Those who love the drag racing world will easily recall the name Doug Rose. He was the world’s fallen jet-car legend. He successfully entertained jet-car fans for over 50 years—with his Green Mamba—before his life ended from a crash at an exhibition in Norway, Mich: The Norway Speed.
His death was a fatal pre-race crash. He was speeding down the third-mile oval until fate took over and his Green Mamba jet-car turned over on the dirt and ejected him. He was dead at the scene.
It’s both ironic and tragic remembering the fact that Rose was a legend in drag racing. He had performed countless of times with perfect control over his 3,300-pound Green Mamba jet-car. But not that time, not last year when he was 80. His death was due upon him as he was doing what he loved the most: drag racing his legendary Green Mamba jet-car.
Remembering Doug Rose is not complete without talking about how he built the car, the car that raised his name and injected him into drag racing lovers’ hearts. With a jet engine surplus from Navy fighter in 1968, he built the Mamba, only two years after losing both of his legs in a crash. Imagine having his energy.
He lost his legs in July 1966. It was the grand opening of Cedar Hills Dragway. That day, he was hoping to break his own record of running 221.5 mph within 10 mph class record. Signs showed, rain started falling down, but he was so determined to entertain his fans and go on with the show. After all, he was an experienced drag racer. He was used to running his vehicle on jets, not on wheels, minimizing the chances of slips. The jet-car, however, hydroplaned; causing Rose to lose control and crashed the guard wall head first and injuring both his legs severely. Not dwelling on losing both his legs knee-down and having to live with artificial legs, less than three months later Rose was ready to go back into piloting his jet-car.
Upon building the Green Mamba jet-car on 1968, in a physical condition where he has to walk with his artificial legs, he one day struck out by himself to go looking for a name that is as powerful as his engine monster. He decided to take a wildlife trip to California. Something caught his attention, and he paused at the reptile exhibit and felt a connection.
A green grass snake made him think and question what that snake was doing. He was then explained that the green grass snake was a Green Mamba, one of the deadliest and poisonous snakes in the world. Its venom kills in 90 seconds. Without hesitation, Rose said, “perfect,” and chose Green Mamba as the name of his famous jet-car.
Before building, finding, and crafting his infamous Green Mamba jet-car that is well-known to be his pair, he actually began racing nine years earlier in 1959. He was previously a track photographer, giving him opportunities of meeting jet-car pioneers Walt and Art Afrons.
A year after his death, the name Doug Rose and Green Mamba still guarantee goose bumps to those who understand his story. Lived doing what he loved, died doing what he loved.