This past weekend you could almost hear Sunday Sunday at Detroit Dragway
The Best of Detroit
As we stated in yesterday’s article on LotPro.com, the years 1955 to 1970 are looked upon as the golden age for many followers of the sport of drag racing. During this time, big corporate sponsorships were the stuff of dreams and most drivers who raced also had full-time jobs that helped support their passion for the sport.
In addition to the six vehicles mentioned on Monday, here are the seven more that appeared at the Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance this past Sunday:
1963 Pontiac Catalina 421 Super Duty
This particular 1963 Pontiac Catalina 421 Super Duty was among a select number of Pontiacs (there were only 14 produced) that were dubbed “Swiss Cheese” vehicles. The name came from the fact that the perimeter frame had approximately 120 holes punched in the side sections and the side of the box section was also removed.
With a factory shipping weight of only 3,308 pounds, the body featured aluminum panels on the fender, hood, trunk and bumpers. Factory rated horsepower was 420, but the engine blue printed out at well over 500 horsepower.
This particular Catalina was raced out of the venerable Royal Pontiac dealership in Royal Oak, Michigan (which was to become famous for the Royal Bobcat Pontiac GTO). Driven by Jim Wangers, it went on to win the B/FX class at the U.S. Nationals.
1963 Ford Galaxie Factory Lightweight
Ford’s answer to the Pontiac “Swiss Cheese” vehicles was the “Factory Lightweight.” Built in Atlanta and L.A., on the Galaxie line, the bodies were modified with aluminum panels and the interiors featured little in the way of luxury – no heater, no radio, and no frills. A very few of these lightweights featured Ford’s high-performance 427 engine.
1963 Chevrolet Impala Z-11
The Impala Z-11 was Chevy’s answer to the need for more horsepower and lighter cars in 1963. Chevrolet produced 57 of these vehicles that featured a modified 409 cubic inch engine that, in different variations, produced anywhere from 340 horsepower up to 425 horsepower.
Like its counterparts at Ford and Chrysler, this particular Chevy had no radio, no heater and no sound deadener and, like the Ford Galaxie, it was assigned an RPO (Regular Production Order) number (RPO Z-11), although it took more than signing on the dotted line to buy one of these specials.
1965 Plymouth “Color Me Gone”
A number of things took place in 1965 that were to profoundly change drag racing in the United States. That year, the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) created a factory experimental class that had less restrictive rules. The resulting Altered Wheelbase cars became the ultimate production-based muscle cars that would eventually bridge the gap between the Super Stock cars of the early ‘60’s and the Funny Cars that would emerge years later.
Chrysler eventually built 6 Dodges and 6 Plymouths and sold them to teams like the Ramchargers, Dick Landy and Roger Lindamood. Lindamood, in particular, won the 1964 Nationals and is a hall of fame driver.
1965 Mercury Comet “Dyno Don Nicholson”
Dyno Don Nicholson began racing in the 40’s and 50’s and was one of a select few drivers that helped propel the sport from a hobby to big business. Along with Jack Chrisman, The Ramchargers, Dick Landy and Gas Rhonda, he experimented with altering wheelbases, fuel injection, supercharging, big slicks and super duty transmissions.
His “Mercury Cyclone” was one of the most successful cars of its era and the car’s altered wheelbase, flip top and engine configuration led to the name “Funny Car” that is still used in drag racing today.
1968 Plymouth Barracuda “Ron Mancini Car”
By the 1960’s, all the major manufacturers were taking part in the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” racing wars. In 1968, the Hurst Performance Center in Madison Heights, Michigan assembled 75 purpose-built cars specifically for drag racing. The new “Hemi” powerplant helped propel these cars to many NHRA victories.
This particular 426 Hemi Plymouth Barracuda was built by the team of Mike Dawson and Ron Mancini with the help of Gratiot Auto Supply and ran SS/AA.
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle “Red Alert”
Beginning in 1970, General Motors dropped its self-imposed rule of restricting mid-size cars to engines with less than 400 cubic inches of displacement. The LS6 package included a 454 cubic inch engine that produced 450 horsepower that resulted in quarter mile times in the low to mid-13 second range.
In 1969, drag racer Bob Hamilton purchased this Chevelle for his wife as a Valentine’s Day gift and, a year later, turned it into the “Red Alert” drag racer that competed in the NHRA SS/DA class. In 1971, model car company AMT created a model of the car that became their all-time sales leader. “Red Alert” continued to race until 1976 when it was Top Stock Eliminator in 14 out of 16 races.