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Racing History - Mopars in NHRA

Discussion in 'Historical' started by Beentherebefore, Oct 19, 2013.

  1. Beentherebefore

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    Half Moon Bay dragstrip, 1962 Half Moon Bay, Calif.

    You can read about the development of the max-wedge motors on Curtis's and the Ramchargers' articles on another part of this board. Those of us that were hanging around at West Coast dragstrips in 1962 began to hear about "something big" coming from Mopar. Fortunately, I just happen to be at HMB with a borrowed old Brownie box camera (hence the less than ideal picture quality) when this monster showed up - the first in a line of "Melrose Missile"s, driven by Tommy Grove. This car had already been shaken down (I wasn't there) because on this day, it set a new national record in Super Stock by almost a full quarter second! What happened in SS was front page news in those days - the equivalent of Pro Stock or even Funny Car today as NHRA had neither of those classes in the 60s.

    Tommy Grove had held the old track record in a 409 Chevy. After he started to drive the Missile, he put that 409 to better use - as a towcar to get the Plymouth to the track. You can see part of it if you look real close to the picture.


    [​IMG]
     

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  2. dyslexic teddybear

    dyslexic teddybear Active Member

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    Very interesting.

    Not all that crazy about the style of that era Mopars......but they certainly make great race cars.

    Actually, I do like them......like everything Mopar. But the styling was a bit....different.
     
  3. JavelinAMX

    JavelinAMX Well-Known Member

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    Can't think of the model name ... the only thing that comes to mind is the Lancer, but I'm all but positive that car ain't a Lancer.
     
  4. MoparNorm

    MoparNorm Active Jeeper
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    I think you meant Valiant (Plymouth) and Lancer (Dodge)?
     
  5. Beentherebefore

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    Actually, that is the full sized Plymouth for that year - a Savoy. The Fury and Dodge Polara came on that same wheelbase that year. You can read in Curtis's articles how it was a styling blunder and a sales flop. I can tell you that these '62's are highly sought after now for restoration by Mopar performance enthusiasts, at least the 2 Dr versions are. I have seen postings on other boards with instructions/photos on how to actually cut up 4 dr 62 - 65 Mopar B-bodies to make 2 dr clones out of them. These '62s later morphed into the famous Chrysler B-bodies when the Full sized Furys and Polaras came along in '65.
     
  6. Beentherebefore

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    Here is the Sport Fury version


    [​IMG]
     
  7. Beentherebefore

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    Might this gorgeous restoration change your mind?

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  8. MoparNorm

    MoparNorm Active Jeeper
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    While I did not warm to that design...until many years later...my best friend's parents owned one and it was he who turned me onto Richard Petty, in 1962. It was a great time to be a Mopar fan and little did we know, the Golden Age of Mopar and a new Hemi, was already on the drawing boards. The next few years were an epic time, never to be repeated, until ...in a smal way...in 2012.
     
  9. Beentherebefore

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    I just posted something on the Nascar thread about Petty's '62.
     
  10. dyslexic teddybear

    dyslexic teddybear Active Member

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    :shifting:

    Gorgeous car. Hard to beat red inside black. Add that motor......[this site needs a drooling smiley] awesome package! It did take a while for this era of cars to grow on me, but they have, and I would love to have that car. Push button shifters are supercool.......but for me the most awesome would be the three speed manual. Just something about that shifter.......
     
  11. Beentherebefore

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    I agree that these '62s were not beauty queens, at least not in stock form. But built up as race cars, you would be hard pressed to find another car that looks as wicked!
     
  12. dyslexic teddybear

    dyslexic teddybear Active Member

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    I think, at least some of the appeal, comes from their.....their uniqueness.

    Or maybe it's the big rear tires.

    But you are right, they make super-cool race cars.

    A few weeks ago......Mopar day at the track, I see a 61 Dodge Phoenix, iirc that's what the announcer said, come up to the line. Not exactly a style milestone, just basic white and some lettering. That thing was AWESOME! Not even sure I have ever heard of a Dodge Phoenix before......but it was so cool.

    I like the unique and unusual......that era qualifies. :thumbsup:
     
  13. Beentherebefore

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    I think that the Phoenix was actually a model in the Dart line which was still a full sized (but low priced) car in '61.The "big" Dodge was called the Polara, if I'm remembering correctly. In '62, the Dart line and the Polara both moved down to the 115" wheelbase twin of the Plymouth shown above. A new big Dodge was called the "880" and shared the chassis with the Chryslers. Then in '63, a new Dart came out and shared a chassis with the Plym Valiant. All this did nothing but add confusion to the lineup. By the time '64 came along, performance customers pretty well knew what they wanted after seeing the racing Mopars in action - a B-body with one of the performance motors in them. It didn't seem too important to them what Chrysler was naming them.

