They arrived late and left early, but everyone knew they had been there. As the 1969 model year began winding down, Chrysler released a very special street vehicle. At the time, muscle car engineering was going full-bore, and this car was a direct result of the desire by Chrysler to have a highly-visible yet affordable package car for boulevard cruising. It was package-coded as A12, and the standout part of it was the M-digit in the VIN, denoting a 440 engine. Indeed, before this particular offering, the two vehicles getting that M in this way had never been optioned with the 440 before; Plymouth's Road Runner and Dodge's Super Bee had been available with the 335hp 383 and the 426 Hemi only until this point.

As most readers know, the 440 in these cars was not your father's Imperial mill. The factory had deliberately beefed this thing up with heavy-duty connecting rods, a special cam, and a new 3x2 Holley setup that Dodge famously called a Six Pack, and a rating of a fat 390 ponies. The crowning touch was a lift-off hood in that only came in black, and five chrome lug nuts in place of hubcaps. Despite a standard 4.10 rear gear, this was not just a drag car; all the best possible suspension pieces and wide (for the time) tires on all four corners were used to create a two-ton supercar that could corner as well.

Produced in two short batches, very few of them ended up being raced in competition by specific racing personalities. The well-known Chevy guy, Wally Booth, had a one-year Dodge deal in 1969 but chose to campaign a Hemi powered version of the Super Bee. The bigger known Mopar teams were mainly busy with the '68 Hurst-built A-bombs, though some factory racers also had B-Bodies that were running in Street and Modified classes. With Challenger and 'Cuda E-Bodies on the near horizon, the few summer months would not have made a big difference in marketing, and besides, the factory production run suffered from parts shortages and quickly sold out with less than 5,000 units released between the two divisions.

There was one other problem due to that. In a letter addressed April 24, 1969, factory engineer Tom Hoover tersely needed to explain to "Farmer" Bill Dismuke, Jack Hart, and the other powers-that-be at NHRA headquarters that these were not package-built race cars; they had been built for street use and were being sold to the public. There would be no owner lists forthcoming. Once legal for class racing, NHRA quickly squeezed them into the higher divisions, rendering them virtually uncompetitive until Ted Struse and the crew from Super Stock & Drag Illustrated began playing the field seriously in the early 1970s with the Project Six Pack entry.

OK, so that's the history. What about this car? Owner Don Grotheer was a prolific Chrysler-backed driver, covering the broad sway of the Great Plains states in a series of entries he nicknamed "Cable Car," after his sponsor Cable Chrysler/Plymouth. Grotheer was actually having an excellent year in 1969, winning the Winternationals in Pomona with his Barracuda (which is now owned by collector Chuck Smith). The Cable dealership got the new A12 car from the factory in April for Don as a demonstrator.

Like his contemporaries, Don would not race this A12 machine in sanctioned racing, but he did need one as part of the performance clinics he did. Everyone remembers those factory-sponsored events at dealerships used to promote the product line. For that purpose, Don did competition modifications to the car and would even throw it down the quarter-mile as a demonstration vehicle on occasion.

Changes included a fresh block with full blueprinting, including forged 13.0:1 pistons, an Isky 1012B cam, chromed hooker headers, a Prestolite ignition, and careful assembly. The four-speed was modified for "slick shifting" and stirred with a Hurst Competition Plus shifter with Reverse Loc-Out and Roll Control, and a 4.89 ring was in the Dana centersection. On the panels, Imperial Customs laid down a colorful graphics scheme using Don's special colors.