Joe Pirrone

 Joe Pirrone started racing back in the mid 1950’s. His first races were mainly on the streets of Philadelphia. When drag strips started popping up, Joe made a name for himself as a tough competitor who always had clean appearing cars.

 Joe’s thirst for speed pushed him into the ranks of the supercharged gas coupes. Later he would learn the tricks to running Nitro helping out on some local top fuel cars. Even though Joe loved the speed of the dragsters his first love were the supercharged coupes.

 Joe became famous for his work on the automatic transmission. He made a special band release that made the four-speed Hydro a safer transmission. Later he would help engineer the Torqueflite to be able to withstand the high horse power of blown gas and Nitro engines. Joe’s company Boss Hydro located in Philadelphia had many national record holding customers.

 Joe’s engineering skills were well complimented by his abilities of being a superb craftsman. Joe built numerous beautiful race cars over his 40 plus years in racing. His life spanned the early days of drag racing and later the Nostalgia racing that we all love today. 

 He was also well known for helping anyone who needed a hand. He worked on many of his customers and friends engines and chassis to help make them as fast as possible.

Joe was also an accomplished artist who loved painting and played numerous musical instruments.

Joe was an outstanding father and business man. His company Joe Pirrone Transmission is still in business today. Joe was a great teacher who was always willing to share his knowledge with others.

Joe Pirrone's cars

The Boss Hydro was built in 1966 by Joe Pirrone.  The car was raced mainly on the east coast. It appeared regularly at Acto, Vargo, Englishtown, Maple Grove and Cecil County.  Joe competed at the 67 Nationals at Indy in the AA/GS class. This car raced against the top gassers of the day, K.S. Pittman, Jr. Thompson, the Hill Bros. and many more. The Boss Hydro utilized a boxed Willys frame expertly done by Joe Pirrone. The Oldsmobile rear end used 4:56 gears. The front axle was fabricated by Don Long . Power came from a 392 Chrysler Hemi with a 6-71 supercharger.  Transmission was a Boss Hydro TorqueFlite. The Willys featured a full leather interior and was a multiple car show winner.

In 1968 Joe chopped the top 2 ˝ inches and replaced the 392 with a late model 426 Hemi. The Boss Hydro became one of the fastest and quickest AA/GS cars on the east coast. Joe would race against many of the top gassers in the nation. This car was sold to Jerry Boyd after the 1968 season and was campaigned under the name  “Pure Acid” till 1974

Boss Hydro vs. K.S. Pittman

In 1968 Joe would race against the top Gassers in the nation. The Boss Hydro was the favorite gasser at its home  track of Acto New Jersey.

This photo is from August 1968, the event was a big AA/GS meet with all the national cars in attendance. The list included Big John Mazmanian, K.S. Pittman, Jr. Thompson, Hill Bros., Stone Woods and Cook, Ohio George Montgomery, Jack Merkel and many more.

Boss Hydro vs. K.S. Pittman

 This photo was taken at Vargo Dragstrip in eastern Pa. Joe faced K.S. in a best 2 out of 3 match race


AA/FC Barracuda

In 1970 Joe teamed up with Paul Smith to build and race this 1969 Barracuda Nitro funny car. Prior to this Joe worked on Al Zerniac’s Gold Finger AA/FD and Charlie “Bongo” Greers top fuel cars. Joe was doing the transmissions on the Frantic Ford AA/FC and with the knowledge he learned from these racers he helped Paul on his first Nitro ride. Paul Smith went on to field a long line of top running Nitro funny cars. He also was the crew chief on numerous National event winning Nitro funny cars. Today Paul operates a school for drag racing.

Action Transmission

The Action Transmission 33 Willys was originally the  Boss Hydro AA/GS

Car. It was restored in 1981 and competed at one the first Nostalgia races on the east coast, the first Old Time Drags

Held  at Englishtown New Jersey. Power came from a gasoline burning

426 Dodge Hemi. Transmission was a custom made Torqueflite by Joe Pirrone. The Willys turned a best ET of 8.55.


The Flashback was built by Joe and Rocky Pirrone in 1987. The car raced with the Hot Rods from Hell and appeared at numerous Nostalgia events such as the Good Guys Indy and Maple Grove meets and mid west NDRA races. The chassis was hand built by Joe and Rocky and featured round tube construction. Ford nine inch rear and four link rear suspension, Power came from an original “Ramchargers” 426 dodge Hemi.

Transmission was a Turbo 400 by Joe Pirrone. The body and paint was expertly done by Jack Joyce of the Uni-Body Shop in Philadelphia.  This car appeared  in the “Bad Rods” video and won numerous World of Wheels car shows. The Flashbacks best ET was an 8.43 in 1988.

The Flashback is currently being sucessfully as a B/Gas car in the Goodguys West Coast VRA  series by Frank Godec.

Boss 33

The Boss 33 was built by Joe and Rocky Pirrone in 1982. The car raced with the original “Wild Bunch” while seeing duty at numerous Nostalgia events. The chassis was custom made by Joe and Rocky Pirrone.  It featured a 3x2 mild steel frame. Ford nine inch rear and a four link rear suspension. Power came from a 426 nodular iron Hemi. The transmission was a Joe Pirrone custom built Torqueflite.

Golden Oldie

The Golden Willys was built by Joe and Rocky in 1984. The 33 Willys utilized a round tube chassis and coil over front suspension. The engine was 473 Hemi with a Joe Pirrone Torqueflite transmission

Joe Pirrone Transmissions

The Joe Pirrone 40 Willys was an all steel body with fiberglass doors and Front end. Joe Pirrone built the car in 1985. He raced with the Wild Bunch and local Nostalgia events in the Pa/NJ area. The chassis was built by S&W race cars  The frame featured a four link rear suspension and Strange strut front Suspension. Power came from a 426 Chrysler Hemi. The transmission was a TorqueFlite custom built by Joe Pirrone.  The 40 Willys ran consistently low eights. This car was featured in the film Wild Bunch

Time Machine

The Time Machine was built by Joe and Rocky Pirrone in 1990. It featured  a Willys Works fiberglass body, a custom round tube chassis by Jack Joyce and Rocky Pirrone. Power came from a 473 inch Chrysler Hemi prepared by Jim Fox of the famous K&G Speed Shop. The transmission was a Joe Pirrone prepared Turbo 400. The 41 raced with the Hot Rods from Hell and competed at numerous Nostalgia events such as the Good Guys Indy event. This car appeared in the Bad Rods film and won first place at the Boston World of Wheels car show.

Best ET was a 7.95.

Big Time Memories

This was the last car, Joe and Rocky built together. It featured a NHRA legal round tube chassis with a four link rear suspension and Strange strut front suspension. The power came from a Stage VI 498 inch Keith Black blown and injected Hemi. Best E.T. is a 7.63 at 180 MPH. The Big Time Memories was raced in memory of Joe Pirrone at numerous national and local events. The Willys raced on both the ESTA and NETO Nostalgia circuits.

Boss Hydro

1933 Willys Recreation

In 2003 the recreation of the Boss Hydro was unveiled. It took two years to complete. The work was done by Joe’s son Rocky and the many friends of Joe Pirrone. The car was built in memory of Joe who touched many lives in his 40 plus years of racing. The Boss Hydro was painstakingly detailed to show the kind of work Joe did during his days of racing and building.