AMT’s impressive promotional package included model kits of both the race car and the road car in stores, plus full-page, four-color ads of Stevens in action in Car Craft and other major magazines. Additional tie-ins were generated by television appearances of the street Piranha in a hit series, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” starring Robert Vaughn. Stevens and Anahory barnstormed across the country, commanding top dollar to match-race local heroes or make exhibition singles. Fans loved the Piranha as much as racers hated it.
With the exception of the slingshot-framed Garlits Darts, nothing else billed as a Funny Car was smoking the tires to half-track or beyond, nor consistently clocking low-eight-second ETs at speeds around 190 mph. Largely overlooked in all the controversy was the fact that no other back-motored car had ever steered so straight at such speeds. “It drove like a Cadillac,” Stevens insisted. “I never had any problems at all.”
Developed by Marbon Chemical, a division of automotive supplier Borg-Warner, as a way to sell automakers on the efficacy of its new body-grade plastic, Cycolac, the CRV (Cycolac Research Vehicle) concept car caught the attention of plastic-model manufacturer AMT. The Michigan-based company decided to get into the life-size car business with the help of customizing legend Gene Winfield, and intended to produce 50 Corvair-powered versions of the CRV per year. The car got a real name—Piranha—and AMT commissioned a Cycolac-bodied dragster powered by a 1400-hp 392 Hemi to promote it.