Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Smell the fuel, hear the thunder, feel the ground shake as these wheelstanding, fire-breathing, asphalt monsters scream down the quarter-mile. See Detroit's hottest iron compete head-to-head in what can only be described as Match Race Madness. Be there! Everywhere Drag-O-Way USA! This, or something very much like this, was the battle cry that crackled over the nation's AM airwaves in the mid-'60s. The message was always delivered as an urgent, controlled scream that demanded the attention of the listener. It was never a request; it was simply the place to be if you were young and hip in 1965. It was a wild time in American history; chaos seemed to be the name of the game. Several regions around the globe were at war, most notable to Americans was the Vietnam conflict. Domestically, the civil rights movement was in full swing. It seemed that no matter what else was happening in one's daily life, the underlying drumbeat of war and civil disobedience drove our collective actions.
In the midst of all this activity, the auto manufacturers were preparing themselves for another record year. In the end, nine million cars would be sold to a youth-oriented public. Like everything else at the time, there was an urgency about the cars-they had to be bigger, better, or faster than the competition. One of the most involved was the Chrysler Corporation. Their success with the new 426 Hemi in 1964 had them excited, and that excitement would boil over into two very special projects in 1965: the A990 sedans and the A/FX hardtops.
Now that we have a glimpse at the times that spawned powerful, intriguing, factory-built "race cars," let's focus on one in particular. The '65 Plymouth you see here spent its entire life doing battle on dragstrips across the country. Since the day it was built at the Chrysler facility, it had no other purpose in life. But life on the dragstrip can be harsh, and the beatings these cars took left them "used up" quickly. Luckily, this one was never "used up" and tossed aside. The storied past of this car leaves one to wonder how a race car could be brought back to look better than new. Well, first, we have Lee Smith, the man who originally took the controls of this A/FX car in 1965 and was involved in every step of its restoration from day one. It can't get any better than having the guy that originally built the car on hand to tell you what's right and what's not. Next, we have Jim Welch, a long-time automotive enthusiast, Mopar musclecar collector, and, in this case, preserver of a historical treasure. He was the one owner who was able to assemble the team it would take to put this car back together after it had bounced around the Midwest for forty years. The two major players on the restoration were Larry Pontnack and his crew at Mo-Par City in Oregon, Illinois. They handled the mechanicals build, and came up with many of the really hard to find parts. And when it comes to autobody restoration (or fabrication for that matter), Terry Getzelman and his knowledgeable crew at Getz's Hot Rod Innovations in Hampshire, Illinois, can either fix or fabricate whatever it is. Now that we know who all the players are we can get on with the story.
When Lee Smith first saw the all-new altered wheelbase cars in December 1964, he knew he was looking at something special. These were all-out, down and dirty racing machines that were intended to dominate at the dragstrip, and for the next two seasons that's exactly what these eleven cars would do.