It took an e-mail from a gentleman known as Hemifred to set this article in motion. He put us in contact with a local fellow, Stewart Pomeroy, who used to drive one of these small, overpowered vehicles, and he lead us to Dick Tower's matchracemadness.com web site. So here it is, everything you ever wanted to know about hemi-powered Dodge Colts.
The blurb-Dodge's New OHC Hemi-was in big letters on the cover of the April 1971 Super Stock & Drag Illustrated. For diehard Mopar fans, it was a vain search to locate the latest V-8 horsepower between the covers that month because the blurb did not refer to the latest drag mill for Sox or Snow, but for the four-cylinder buzz bomb in the new Mitsubishi import that the Dodge Division called the Colt. The editors sheepishly ended up apologizing in a subsequent issue.
However, for the next half-dozen years or so the car would play a significant role in drag racing. It was an era of volatile politics, both nationally and in Pro Stock drag racing, one that would cause much confusion and frustration, and help create Pro Stock as we know it today. when Super Stock did their road test on the Colt that long ago April, the car was just another neat mini-brute press machine from Detroit. The real action in 1971 was going on at the drag strips, where one red-white-and-blue Plymouth was running herd over an increasingly frustrated field of competitors.
The Sox & Martin team was always good at what they did. Since returning to stock-bodied drag racing in 1967, their cars had been consistently at the top of the field, and Sox lost no steam once Pro Stock made its debut in 1970. After falling out at Pomona and the first race at Gainesville in 1970, Sox or teammate Herb McCandless went to every single final of the NHRA season that year. In 1971, Sox went six for eight, losing only the Summernationals (due to a flat tire) and the World Finals in Amarillo, where his loss cost him a second NHRA Pro Stock title. This record doesn't take into account the team's efforts in AHRA, IHRA, or match-race competition. When Sox wasn't winning, his closest followers were guys like Don Carlton in Ted Spehar's Motown Missile, Stu McDade in the Billy the Kid Stepp Challenger, and Butch "the California Flash" Leal-in other words, other Chrysler racers.
Obviously, nobody but the Chrysler racers was happy. As 1971 went on, the media screamed, officials began to look at restrictions, and the other racers were demoralized. The Hemi was king.
Pressure came from several factors by the end of the '71 season. Though NHRA and AHRA had made efforts hoping that 350-inch motored, lighter cars would show up on the flat 7.0 pounds per cubic inch weight break, other than a couple of Mavericks with 351-inch power, that didn't happen. So the decision was made to go with a sliding weight break based on cylinder head design, as well as change in the minimum wheelbase for the next season.
As 1972 began, it was settled that inline valve designs (340/440 Mopar, AMC, small-block Chevrolet) would go at 6.75 pounds per cubic inch, canted valve engines (Chevy Rat, Boss Ford, 351 Cleveland) would be left at 7.00, and Hemi designs (Chrysler and Ford SOHC) would get hit at 7.25. Moreover, the minimum wheelbase was set at 94 inches to allow the new Pintos and Vegas minicars to race. AHRA regulations were similar, with lower minimum breaks at 6.5, 6.7, and 7.0, respectively (plus AHRA had a 2,200-pound vehicle minimum). Any car under a 100-inch wheelbase and powered by more than 370 cubes would be forced right up into the 7.0 bracket.
Ol' Bill Jenkins had not been born yesterday, so for NHRA, he settled on a 331-inch combination in a new Vega that tipped the scales at less than 2,300 pounds. Conversely, a Hemi car at the standard 426 inches had to weigh at least 3,088 pounds. The rest was history-the Grump was back with a win at Pomona, his first in almost two seasons.