No matter what field you talk about, several people do exceptionally well in it. There are big names in singing, acting, dancing, sport, cooking, and pretty much everything else. Similarly, the car drag racing field in the 1970s was dominated by one man who took the industry by storm. Who was this man, you ask? It was Jim Liberman, of course! Popularly known as “Jungle Jim,” this man’s career is just as exceptional as his nickname.
While almost everyone will know about Jungle Jim, not many people from today would have ever heard of Jungle Pam, a woman who Jungle Jim was always close to. This was an extraordinary woman who was outstanding in her own right, and everyone knew about her in the 1970s. Who was this woman, and what was her story?
A Funny Kind of Racing
Ever since cars were invented, people have been racing each other. The world of motorsports has several different kinds of racing, such as drag racing, drift racing, and motor truck racing, but which of these did Jungle Pam indulge in?
It was a particular kind of drag racing, known as Funny Cars drag racing. There’s nothing funny about this kind of drag racing at all, and it even calls for exceptional cars that have engines at the front.
An Undying Legacy
Funny Car drag racing has produced some legendary names in the motorsport racing industry, some of which are Ron Capps, John Force, Don Prudhomme, and Tony Predregon.
During the 1970s, however, a new legend came to the fore. Jungle Jim. This man was brilliant behind the wheel, and he was one of the most celebrated Funny Cars drag racer ever. Unfortunately, the world lost this exceptional man to a car accident at the young age of 31.
The Reason for the Nickname
Ever wondered where Jim Liberman got the nickname “Jungle Jim” from? Well, this was one wild and crazy man who was determined to go all out whenever he competed, thereby giving the fans a show they would never forget.
He was, however, accompanied everywhere by someone even wilder than he was. This young and beautiful lady called Pamela Hardy quickly came to earn her own nickname as “Jungle Pam.”
A Different Kind of Jim and Pam
Soon enough, it was no longer just Jungle Jim’s name that was on everybody’s lips. Jim and Pam were a collective unit, even though she never took part in a race herself. She was one of the coolest sidekicks anybody could have, and everyone was envious of Jungle Jim!
Public appearances, car races, magazine covers – she went everywhere that Jungle Jim went. Jungle Pam quickly became an icon that everybody went crazy for in the male-dominated world of car racing.
Lost Without Jungle Jim
Jungle Pam lost her partner very early in life. 1977 was when she lost Jungle Jim, and the loss was tough for her to recover from. Pam did not grace the Funny Car racing track after that, but she did keep the love of motorsports in her alive.
She continued to give interviews even after that fateful day and gives the fans exactly what they want – more information about herself, her rise to popularity, and her time in the limelight with Jungle Jim
How the Two of Them Met
Jungle Pam is often asked one of the most common questions that play on everyone’s minds. How did she meet Jungle Jim? Well, apparently, it was a chance encounter that only worked out because they were in the right place at the right time together.
Jungle Pam had been only 18 years old at the time when she decided to take a break from school right before her graduation. Walking along the streets of Pennsylvania, she was stopped dead in her tracks.
A Stunning Creature on the Street
Pam was stopped to a halt when a car driving at break-neck speed came to a screeching stop right in front of her. Of course, Jim Liberman was in the driver’s seat, who stopped because he thought he had seen the most beautiful woman in the world.
And that’s how the two of them met. After adequately introducing himself, Jim invited Pam over to spend some time with himself and his friends.
She Was in for a Surprise
Pam had no idea how the man was, but she was not opposed to meeting new people and having different life experiences. She readily accepted the invitation, but she had no clue regarding the surprise that was awaiting her.
Jungle Jim introduced Pam to the world of motorsports, and soon enough, Pam was hooked. She lost no time attending one of Jim’s races to see what the hype was all about.
A Business Arrangement
Pam found herself being caught up in the whirlwind of motorsports after that, and Jungle Jim did not fail to see her fascination. This was when he decided to make a business offer and asked her to join his team.
Pam was not going to refuse this enticing offer, of course. She was almost done with college, but she preferred to drop out and join Jim. Soon, she became known as Jungle Pam on the racing track.
She Brought Something New
Funny Car racing was an all-male world before the entry of Jungle Pam. All everyone really cared about were the cars and the drivers. But this all changed when Jungle Pam arrived on the scene.
Pam was a lucky charm for most drivers, and she turned into an icon herself, thereby drawing huge crowds to the races all by herself. Jungle Pam was instrumental in increasing the popularity of the sport through the years.