    BTW, when I first started attending drag races circa 1961, "Mopar" was actually a derogatory term. It implied that the announcers really couldn't be bothered to distinguish one Chrysler brand from another and who cared anyway because they weren't fast enough to win much of anything worth noting. I started racing with a DeSoto (of all things) with a 341" Hemi and pushbutton torqueflite. Guys in the pits would laugh about the pushbuttons. The hot setup then was a 4-spd in the newer "Brand C" and "Brand F" cars and 3 spd floorshift conversions in their older cars. Within a year of when the Max-wedges first hit the strips, " "Mopar" became an affectionate and respected term, and pushbutton automatics were everywhere. Believe it or not, there soon were torqueflitie conversions to put behind "BrandC" motors and I saw plenty of 50s and early 60s "Brand C" racecars with a tube sticking out of the floor (where their 3 & 4 speeds had been) with a Chrysler pushbutton shifter at the end of the tube.
     
  14. MoparNorm

    MoparNorm Active Jeeper
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    ...and just as Chrysler has always shot itself in the foot, just as those push buttons were sweeping the culture, the isolated managers in Detroit placed the shifter on the steering column and center console.
    I last came across a push button dash, in a 1963 Sweptline pickup. It's hanging in my shop right now. ;)

    Not its all the rage, 50+ years later, to have an electronic shift knob. Something Chrysler was doing in 1960.
     
  15. JavelinAMX

    JavelinAMX Well-Known Member

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    Also, if I can interject my AMC bias, my parents had a 1960 Rambler Rebel Wagon which also had a push-button Auto. Unsure if it was a Six or an Eight, however.

    But as regards Mopar gear ...

    My oldest brother bought a used 1956 Plymouth Savoy Coupe with a 273 CID, which he punched out to 305 CID and added Dual Quads a hot Cam a bit of Head work tube headers and Cheater Slicks... This car had a push-button auto.

    I was a very young kid and he didn't want to be seen with either my next older brother or me (and we had to duck down for him when he'd allow us to accompany him ... very rarely), but he'd cruise the boulevard pantomiming as though he had a Four on the floor (and he'd chuckle about doing it). But he'd street race very effectively in that crate.
     
  16. MoparNorm

    MoparNorm Active Jeeper
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    There is a pretty good chance that you had a 727 in that AMC. ;)
     
  17. Beentherebefore

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    Can't blame Chrysler for that, Norm. The "safety Nazis" were already rearing their ugly heads and pressing the Govt to order "standardized" shifting controls. Since GM sold the most cars, everybody had to do what GM did, i.e., shift-levers for their automatics. It wasn't only Chrysler - AMC and Mercurys (and I think Edsels too) all had to give up their pushbutton controls.
     
  18. Beentherebefore

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    I got my driver's license in a '60 Rambler Classic wagon, which belonged to my Mom. It was a 6 - AMC 8s were very rare in '60 and I believe only came in their Ambassador models. My dad had a '55 "Brand C" wagon which I was supposed to learn on, but the thing was breaking & in the shop so much that I started to fall behind - the start of a long, long standing hatred I have for "BrandC". He also had a '56 DeSoto with a Hemi in it that I coveted but he never would let me behind the wheel till well after I had my license. He was always telling me that I would end up killing myself in it because of all the power. :lol:
     
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  19. Beentherebefore

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    Half Moon Bay Dragstrip, 1963 Half Moon Bay, Calif

    I shot this photo of the "Melrose Missile III" a few weeks after Tommy Grove won Top Stock Eliminator at the NHRA Winternationals in this car. In those days, NHRA only had two major national meets - the Winternationals and the "Big Go' @ Indy so the publicity for winning at one of them and beating all the best SSrs in the country stayed front page news in the drag racing world for a long time.

    This car is now on permanent exhibit at the NHRA museum in Pomona, Calif.


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  20. Beentherebefore

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    After the Winternationals win by the "Melrose Missile III", this Chrysler ad could be seen in all the big automotive publications of the day - HRM, "Motor Trend" etc. That's how you market a "performance" image when you win a major racing championship.

    [​IMG]
     

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