The Mopar hobby is a diverse one. Some of us are cruisers, happy to have wheels for Saturday nights. Some are mechanics, enjoying the effort of bringing a classic back to life. Others are preservationists, saving survivor-type cars or restoring cars back to their original appearance. Collectors look for the most unique examples they can find, and vintage race cars campaigned by well-known teams are at the top of the list. To have one is pretty special; to have several puts you into one of the most exclusive clubs in the enthusiast car realm.
Clark Rand of Missouri, has become one of the better-known people in this regard. Formerly involved in the business side of rock 'n' roll concert promotion, Clark has focused on some of the best Mopars of quarter-mile fame; cars once raced by Lee Smith, Dick Landy, Don Grotheer, Chuck Ostrich, and Sox & Martin are among the vehicles that he and his wife Colleen have owned and displayed at shows across the country.
The remaining cars of the Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin glory days have been avidly sought out, discovered, and pried loose from their resting places to be restored to their former glory. Clark presently owns the 1967 Super Stock Belvedere and the 1968 'Cuda that Ronnie drove to the 1969 World Championship. While it would be difficult to find a racetrack location suitable to display the cars, Clark had a chance to take a slightly different direction and recreated a transporter that was a near replica of the factory-supplied vehicle that the Sox & Martin team drove for hundreds of thousands of miles. When he and Fred Engelhart brought the '67 and '68 race cars and the truck to the All-Hemi Reunion last August, we asked Clark to tell us a little about the trio.
This is one of the most significant early Super Stock cars of any make. The new 1967 Super Stock class was a hot bed of activity, going hand in hand with the exploding musclecar market, which now included the GTX and Coronet R/T. Chrysler moved back a page for their purpose-built race cars that year, converting basic Belvedere IIs and Coronet 440-trim level vehicles into Hemi race cars, rather than using the heavier sporty-level street car. This particular example was found by Fred Engelhart in pieces and was being worked on for another one of his clients, Mike Gaurise, though Clark wanted it as soon as it was discovered. When Mike's focus on the car changed, Clark leaped at the chance to purchase it.
"There is a lot of history to this car," he says. "Ronnie told me it was a favorite, but it was also the only car that was actually titled in Buddy Martin's name; this car has full documentation as well as the original Certi-card."
Buddy bought it in May of 1967 from longtime sponsor Gate City Motor Company in Greensboro, North Carolina. Ronnie was quite successful in this car, driving it to victory at both the 1967 Bristol and 1968 Englishtown Springnationals. This was the only factory RO '67 Hemi car the team had that year; they continued to run it into 1968 in SS/D, and Ronnie won the Springnationals after their new Hurst-type Hemi Barracuda had problems.
Its history is not clear after that, but Fred and Clark both believe it must been campaigned only minimally. In addition to having its original interior, it never had a roll-cage or wheel tubs installed. It also retains a lot of its 1960s era speed parts - the Keystone wheels, Stewart-Warner gauges, Vanke-modified intake, factory Prestolite ignition, and more. Mopar expert Jim Remlinger did the paint work, and Don Dennis was responsible for the lettering work.
"This was a very through restoration. we used a lot of hard-to-find parts and even the techniques that the team used in car's original construction," says Clark.
The Sox & Martin team owned quite a few 1968-style Barracudas, not to mention the ones that Ronnie campaigned after the team disbanded in 1974. But Clark wanted what could arguably be called a real one. In doing so, he bought this car in 1999, just a few years after he had quit drag racing himself.
"This car came up for sale in Hemmings," recalls Clark. "I had bought a 1964 Dodge from Fred, so I called him to find out what he knew about it. Well, he had already bought it a couple of days earlier, knew it was legitimate, and I agreed to buy it and have him restore it for me. I wanted a Hemi race car with real history from a premier team; this was it!"
Ronnie had lost the 1968 NHRA World title; Dave Strickler and Bill Jenkins had run for the money at Tulsa that year. But this car would propel him to that crown in 1969, where a record purse was posted at the new Dallas International Motor Speedway (now defunct). Strickler and Jenkins showed up with COPO ZL1 and L72 427" Camaros, which NHRA promptly bumped from the automatic classes since those combinations had not been run previously. Strickler dropped out and Jenkins could not top Arlen Vanke's monster SS/C record set at Columbus weeks earlier. Meanwhile, Sox trounced the SS/B record with a 10.29 in qualifying, and then marched through the field like Sherman across Georgia, beating the Iron Butterfly '64 Dodge of Dick Oldfield for the crown. Sox went 10.23 to win it all, including a $5,000 Hurst bonus for having won at the 1969 U.S. Nationals months earlier.
The car is restored to look like it did that day. It was numbered 705 since Sox registered in the Travelers division, with the Hurst 'Bonus Bandit' money bag decal in the window. Again, Wheeler Machine, Jim Remlinger, and Don Dennis were involved in making the car back into its 1969 appearance, with an engine that pumped out 590 ponies on the dyno before being dropped between the fenders. In addition to the two wins at Dallas (the Springnationals and World Finals), it won Indy in '69, plus the 1968 AHRA Springnationals and the 1968 Super Stock Magazine Nationals.