The Jungle King and Queen
Jungle Jim was enjoying all this. He loved the attention that people paid to his girlfriend and was ecstatic that people thought she was just as beautiful as he thought her to be.
The Jungle King and Queen quickly rose to the status of celebrities and became brand names in themselves. They were the hottest couple around, and Pam even began receiving requests for autographs wherever she went!
Reaching Celebrity Status
People were turning out in hordes to the drag races, but Pam had no idea how influential he was in this regard. The thing that made her realize her celebrity status was an incident that occurred at the airport.
A fan approached Jungle Pam and asked for an autograph on the magazine to complete a photo shoot. When she took the magazine from the fan she realized… she was on the front cover! Oh my!
A True Cheerleading Outfit
Pam always had her wardrobe set out before her appearance at the races. She always wore low-cut tops and extremely short shorts that enhanced her curves and made the crowds go wild.
Her clothes were always paired with a set of boots, and Pam always made it a point to let her long, flowy hair loose as she turned up to cheer her man on in the races. It didn’t come as a surprise that her clothes nor her behavior met with her mom’s approval.
The Harshest Criticism
Pam never failed to receive harsh criticism from her mother, whether it was regarding the clothes she wore or the photoshoots that she did for magazines. She eventually began to shut her mother out for months at a time.
However, Pam desperately missed her mother. She decided to educate her mom about her career instead of shutting her up. And so she called her up and told her everything she could about the world of motorsports.
She Comes Around
Pam’s mother was also missing her daughter sorely, and she was glad when Pam reached out to her. She decided that having some relationship is better than having nothing, so she decided to accept Pam’s career as it was.
She was far from satisfied, though, and she could not wrap her head around her daughter lingering around near the race-tracks in short and skimpy outfits. But she decided to just settle for what she could get.
Not a Glamourous Life
Most people who saw Pam on the race tracks, on magazine covers, or even on television made a single assumption about her. They thought, “what a glamourous life!” But Pam disagreed with this statement.
It really did seem like she belonged to a group of rock stars, but Pam consistently refuted this wherever she went. Her career was a means for her to pay rent and not a one-way ticket to fame.
Settling for a Sidekick
Many people have questioned Pam about why she decided to never enter into the racing foray herself. She definitely had the knowledge and resources required to become a Funny Car drag racer, but she decided to stay away from it all.
However, she was never interested in drag racing. In fact, she even refused huge sums of money that were offered to drive herself, all because of the numerous accidents and crashes that she had seen in her career.
The Horrors of the Racing Track
Pam had seen enough during her career to know the risks that lay behind race car driving. However, one of the worst accidents she had ever witnessed was when she saw it during a race at Orange County.
Jean Snow, a racer, almost had his foot cut off when the hydraulic rod in his car engine came up right through the car and onto his leg. Jean Snow recovered from the accident, but the incident continued to haunt Pam.
She Was on Fire
Pam loved being the Queen of the racing tracks, but several accidents happened to come her way as well. One particular incident stands out as a lucky escape in Englishtown.
As always, Pam was doing her thing before the race. She was the one to make sure that Jungle Jim’s car was ready and raring to go. As she bent down to check everything was fine, Jungle Jim revved up the car and accidentally caused a gas can to explode and Pam’s eyebrows to burn!
She Knows What’s Up
Many people seem to be under the misconception that Pam was only at the racing tracks to show off her skimpy outfits and make the drivers look good. However, Pam has always spoken of how respectful all her fans have been.
Apparently, all the fans she has so far met have spoken to her about cars and her knowledge about the racing track. She receives some hate mail, of course, but she chooses not to read them.
Not Getting Near Her
Many fans wanted to get closer to Pam, but of course, she had someone by her side who would protect her at all times. Jim Liberman made sure that nobody ever made her too uncomfortable.
Once in Ohio, Pam found herself at the center of attention of a group of men who could not be called ‘gentlemen’ in any sense of the word. Thankfully, Jim was with her, and his furious glare was enough to keep everyone away from Pam.
A Connect With Her Fans
Despite the occasional creep, Pam admits that most of her fans have been excellent. She feels very grateful that everyone seemed to have accepted her in the world of drag race without question.
She never passes up an opportunity to speak to them even now. She loves talking to fans and fellow drag race enthusiasts about the old days and even watches some of the races with them.
What It’s Like Today
It has been several years since she lost Jungle Jim, but Pam has not given up her love for drag racing just yet. She still travels the world to attend various races, meet drivers and drag race fans.
