Firebrewed: 1965 Dodge Coronet A/FX Funny Car
by Michael Dickens
Richard A. Samul
has enjoyed a lifelong love affair with cars. By his estimate, he's owned "a couple dozen" different cars, from 20th century antique to 21st century modern. There's one particular car in his collection that he's closest to - a 1965 funny car rescued from a Michigan junk yard by its previous owner after it was stolen and stripped.
Samul, 61, a retired Chrysler test driver, experimental mechanic, and dynamometer operator, bought Firebrewed, a 1965 Dodge Coronet A/FX funny car, a decade after it enjoyed a storied past in the mid-1960s at the Detroit Dragway - but not before it fell on hard times.
Now, 46 years after its Detroit Dragway debut, Samul is determined to restore the Mopar that was the former mount of the legendary racer Richard "Dick" Smith. Smith was a regular in the winner's circle at Detroit Dragway with Firebrewed during the 1965-67 racing seasons.
Tom Bonner, who edits Vintage-nitro.com, described Firebrewed in a 2010 article for the racing website: "The car was painted in a blend of gold fading into candy-apple red. It wasn't a pretty car; it lacked a hood and that moon tank cut into the grille wouldn't win any best appearing car trophies. The big Dodge was a race car at heart though, and it showed every time Smith hit the starting line."
After Bonner's article was published on Vintage-nitro.com, Samul posted a lengthy comment. He praised Bonner's article, but wanted to share his part of the Firebrewed story for others to enjoy.
The vehicle started life as an original Factory Lightweight Dodge Ramcharger
Super Stock A990. It was ordered by Dick Smith [who currently own a trout farm] and shipped to Town & Country Dodge. Dick had it converted to an A/FX, with some work done by Jay Howell at Dick Branstner's shop (in Troy, Michigan) in 1965. Dick [Smith] raced it in 1965, 1966 and part of 1967.
The vehicle was advertised for sale in a 1967 issue of Drag News. It was purchased by the father of Jeff Ross and may have been sold to another unknown party at a later date. I purchased the vehicle from Mike Spinazzola in the mid-seventies, after he found it in a junk yard at Michigan & Middlebelt. It had been recovered by the Inkster Police Department after being stolen and stripped. The owner never claimed the vehicle and the salvage yard took possession for towing and storage charges.
Mike Spinazzola had purchased the vehicle for the Dana rear axle that was still in it. I put in a 8 3/4" to tow it home and stored it.
Samul said he wants to restore Firebrewed to its authentic A/FX funny car condition and put in some safety upgrades - maybe even take it on a few passes. Two years ago, he took the unrestored and untouched vintage funny car on the road, towing it from its current home in one of his car "barns" and showed it off for the Chrysler Employee Motorsports Association (CEMA) show
at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum
in Auburn Hills. Firebrewed received a lot of stares and a lot of interesting comments from CEMA attendees, Samul said.
The car received quite a bit of attention, and one of the organizers wrote:
Firebrewed was an instant hit for those (a size able number) who recognized it for what it was. In addition, there was the guy who has film footage of the car running at the drag strip, the potential (near certain) coverage in the newspaper, the contact with the guy who knows the Alexander brothers, and Tom Gale (former EVP of Chrysler Styling - and later Engineering) who I heard personally thank you for your time and effort in getting the car there. I heard innumerable people commenting on the car, studying it and giving it a solid thumbs-up.
Samul said that he believes Firebrewed isn't meant to be permanently displayed in a museum, so back home to the barn it went.
As Samul continues restoring Firebrewed, he's interested in obtaining an old photographs and home movies, and collecting stories about the funny car that anyone might wish to share with him. Samul believes both oral and visual history would greatly aid him in the car's authentic restoration.
Richard A. Samul
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