Indeed, Sox had won three of the four possible NHRA Super Stock crowns, reset the record, and laid the groundwork for the upcoming Pro Stock effort. Sox & Martin sold the car in 1970 to a Delta Airlines pilot, who raced it once and decided drag racing wasn't for him. After that, the car was successfully campaigned in Pro Stock and Modified production by Sam Carroll, Melvin Yow, Bill Vila, Sonny Shipman, David Sikes, and Randy Miller before being sold to Fred Engelhart.
"I was very proud of how this car came out," says Clark. "We found the right parts to put it back together and it has a complete ownership trail and documentation. I think the neatest aspect was that NHRA invited us to bring this car to Indy as one of the Top 50 race cars during the 50th Anniversary."
"I have to say that I am very fortunate to have the relationship with Fred Engelhart and his family that I do; I could never done this without his expertise and friendship. I have continued to put my trust in him; this truck was something he completely surprised me with last July."
"We had talked to Ronnie and Buddy many times about their experiences on the road," Clark continues. "Traveling thousands of miles, even back in the good old days, was tough in those D-series trucks. Fred had a chance to find this tribute for our show display and then we scrambled to finish it for the All Hemi Reunion. Though it was road worthy, it has a top speed of just 60 miles an hour or so right now, so we decided to load it up on a flat bed for the1,800-mile trip."
The truck is a 1969 D700 with cab and toolbox area. The engine is a bone-stock, 413 industrial Wedge with a high/low gear box attached to the four-speed transmission. Other than the paint, which was sprayed by Adam and Joe Engelhart and then lettered by John Nystrom of Austin, Minnesota, it is untouched. In fact, it has survived in such great shape because it was owned by a fire company in Pineyville, Kentucky, and has run up just over 10,000 miles in all those years. Fred found it, bought it, prepped it, and then gave it to Clark as a thank you. The plan now is to get it running with a highway gear so it can be driven into nostalgia events.
"We are working to complete its restoration, and, with some additional memorabilia, it will be a 'race day clinic display' for people to enjoy."
As we mentioned, Clark's latest machine was a big hit, even among the rarest Hemi cars on the planet. Vintage ramp trucks are hard to come by, and this one is a gem. Clark hopes to have the rig rolling for the 2009 show season.
- '67 SS/B Plymouth Belvedere RO23
- Engine: A Hemi with all the right stuff to look the part in 1967, this one has the details that Jake King was known for; Wheeler Machine did the buildup and pegged the needle at a solid 520. Crane valvetrain parts, Hooker headers, and blueprinting were all part of its creation.
- Transmission: A833 'slick-shift' modified transmission with 11" Hayes clutch and Hurst DP-FX-65 shifter (standard RO23 package).
- Differential: Dana 60 with 4.88 gears and SureGrip.
- Horsepower and Performance: 520 on the dyno, but no racetrack time...yet
- Suspension: Basically stock with 90/10 Hurst shock, Imperial rear shock, and the 1967 SS equipment.
- Brakes: Original 10-inch front /11-inch rear drum combination (RO23 only)
- Wheels: Keystone 15x4 fronts, 15x7 rear.
- Rubber: Goodyear - street skinny under nose, and original Blue Streaks out back.
- Body: Solid, prepped by Jim Remlinger.
- Paint: Remlinger, with lettering in silverleaf by Don Dennis. By the way, did you know that the team was still using the Ford colors selected for the Comet in 1964?
- Interior: Stock original other than a few aftermarket gauges.
- '69 SS/B(ig) Dodge D700 King Can Ramp Truck
- Engine: Industrial 413 wedge.
- Transmission: four speed with high-low transfer.
- Differential: tight, very tight gear - 60 mph top speed
- Horsepower and Performance: Don't know, but you could pull stumps with it.
- Suspension: Factory highway gut buster.
- Brakes: Original drum 'pump and pray' combo.
- Wheels / rubber: Big fatties all the way around!
- Body: Solid and uncut, prepped by Hodge.
- Paint: Joe and Adam Engelhart, lettering by John Nystrom.
- Interior: Stock original.
- '68 SS/B Plymouth Barracuda BO29
- Engine: A race Hemi also rebuilt by Wheeler Machine in Blaine, Minnesota, this engine was a dominant player in 1969. Super Stock tricks circa 1969 were made as well, and it also features the S&M speed parts from the era.
- Transmission: A833 'slick-shift' modified transmission with 11-inch Hayes clutch and Sox's original Hurst Competition Plus shifter.
- Differential: Dana 60 with 4.88 gears and SureGrip
- Horsepower and Performance: 590 up on Wheeler's dyno.
- Suspension: Basically stock with SS shocks and springs.
- Brakes: Original front disc / rear drum combination (BO29 only)
- Wheels: Keystone 15x4 fronts, 15x7 rear.
- Rubber: Goodyear 8.75 x15 front, Blue Streak 10.5 x 15 rear.
- Body: Solid and uncut, prepped by Jim Remlinger.
- Paint: Remlinger, with lettering in silverleaf by Don Dennis. Still using Ford colors in 1969.
- Interior: Stock original other than a few aftermarket gauges.