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Mopar racer and wheelstander Bill “Maverick” Golden

bill maverick golden

Bill “Maverick” Golden’s Stock Eliminator victory over Don Nicholson’s factory-backed 409 Chevrolet at the 1962 AHRA Winternationals caused the Chrysler racing brass to take a fresh look at the feisty ex-Marine, and it proved to be the turning point in the young drag racer’s career.

QUARTER MILESTONES: Maverick’s Mopars over the years.

’58 Dodge Custom Royal




’60 Dodge Phoenix

383/8V Cross-Ram



’62 Dodge 330

413/8V Max Wedge



’63 Dodge 330

426/8V Max Wedge



’64 Dodge 330

426/8V Hemi



Bill Golden has won over 1,800 trophies, set hundreds of records, and won thousands of races. His 1963 Dodge was voted one of the Top 10 Super Stockers of all time.

Given a parts deal in 1960 to help support his 1960 Dodge Phoenix, Maverick had done quite well in Southern California A/Stock competition. Powered by a 330-horse 383 sporting two Carter AFB 4-barrel carbs on a cross-ram intake manifold, the big black Dodge ran the quarter mile in 13.7 seconds at 103 mph. To show their appreciation for his efforts on their behalf, Chrysler representatives arranged for Maverick to try one of the factory’s brand-new S/SA’62 Dodges with the more powerful 413 cubic inch Max Wedge V8 rated at 420 hp. It was in this car that Golden won the AHRA Winternationals at Fontana Drag City, the only Chrysler powered racecar to do so.

bill golden - racer

While the Stock Eliminator title put Maverick’s drag racing career on the fast track, the satisfaction derived from the feat registered on a far more personal level. As Bill Golden recalled, “It was windy that day, and as I readied for the final run against Nicholson my hat blew off and rolled in front of Don’s car. He deliberately ran over and crushed it. That hat and ‘frog shades’-what are now called wraparound sunglasses-were my trademark up ’ti11964. Anyway, I went on to beat Nicholson, and he was so mad the veins stuck out on his neck. Later my friend Ted Carlson, to whom I sold my ’60 Dodge Phoenix, bought me another black hat.”

If Don Nicholson wasn’t impressed with Maverick’s strong showing, the bigwigs at Chrysler were. Prior to Golden’s AHRA triumph in ’62, the factory had focused most of its attention on the 3-speed “stick cars.” Back then, racecars with manual transmissions and clutch pedals were traditionally quicker and faster than their automatic counterparts, largely due to a lack of research and development on the 3-speed Chrysler TorqueFlite. Thanks to a Mopar freak named Ford, however, Bill Golden was able to change all that.

Bob Johnson of Daytona Beach remembered Bill Golden showing up on West Drive in Pasadena, at around 10 PM. The initial participants included Ronnie Mandile, 1959 348 Chevy, Skip Wilson, 1960 283 FI Corvette, and John Abbott, 1957 Yellow 352 Chevy. “We had completed a few runs, south to north, at the ‘Rose Bowl’ when this black 1960 Dodge appeared out of nowhere and asked if he could join in. We knew the cops would not be dropping in any time soon so we said ‘sure.’ This Dodge was a push-button automatic, lowered in the back, completely opposite to our lowered-in-the-front cars of the time. Our car clubs (Road Angels, Gap Setters, etc) smirked at the automatic transmission Mopar that was about to challenge our 348. The Dodge dusted the 348. O.K., we said, try this one. The Corvette was next. Dusted again.

“Time to drag out the 12 second, 112 mph 1957 Chevy. This time Abbott put the Dodge away ... but not by much. By this time we were starting to warm up to this new guy on the block. We took a closer look at his car with small letters on his tail fins spelling out ‘Maverick.’ That didn’t mean much to us at the time. He introduced himself as Bill Golden, Glendale, Ca. Said he worked for Bob Smith Dodge, in town. ‘Stop by and see me some time.’

We all had a new found respect for ‘Maverick’ when he cruised through Bob’s Big Boy on Colorado after that night.”

“The TorqueFlites on the 1960 cross-ram cars,” Maverick remembers, “automatically shifted out of second gear at 3200 rpm due to a spring-loaded weight on the output shaft of the transmission. Marvin Ford, a racing buddy and a stick guy, mind you, came by one day and told me of his idea to modify a few of these weights until we got the right shift point. We knew someone with a machine shop and had the work done, then I stayed up one night and tried ’em all out on my ’60 Dodge. I’d pull the output shaft housing, change the weight, bolt the trans back together, then make a few runs down Long Beach Boulevard.

“I did this several times, working all night long. I lived in a trailer park at the time, and the neighbors didn’t appreciate it, but I was merely checking to see where the trans would shift out of second gear. Besides, it didn’t take long for a dual carbureted Max Wedge with 4.11 gears to reach 100 mph. I finally got the shift point just where I wanted it, and when that bugger hit third gear it’d absolutely crunch the ground. The right weight made a four-car difference at the finish line, so I passed the tip along to the guys at Chrysler.”

