In an attention-grabbing green 1999 Trans Am known as Popeye III, Pat Musi made history.
He motored to 6-second elapsed-times, multiple wins, records and NMCA/NSCA Pro Street championships in the early 2000s in the car built by Willie Rells Race Cars and boasting a nitrous-enhanced 648ci Chevy bullet which he built and paired with a four-speed Lenco and a clutch.
But when he sold it not long after, it sat for many years before being sold again this spring to Mike Bankston, owner of Bankston Boyz Racing, and now, the car is in Bankston’s shop in Mississippi, where it’s being prepared and polished for its return to racing.
“Tricia Musi had mentioned that one of her dreams was to find her dad’s Popeye III car, and with her dad’s help, we were able to find it and buy it from the seller in Pennsylvania,” said Bankston. “It means the world to me to see her dream come true.”
Making Bankston’s purchase of the world-famous car even more intriguing is the fact that it still had under the hood the nitrous-packing powerplant Pat Musi had been using, and Bankston plans to keep it there once it’s freshened at Pat Musi Racing Engines. He’ll complement it with an M&M Transmission-built Turbo 400.
When it’s race-ready, it’s likely that Pat Musi will shake it down before his daughter, Tricia Musi, climbs into its driver’s seat for NMCA ARP Nitrous Pro Street competition. Meanwhile, Bankston will climb into the driver’s seat of his 1967 Chevy II Nova — which Tricia Musi piloted last year — for competition in the same category.
“We are equipped to come out, do well and be successful, so hopefully we will,” said Bankston, whose Bankston Boyz Racing provided the 2013 Camaro in which Tim Savell captured the 2016 NMCA VP Racing Fuels Xtreme Pro Mod championship and the 1969 Camaro Billy Banaka has so successfully campaigned in the same category.
With work on Popeye III underway and going well, Bankston has his sights set on bringing it back to competition at the 17th Annual NMCA Quick Fuel Technology Blue Grass Nationals, May 17-20 at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
“It will be pretty cool to have the car back out there,” said Pat Musi. “I’m sure it will also be kind of emotional.”
By Mary Lendzion (Photos courtesy of Bankston Boyz Racing and Aaron Cannon)