Driver, builder, executive
A few days after his birth in Chihuahua, Mexico, Francisco Hernandez’s family moved to Los Angeles where he became a drag racing legend. He started dry lakes racing in 1939 and was a protagonist on the “Day Drag Racing Began” when he beat Tom Cobbs down the Goleta airstrip access road 10 years later. His fenderless ‘32 Deuce coupe won in part because it was the first drag racer to use nitromethane. In 1950, Hernandez went to work for Vic Edelbrock and from 1951-53 advised Rodger Ward on using nitro in his “unbeatable” Ford V8 Midget. In 1963, Hernandez was named head of Lincoln-Mercury’s racing programs, where he guided the development of a true tube-chassis car with a fiberglass tilt body. The SOHC 427-powered 1966 Mercury Comets became the first fliptop Funny Cars and Hernandez recruited inductees Ronnie Sox and “Dyno Don” Nicholson to drive them. Later, Hernandez headed Ford and Mercury’s successful Trans-Am programs.