IT'S BETTER TO DO A BURNOUT THAN FADE AWAY...
THE LIL' SCREAMER'S COMING BACK
Hello; My name is Mike Bridgeman; welcome to my web site dedicated to the restoration, and return to racing, of the Lil' Screamer
34 Ford B/Altered drag coupe. Myself and Mike Sleeth, the present owner of the Lil' Screamer, are currently restoring the
car and plan to race at the various nostalgia events. A lot of history surrounds the Lil' Screamer, and as you may or may
not know, the original owner/driver Jack Ditmars and his partner Herb Moller earned quite a reputation campaigning the car
in the early to mid 60's. We plan to do that reputation justice. This project is a kids dream come true for me, and as you
read on you will see how a set of lucky circumstances brought this about.
Jack sold the Lil' Screamer late in 1967 when he had John Buttera build his Mini Brute funny car. Over the years, several
people in and around the Decatur Illinios area have owned the car. Of these previous owners, the person who actively raced
the car the most was the late Gary Davis of Decatur. Gary owned a speed shop in Decatur and was also a member of the Warrensburg
Gun Club. This is where I first crossed paths with the Lil' Screamer some 31 years ago at the age of 11. My grandfather, Les
Bridgeman, and Gary were friends thru the gun club. Gramps, knowing how crazy I was about drag racing, took me down to Gary's
shop and I got to sit in the car. This was in 1971. Sitting in the Lil' Screamer started a bad habit because two years later
I was shewed out of Gene Snow's Revell Snowman funny car at a match race at AAA Dragway in San Angelo Texas. Anyway, later
that evening Gramps took me to watch Gary race at the now defunct Motion Raceway near Assumption Illinios, where Gary did
an immediate wheelstand off the line and very unceremoniously took out the tree. Jack didn't campaign the car as the World's
Wildest 34 Ford without a reason.
We now move ahead to 1979 when a good friend of mine, Jay King,and I were building a 63 Nova super pro drag car. The Lil'
Screamer was now owned by Scott Younger of Blue Mound Illinois. Like Gary, Scott raced the car at Motion Raceway. Jay and
I were there one night when Scott was racing the car. Unfortunately the rearend broke. We knew Scott from high school and
being from the same home town as Jay and I, we soon found the Lil' Screamer in the garage next to our Nova. Wow, Imagine that!
The same car I got to sit in as a kid. Scott had wanted us to install a 392 hemi in the car along with rebuilding the rearend.
Well we got the rearend rebuilt and the mounts for the hemi fabricated, but before we welded the mounts to the frame Scott
sold the car.
Jay was on a bowling league with Bob Brownlee Bob is the owner of a bodyshop here in Blue Mound and, because he and Jay were
friends, he agreed to give us a good break on a paint job. Mike Sleeth, who I was not yet acquainted with, was working at
Brownlee's, and he's the one who painted our Nova. It was at this time that we found out who Scott had sold the Lil' Screamer
to. You guessed it, Mike! Up until now none of us actually knew the whole history of the car, like multiple national event
class winner. It was only when Mike just happened to be looking through his old Hot Rod magazines that he discovered the history
of the original owner/builders, Jack Ditmars and Herb Moller. Jay and I with our Nova and Mike with the Lil' Screamer bracket
raced at Motion until it closed in 1983. Jay got married and didn't want to race anymore, so I bought out his half and raced
off and on until 1992. Mike had a deal with some other nostalgia racers to book events at various tracks with the Lil' Screamer
but that deal fell thru.
During the past couple of years, Mike and I, have been seriously considering restoring and racing the Lil' Screamer again.
We have also been attending some of the GoodGuys events and have been very encouraged by the response from some of the older
racers. For example, a funny thing happened at the 2001 GoodGuys Indy meet. Mike and I were walking through the pits when
we saw a 34 Ford altered that looked a lot like the Lil' Screamer. We noticed that they were from Lincoln Illinois, which
is pretty close to us here in the Decatur area. Mike started talking to the owner of the car, Shawn Simpson, and without mentioning
the Lil' Screamer, Mike told him we were restoring an old altered. Mike took out his wallet to show him a picture, and when
this guy saw the picture, he grabed the wallet from Mike's hand then held it up in the air so his buddies could see it. It
was like he had found the Holy Grail. He started passing the wallet around and Mike wondered if he would ever get it back!
It turns out that as a teenager in the 60's, Shawn had watched Jack run the Lil' Screamer quite a bit, and it in fact was
one of the things that inspired him on his altered. These guys even had their own pictures of the Lil' Screamer in their trailer.
Congratulations to Shawn Simpson and Mike Edwards on being awarded "Best Engineered Car" at the 2002 Indy GoodGuys meet. I
was standing with the guys in the staging lanes on Saturday when the event officials presented Shawn with the plaque. What
a neat deal it was.
Well, I better get out in the garage and get to work. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions or comments. I've included
links to some other cool sites I've found on the web. Also, pictures that will let you follow along with the restoration are