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Mopar: Pioneering Data Based Racing

data recorder in Richard Petty’s 1971 Road Runner trunk

In Chrysler’s various racing efforts, the space/military division turned out to be valuable as they lent their state of the art telemetry systems to the effort. This is the famed Bob McCurry (“the name of the game is WIN”) taped on an experimental Dodge Charger Daytona next to the data recorder’s buttons (Off, Play, Record).  The large lever is a pneumatic valve.

bob mccurry and data recorder

Chrysler had one of the first drag racing data-acquisition systems. Ron Killen was the main man, in charge of all aspects of testing. According to Greg Kwiatkowski:

George Wallace told me the Lockheed recorder was pioneered in the DC-93 when it was first built as a Charger 500. It was improved upon and remained in use when the car was updated to “Charger Daytona” status in July 1969. See the photo below...

lockheed 417 data recorder

lockheed data recorder

I attached a photo of “DC-93” (it would not be known as the #88 car until September 1969); “DC-93” was the Nichels Engineering chassis number. It was also known as “093.” The car ran a lot quicker than the “old” design. [Per Illinois state law, Ray Nichels had to assign a number to each chassis. Dodges were “DC-xx,” Plymouths got a “P-xx.”]

DC-93 shakedown

When the Charger Daytona was given to Don White at the end of 1970 and Chrysler shrunk NASCAR support, it was used in Petty’s 1971 Plymouth (late 70 and 1971). After that, it went to the drag racing effort (1972 and later). By the time the Mopar Missile guys used it, the bugs were out of it!

The data recorder in the trunk of the Mopar Missile is in the color shots. The Lockheed recorder itself is in the large black box with the two handles.


trunk based data recorders

A close-up of the switchboard...


A shot of the early data acquisition control, inside the car. The buttons on the drive tunnel were later moved to the dashboard for ease of use. The photo is from the Lockheed brochure, with an arrow pointing to the recorder controls. That pneumatic lever on the dashboard controlled the “air shocks” when the #88 car was in the Lockheed wind tunnel, so different rake angles could easily be tested.

This is another data recorder; you can see Off and Record buttons but the switches are unlabelled.

data recorder

This is one of the panels sitting with a pliers, screwdriver, circuit diagram, and ballast resistor.

ignition instrument panel


For the later Plymouth and Dodge drag racers, renting a full size wind tunnel was out of the question, so they taped cotton tufts to the car, using a normal-production chase car (which started out earlier and was quickly passed) for photography. Someone had to hang out of the chase car taking pictures, and some one else had to be strapped in the back seat of the race car taking pictures of the tach and other instruments.

pit stop

Someone manning the data-recording van.

recording van

Ron Killen, working inside a van?

ron killien

ron killien

Drag test data was meticulously recorded, along with conditions. This is from the Plymouth Duster version of the Mopar Missile.

drag test data

The “black box,” in 2017

data recorder box

In 2017, Greg Kwiatkowski wrote that he had gotten photos of the data recorder “black box” and what was inside, from Mike Koran. It was in the SVI loft and found as they were moving out of the building.

inside the box

“Ron Killen put me in touch with Mike years ago. We talked about the box the Lockheed recorder was in and the fact it was used in my car, Richard Petty’s Road Runner, and then various MoTown Missile drag cars.

goodyear tubes

“When he found it, it rang a bell and he called me up to come get it. Payment? Lunch on me... We traded a few stories. He found a few other items also: the timing equipment used for testing and the barometer used in the data van.”


tachometer drive adapters

pickup brackets


cable closeup

in the trunk

misc cables

inside empty

bottom of data recorder box

witness marks

data recorder

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