Don Carlton, one of the most popular and successful Pro Stock drag racers of the 1970s, raced with Sox & Martin in 1968-70; in 1970, he was hired by Ted Spehar to campaign Chrysler's Pro Stock Missile cars.
Carlton started out racing Super Stock locally in North Carolina. After Chrysler's support for Pro Stock racing was halted in 1973, Don worked with Chrysler as a test driver on their Dodge Colt and Plymouth Arrow race cars. He died in July 1977 after a fatal accident in a Dodge Hemi Colt that he and his partner, Clyde Hodges, had built for NHRA B/Altered racing.
Carlton was named to the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, associated with the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, in 1992; and to the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2007. He will be given the Ronnie Sox Memorial Award, postumously, at the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame Reunion on October 19-21 in Henderson, NC (see Allpar’s coverage of the 2011 event). His former teammates include Ted Spehar, Joe Pappas, and Dick Oldfield.
The first car driven by Don Carlton in NHRA Pro Stock was the 1971 Dodge Challenger Motown Missile. Now owned by Arnie Klann, it was recently restored in California under the supervision of one of its original mechanics, Dick Oldfield. It has been exhibited at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
The fifth car in the Missile series, the legendary Plymouth Duster “Wire Car,” is also owned by Arnie Klann. Former mechanic Joe Pappas wrote, “It would have run as a new Mopar Missile in 1975. We built the car as an 'A' engine Pro Stocker because of NHRA rule changes that made the Hemi not feasible for further development. It got the most advanced methods of design and construction available at the time, and made extensive use of lightweight titanium and magnesium, with chrome-moly chassis tubing size and placement optimized using computer analysis.
“... the car was technically way over the top for its day! But we never got to race it because Chrysler canceled its Pro Stock program late in the year. The car will appear in Mopar Missile livery as was always intended. The restored Challenger and '75 Duster are both fully operational.”
The second Carlton car in the Missile series was the 1972 Plymouth Barracuda Motown Missile. It is undergoing restoration at the George Paul Body Shop in Star, Mississippi, as described in an article in the April 2011 issue of Mopar Action Magazine.
Third in the Missile series, the 1973 Plymouth Duster, Mopar Missile, appeared at Henderson in 2011 and will be back this year. Ben Donhoff bought the car from a former owner after it had been damaged in a track accident in south Florida. He restored and raced it locally for about ten years, then lent it to Don Garlits' Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, where it was on display for another ten years. In 2008 Ben and a partner, Larry Mayes, of Haines City, Florida, took the car out of the Museum to race again.
Status of a fourth Missile, reported by Joe Pappas as a “Dodge D5 Hemi Colt,” is unknown.
The Macomb Missile, a Dodge Aspen, was built by Don and his long-time partner, Clyde Hodges, at their shop in Lenoir, North Carolina, in 1977. It was the last project the two worked on before Don died that year. A commissioned build, it was never raced successfully, and it remained in storage for over 25 years. Mike Ricketts, of Macomb County, Michigan, bought it in 2008. He undid modifications made over the years by its original owner, restoring it to its condition when it was first built by Don and Clyde.
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