It was the summer of '85. I was 17 years old and, at the time, the proud owner of a '69 Chevelle SS 396. My car was the 350hp version, but it had some additional goodies, such as a Holley 800, a Comp 292H camshaft, an Edelbrock Torker intake, headers, a Muncie four-speed, and 4.11 gears. It ran 12.90 at 107 mph on 9-inch slicks. Saturday nights were usually spent with my girlfriend, but we had a falling out on this particular night, so I decided to go solo to Gratiot Avenue (the east side of Detroit) for some cruising. It was always packed, and I had several red light jousts that night and won them all.
About 12:30 a.m. or so, I remember pulling into a White Castle for a snack before the 45-minute ride home. When I was getting ready to pull out and leave, a guy approached in a Panther Pink '70 Road Runner. It was a 440-6 car, and he had the Air Grabber open. He asked me if I wanted to run and, not being a cop back then, of course I accepted. He led me to the Interstate 696 service drive east from Gratiot. At a stop sign, we both brought the rpm up a bit, nodded, and we were off. First gear was a joust to see who could catch traction first, and the cars came out door to door. It was like a race scene in a movie, as we grabbed gears and took turns pulling back and forth a few inches each time one of us shifted. At about 90 mph or so, we both grabbed top gear, and I knew my Chevelle always rewarded me with a strong top-end rush. To my surprise this time, the Road Runner seemed to hit Overdrive, and the guy pulled on me pretty good. When we let off, I can remember the reflective decal on the RR's trunk about two car lengths ahead of me.
We both pulled off on a side street and he gave me a Pabst and we b.s.'d until about 1:30 a.m. A few hours later, I remember telling my dad about it. These words ring true today. He said "Gary, if you're ahead of a Mopar in a race, let up before you get to top gear. Something about them Mopars."
I can still smell the interior of my old car, I can hear the tire spin on each shift, and I swear I can hear the ting-ting-ting of the hot exhaust system after the race. I can also taste that lukewarm Pabst too-unreal!!!
Bloomfield Hills, MI
It's 1973 in El Paso, Texas, at a place called the Ysleta cutoff, southeast of town. I had just returned from Vietnam but was still in uniform. I bought a '68 Hemi Road Runner before leaving and stored it at my dad and mom's house in Oklahoma. Before leaving for 'Nam, I put on a set of Hooker headers, bought some slicks, and added a pinion snubber. At Green Valley in Dallas, I had turned a best of 12.4 at the time-pretty fast for a mostly stock Hemi. Anyway, I left Oklahoma to report for duty at Fort Bliss, and after getting checked in, I decided to cruise El Paso and check out the action. On Memorial Highway there was a Bun-n-Barrel Drive-In (or something like that) with several good-looking cars cruising through, so I pulled in. These guys in a '69 big-block Chevelle came over. "It this a real Hemi? How does it run?" One thing led to another, and they told me they street raced on the Ysleta cutoff and if I thought my car was so fast, I should show up and prove it. I had stacked my slicks back at the base in my room, so I went to get them and picked up another sergeant who had a 340 Dart. He knew where the place was, although he had never raced there. By the time we arrived after changing the plugs, the races had already started, and we saw a couple of small-block Chevy IIs go at it. I felt like a real stranger, since I had the only Mopar there; even among the bystanders lining both sides of the road, I didn't see another Mopar. By then, the headers were cool enough to uncap, and we pulled the rear tires off and mounted the slicks. The guy with the Chevelle came over and yelled "Let's go," so I pulled out on the highway and cleaned the slicks off. The surface of the road wasn't too bad but had a nasty crown.