The next year, Rose built the Green Mamba, a Navy surplus J46 Westinghouse jet engine from a 1956-era F7U fighter plane sitting on four wheels, with Rose up front inside a fibreglass nose painted candy-apple green and embellished with snake eyes. He was at a wildlife park in California when he noticed a little green grass snake.
“What’s that?” he recalls asking. A green mamba from Africa, he was told, one of the deadliest snakes in the world. “`Perfect’, I thought. Nothing is as dangerous as jet cars. And women!” he says, grinning. Jeanne, his wife, rolls her eyes. Rose has had three wives, but only one Green Mamba.
On the track, Crash-A-Rama continues. Nearly 20 long-retired school buses line up for the figure-8 race. With two fatalities in school-bus racing in Central Florida in the past few years, it is even more dangerous than jet cars. This night, despite a grinding crash and a rollover in the middle of the “8”, no one is injured.
Action moves to the boat trailer race, where cars and trucks towing junk or soon-to-be-junked boats race around the track. This is swiftly followed by the camper trailer race, where one ancient trailer appears to have been packed with thousands of old newspapers, which explode into confetti when the trailer is bisected by a huge Ford four-wheel-drive truck.
It is almost 1 am when Doug and Jeanne Rose tow the Green Mamba to the infield from the pits behind their ancient, mud-brown pickup.
Jeanne chains the rear of the Mamba to the front of a big gooseneck trailer, on top of which one of the huge Caterpillar fork lifts used to clear detritus from the track has placed a blue Chevrolet Lumina. The trailer and the Chevrolet will be the victims of the “burn down”, in which Rose points the rear of the jet engine at the front of the trailer, flips the ignition switch and torches it.
The roar is deafening, flashes from the jet engine blinding. The heat can be felt a hundred yards away. The trailer and car glow red hot, orange hot, white hot. When Rose finally shuts down the J46 engine, the crowd is silent. Then, the waves of cheers return.
After so many decades strapped next to jet engines, Rose cannot hear the appreciative whoops and yelps particularly well. As it is, he and Jeanne are already thinking about loading up for the long, late drive back to their apartment in Tampa.
Moe the Hothead is finally calm. “How was it?” he asks, then answers the question himself: “Good, but long. A long night in Bithlo.”