakened legs. Gas went on to win numerous competitions and open dance studios in San Francisco and Oakland.
Gasper "Gas" Ronda was a 2016 inductee into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, though failing health precluded travel to the Florida ceremony (modern Funny Car driver Jack Beckman accepted on behalf of his hero).