Jungle Pam: Drag Racing's Sweetheart Of The Funny Car Track
Photo shoot for Hot Rod Magazine with Jungle Pam Hardy. (Photo by Mike Brenner/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images)
In the '70s, Jungle Pam, drag racing's sweetheart of the asphalt, captured the imagination of Funny Car fans like no one else. Working to assist driver "Jungle Jim" Lieberman, Jungle Pam was known for her tight outfits, skimpy shorts or mini-skirts, go-go boots -- and of course a high-octane smile. In an era when drivers had a free hand to market themselves, the Jungle Pam phenomenon was a stroke of genius on the part of Lieberman, raising the profile of his team and Funny Car racing in general. And of course, it took a special partner with a gift for showmanship to pull it off. When young Pam Hardy took to the track as Jungle Pam, drag racing fans had a reason to stay in their seats to watch the action between the races.
In the early to mid-'60s, drag racing fanatics fell in love with the Funny Car. Funny Car drag racing combined top fuel horsepower with a lightweight production-model body for a drag car that fulfilled every driver’s need for speed. Funny Cars seemed to embody everything drag race car drivers and fans went to the track for, as they were both fast and flashy. Jim Liberman (1945 – 1977), or "Jungle Jim," was one of the best-known Funny Car drivers, and he was a wild child both on the track and off.
Jungle Pam was an eye-catching on-track presence with Jungle Jim Liberman in the mid-'70s.
Just 18 years old at the time (1972) and a couple of weeks shy of high school graduation, Pam Hardy had a chance meeting with Jungle Jim that would alter her plans for the next few years. She was planning to go to college, having been accepted to West Chester State, but fate intervened when Lieberman was driving his Corvette on a West Chester street and spied Hardy. He introduced himself, and introduced her to the world of drag racing; before long she ditched her plans to attend college, packed her bags and set off on an adventure touring the country’s drag racing circuit instead.
Jungle Pam Was A Drag Racing Newbie When She Joined The Team
Hardy had virtually no experience in the drag race arena much less being part of a pit crew. In spite of that, Liberman enlisted her help on the track. He was known for his flamboyant and showy drag car exhibitions and Hardy was just the girl to add glitz and glamour to his image. Her first official role was as Liberman's "backup girl," helping to position Lieberman's 1973 Chevrolet Vega on the track prior to each race. Liberman wanted all eyes on him when he climbed behind the wheel of his Funny Car. Who better to bring attention to him on the track than a beautiful, leggy and buxom young woman?
Jungle Pam Learned About Cars And Racing On The Job
Hardy soon captured the attention that Liberman had hoped for. Just the mention of her name would elicit excitement with her male fans. She took the simple task of backing a car up a few feet and turned it into an alluring spectacle not to be missed, earning herself the name Jungle Pam. Hardy was soon hands-on, helping the crew with things like topping the block off with water, re-packing the parachute and adding oil to the car. She had a fan base of her own, independent of Liberman.
Jungle Pam's Reign As Queen Of The Track Lasted Just Four Years
It was good while it lasted, but as the sport of drag racing became more popular, it also became more regulated. Rules were put in place disallowing all the showmanship Liberman was so well known for and had made his signature style. That left Hardy without a spot on the team. Around the same time, life on the road had begun wearing on Pam and Jim's relationship.
Without Hardy by his side, and new restrictions on some of the stunts he liked to perform, Liberman seemed to lose interest in drag racing, and his career slowed considerably. In his perfect world, dangerous maneuvers, short shorts, and halter tops were all part of the gig. Without all of these elements in place, Liberman just couldn’t dig it anymore. He continued to race but not nearly as much as before. Unfortunately, in 1977, his prized Corvette collided with a bus (not related to racing), killing him at the age of 31. After that tragic accident, Jungle Pam went back to being Pam Hardy and took a traditional 9-to-5 job.
So, what is Jungle Pam Hardy doing now? Hardy lives a quiet and “normal” life since leaving the limelight of the drag racing scene. All the while, however, she has done her best to keep the groovy memory of Jungle Jim Liberman and that era alive. She continues to make media and National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) appearances signing autographs. Currently, Hardy hosts a Facebook page and website dedicated to the memory of the sport of drag racing as it was back in those mid-'70s glory days.
Like it? Share with your friends!