That wasn’t the only performance tidbit Golden was able to transfer from his cross-ram 383 to the Max Wedge 413. Besides low-drag piston rings, he sought to further reduce internal friction by running only enough valve spring pressure to reach 6000 rpm. "We ran about 110 PSI on the seat, while some other guys were running horrendous pressures of 140 to 150 PSI." As for ignitions, "I always paid lots of attention to mine, ever since Gordon Williams showed me how to remove the big spring inside the distributor for instant full advance."

And intakes: "One of the things we did to ’trick’ up our engines in those days involved the intake ram tubes. The first 15 inches of the insides of these long intake runners were cut out, which effectively created a plenum chamber for the air/fuel charge, which absolutely changed the ram effect. Instead of peaking out at 3200-which is why Chrysler had such a low transmission shift point-it screamed all the way to 5000 rpm. Can you imagine what it was like driving that ’60 Dodge as it screamed up to 5000 rpm then shifted?

"Those of us who had these little tricks up our sleeves were annihilating the competition. Our car, which weighed 3450 pounds, went from 14.30 at 96.05 to 13.70s at 103 mph there was that much difference. After we modified the transmission, I ran 101 mph at Lions with one 4-barrel. This setup, with dual quads, is what beat Dyno Don Nicholson at Fontana in ’62."

Rather than employ expensive or exotic components in his racecars, Bill Golden’s hillbilly upbringing taught him the value of “previously owned” parts.

"There’s one episode I’ll never forget. I didn’t care much for the camshaft in the ’62 Dodge. There was another cam stamped with a Chrysler part number under the work-bench of the shop Marvin Ford and Al Vanderwoude used to work on their race cars. I remember how they’d both walk by and kick the cam out of the way because it had a bad lobe. It looked good to me, so one day I stuck it in the car. I can still see Marvin and Woody snickerin’ at me while I sanded the rust off with 600 grit paper. Then I went out and blew everybody’s doors off with 12.40s at 111 mph."

Near the end of the 1962 drag racing season, Maverick’s 413 Dodge had picked up the pace considerably and hit a 12.14 best at 116.88 mph while winning a big race at Lions Drag Strip over a star-studded field of 149 factory drivers.

“In late ’62, NHRA legalized any flat tappet camshaft in Super/Stock. Up ’til then most cars were running hydraulics. That’s when I started working with cam manufacturer Racer Brown, who had designed a solid lifter cam for the 413 Max Wedge. With a wooden intake manifold, stock distributor and a set of Horsepower Engineering headers, it was worth 40 hp.

“We were testing new header systems on the dyno at Ed Iskenderian’s. I was getting an education real fast on the effects of camming and exhaust scavenging on a racing engine, and I tried to tell them not to let the engine idle below 2000 rpm because it’d backfire and blow that wooden intake manifold right off the engine. Out of curiosity, I guess, Jim ’Ratchet Jaw’ Nelson, who was running the dyno then, idled her down to around a thousand rpm and sure enough, it turned that manifold into matchsticks! It didn’t hurt anybody, but ol’ Ratchet Jaw laughed about it for weeks. Thanks to those tests, Nelson went on to help design one of the cast-iron exhaust manifolds for the ’63 Max Wedge.”

The name Jim Nelson is another that belongs in the Drag Racing Hall of Fame. Famous for his and partner Dode Martin’s string of successful Chrysler-powered dragsters, Nelson is arguably the person most responsible for the birth of the modern Funny Car. He helped assemble the original "Dodge Charger" exhibition match racers, a pair of 1964 Polara 500s with 480 plus cubes on gas with blowers, parachutes and 135 mph trap speeds.

Bill "Maverick" Golden's 1964 Hemi carTo foster an exchange of ideas that might ultimately improve the performance of Chrysler-powered cars everywhere, Bill Golden was sent by Dodge to Jim Nelson’s Dragmaster shop in Carlsbad, near San Diego, where for four months Maverick worked, ate, slept and dreamt about drag racing.

"That’s where I came up with the swinging traction system," he says. "We were playing with traction bars on the ’62 and ended up with something on the ’63 car that was 180 degrees from what everybody else had. Essentially, these bars ran from the axle housing backwards to just below the rear bumper, and we replaced the rubber spring eye bushings with solid steel for less suspension play. It definitely worked to plant the rear tires; when the throttle was nailed, the car would literally jump off the starting line. Remember, we ran 7-inch slicks in those days, and those cars needed all the weight transfer and traction they could handle. We were protested wildly over these bars, and they were ultimately outlawed for 1964."

