Born in Whiteland, Indiana in 1944, Bob Glidden was one of the top Pro Stock drivers of the 1980s and 1990s. He won an unprecedented 10 National Hot Rod Association Pro Stock Championships (1974-1975, 1978-1980 & 1985-1989) in 16 years and drove his various small-block and big-block-powered race cars to 85 national-event victories.
While the self-deprecating racer claimed that he did not have as much knowledge about racing engines as some of his competitors, Glidden’s edge came with a strong desire to do his very best every time that he buckled-in behind the steering wheel and pulled up to the starting line. And there were few that were able to match his will to win.
Glidden – who is No. 4 on the NHRA’s list of its Top-50 Drivers – first began racing in the Stock and Super Stock categories in the late 1960s with a series of 427-cubic-inch Fairlanes and 428-cubic-inch Cobra Jet Mustangs while he was a line mechanic at a local Ford dealership.
Then, after being one of NHRA Division 3’s most prolific winners, he turned professional in late 1972 driving a 351-cubic-inch Pro Stock Pinto that he bought from the highly-touted Ford team of driver Wayne Gapp and car-builder/engine-tuner Jack Roush.
In 1973, Glidden won his first race – the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis – when he beat Gapp & Roush’s Pinto with a 9.02 elapsed time at a record-setting 152.54 mph.
But this was just a preview of things to come as in 1974 he would win the second of his nine (1973-1974, 1978-1979, 1983, 1985-1988) U.S. Nationals victories – a race where reached the final round a record 15 times. And he also claimed the first of his 10 NHRA Championships.
Winning and setting records was something that Glidden really knew how to do and the NHRA Record Book is full of his accomplishments.
The winner of nine straight NHRA national races in 1978-1979, Glidden was the No. 1 qualifier 23 times in a row during 1986-1988 – including every race of 1987 – and his overall total of No. 1 spots on the elimination ladder is 101. He also won 35 elimination rounds in a row over the 1978-1979 seasons and he appeared in 17 consecutive final rounds from 1977-1979.
He also held the Pro Stock elapsed-time and speed records numerous times during his career with his best national standards in these areas a 7.256-second quarter-mile clocking at Houston, Texas, in March 1989, and a 193.21-mph run in July 1991 at Sonoma, California.
There was, however, one kink in Glidden’s shining amour as far as the Blue Oval faithful were concerned. In 1979, Ford would not give him the kind of sponsorship money that he wanted so he put aside the Pinto and undefeated Fairmont that he had used in 1978 and raced a red and white Plymouth Arrow. Glidden handled this “unfamiliar ride” very well, however, as it had a 7-3 win-loss record in national events and he won his fourth NHRA Pro Stock title with it before he returned to the Ford camp full-time in 1981 with a Fairmount.
Glidden – whose wife Etta was an integral part of his team – finished out his career in winning Thunderbirds and Probes. And he posted his 85th and final Pro Stock win in his sleek red and blue Ford Quality Care Probe on May 28, 1995, at the Mopar Parts Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, where his 7.11-second pass defeated Jim Yates’ red and white McDonald’s Pontiac Firebird by one-hundredth of a second.
Bob Glidden – who won at least one NHRA national event every year for 21 consecutive seasons (1973-1993) – effectively retired from driving in 1997 to concentrate, interestingly enough, on engine development for some of Ford's NASCAR Cup Series teams.
Although he has had some medical problems to contend with, he has served as an occasional crew chief and advisor to several young up-and-coming Pro Stock drivers.