However, Pam is one to think that the drag race in the modern time has lost the charm of the 70s. She thinks that motorsport is not entertaining enough right now and thinks it “needs more character.”
Taken Over by Capitalism
Pam is also of the opinion that the motorsport industry has now been taken over by big corporations who only care about money. This is the reason she believes that ticket prices for races are soaring.
Pam thinks that the only way that regular people would be able to purchase tickets is if the big corporations made their exit from the races. This would also allow individual racers to shine.
A Waste of Life
While there were many accidents that Pam witnessed in her career, one particular one had the most devastating effect – the death of her drag racing partner, Jim Liberman.
Pam’s mother heard the news first and knew that she had to break the news to her daughter herself. And so, she called her up on the phone before Pam had a chance to see the devastating news on the radio. Pam still considers Jim’s death as a “waste of life.”
A Change of Heart
Pam spoke about Jim’s love for cars in an interview years after his death. She revealed something surprising to the world during that interview.
It appears that Jungle Jim, who she said was a “free spirit,” had actually been considering taking a step back from drag racing for a while. Instead, he wished to indulge in his love for the mechanics and engineering that went behind cars.
Ups and Downs in the Relationship
Jungle Jim and Pam hardly shared a fairy-tale relationship. In fact, the relationship was on the rocks for a long time before Pam decided to break it off because of differences in opinions.
Jim’s accident came right after this, which has led several fans to speculate that Jim was troubled enough to take his own life.
What She Has to Say Now
Pam is perhaps never going to forget the man who became such an essential part of her life. She remembers her time with Jim fondly and still harks back when they shared laughs together.
When asked what she would tell the love of her life now, she thought for a while and then dedicated the following words to Jim, “I wish you were here to see what you have become. Your talent was wasted. Truly.”
Her Choice All Along
Over the years, Pam has been criticized for the skimpy and so-called ‘provocative’ clothes she used to wear to the races. However, she firmly believes that wearing such clothes was her choice and her choice only.
Pam thinks that she was instrumental in bringing a whole new set of fans to the race tracks, and she’s proud of the “Jungle” legacy she has left.
Jumping on the Bandwagon
While the “Jungle” brand is admired the world over, it has also caused the next generation of race drivers to market themselves as “the next Jungle Jim.”
It’s only natural that Pam isn’t a big fan of these ventures. She says, “You would think people would want to make a name for themselves.” And she’s quite right, of course. Jumping on the Jungle Jim bandwagon is not flattering; it’s just unoriginal.
The Curse of the Jungle
A couple of race drivers have tried to launch their careers by hopping in on the “Jungle” fame. They even painted the word “Jungle” on their cars, but unfortunately, their career failed to lift from the ground.
This has let Pam speculate that the “Jungle” brand is now cursed. She jokingly calls this the “Jungle Curse” in interviews. It would do race car drivers to stay well away from this name, it seems.
She Made a Difference
Despite the Jungle brand having suffered a loss, Pam truly believes that she has made a massive difference in the world of drag racing. She recognizes the huge impact that she had on the race tracks and is deeply thankful for the career she could create for herself with Jim Liberman by her side.
She is grateful for all the fans who still put up her photographs and hold her in high regard. She has only one thing to say about her lasting legacy – “We put on a good show; that’s what it was all about.”
Stepping Away From the Limelight
After Jungle Jim passed away, Pam decided to take a step back and stay in the side-lines for the rest of her life. Countless drivers approached her with offers to join their team, but Pam refused them all.
After working with Jungle Jim, it just didn’t feel right to team up with someone else. However, this doesn’t mean that Pam has entirely left the world of motorsports. She continues to attend races to this day and meet new drivers and new fans.
A Woman of Her Own Making
Jungle Pam is recognized by hordes of fans whenever she heads to a race track. Most of them want to know what it was like for her in the 70s in a male-dominated world. She has inspired countless women with her various exploits and the legacy she has created.
Pam was a woman of her own making. She listened to nobody and made her own decisions. She indulged in a career she loved and wore what she liked. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Pam is a true female icon, indeed!
She Will Be Jungle Pam Forever
Even though Pamela Hardy is now no longer sporting the “Jungle” brand, she feels that the Jungle legacy will never leave her. Before her, there were barely any women that could be seen on the race tracks.
She inspired many women to follow her onto the race tracks, either as team supporters for other drivers or as drivers themselves. In her heart of hearts, Pamela will always be Jungle Pam until the day she dies.