By the time he took delivery of his new ’63 Dodge 330, Maverick was hard pressed to equal the ’62’s performance, despite the fact that the ’63 was lighter, at 3200 pounds, contained an improved Chrysler TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic transmission and had a 0.060-inchover 426 Max Wedge, compared with the 0.060-inch-over 413 in the ’62 Dodge. To compound the issue, Dodge told Golden not to bring out the ’63 car until it was ready to win.

With the aforementioned traction device, plus the assorted "tricks" Bill Golden had accumulated over the years, the ’63’s performance debut was stunning to say the least. Painted bright yellow, Maverick’s new Dodge literally wasted the competition during the ’62-63 winter drag racing season in Southern California, winning seven of eight S/S Eliminator titles with times of 12.14 at 113 mph, almost two tenths quicker-than his closest rivals.

Soon after, Chrysler released its Stage II package, which consisted of new AFB carburetors with larger venturis, bigger cam, aluminum front end and a trunk-mounted battery. After updating his Dodge with the new equipment, Maverick set out on a national tour that was to spread his name-and that of Dodge-far and wide.

The zenith of Maverick’s 1963 season came at Martin, Michigan, when the "Taxi Cab" downed the likes of Bill Lawton, Arnie Beswick and Dick Loehr, among others, to win the Midwest S/S Championship with a best time of 11.55 at 125 mph. Golden’s success continued in match races and open competition during the tour and, from the perspective of five years hence, his ’63 car was acknowledged as one of the Top 10 Super Stockers of all time.

Maverick's Little Red Wagon (Dodge A-100)

In 1964, Dodge rewarded Bill Golden with one of its new 426 Hemi-powered Dodge 330 factory racers, and asked him to run the AHRA Ultra Stock circuit, where he began meeting people down South.

"I remember one race in particular," Golden recalls. "It was at Green Valley, Texas, in ’64. Gene Snow had the fastest Ultra/Stocker that day with an 11.65 at 123 mph-on 7-inch tires. Then I pulled up, eased off the line and nailed it-and ran 11.50 at 129 mph. Gene later told me my car was the first automatic stock Dodge he ever saw come off the starting line with the front wheels in the air from just pure torque. When that happens, you know you’re getting maximum weight transfer and perfect traction."

As Maverick continued his AHRA tour in 1964, he met many drag racing legends, among them a man by the name of Donald Garlits. "At one point during the season, I went to Garlits’ shop in Tampa. We were both racing Hemis for Dodge, so he kinda helped me out. He even offered me a blower for my car, but I really wasn’t interested. Later we ran the Florida State Championships together; he won his eliminator and I won mine, running 11.0s at 130."

Near the end of the ’64 season, Maverick was invited to Detroit by Frank Wylie, Chrysler’s chief of public relations. "We went out to Dick Branster’s shop, home of the ’Color Me Gone’ car, where I saw the first ’Little Red Wagon,’ a Dodge truck with a big supercharged 426 Hemi sitting in the back on 30 percent nitro.

"We ran an easy 130 mph test run the following day at Motor City Dragway in 27 degree weather, but the thing had a tendency to wheelstand in the lights. Jay Howell hopped in, blazed the tires on launch and, at the 1000 foot mark, while running about 140 mph, he almost flipped over backwards. So Chrysler wanted us to take the truck back to California, take off the supercharger and pretty it up for a possible match race tour."

The truck was originally designed as a "down runner." Chrysler built the truck for A/Factory Experimental, and it did in fact break the record in an early outing. But then it was discovered that the truck had a propensity for picking up the front wheels at speed. When it continued to do so, much to the delight of the spectators, Wylie decided to exploit the exhibition potential of the wheelie truck, and the "Little Red Wagon" was born.

The rest, as they say, is history. Bill "Maverick" Golden went from King of the Dodge Super/Stocks to King of the Wheelstanders. And to this day the legend continues.

Additional (via Allpar)

Michael Spurbeck wrote:

I had the privilege of being up close with him in his garage, and helping him with a couple of projects… he was honest even when we went hunting the scrap yards for spare Dodge A100 parts and heavy banjo-type truck axles. I last saw him in 2013 … when I paid a visit to a mutual friend (his doctor), and saw him suffering from Alzheimers, unable to remember anything more current than about 1985. I will miss you, Bill. Still my hero and my friend.

maverick's little red wagon

Chrysler Corporation photography Larry Monkhouse wrote, “I met Bill on two occasions - the first time was at the Grand Bend Motorplex. On this run, he was completely airborne (note daylight under the rear wheels). The second time, when he ran at Detroit Dragway, I was hired by our agency to do a story about Bill. We took the Little Red Wagon to a mall parking lot and he said to me, ‘Do you want me to llight it up?’ I said that wouldn’t be a good idea early Sunday morning.”

We have a full page on Bill Maverick’s wheelstanding and the Little Red Wagon.

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