The motor that resides in...
The motor that resides in the car came from a '67 RO/WO race Hemi project. It's now fortified with all the race parts that had been on the other engine back in the day. W.D. originally just wanted to buy the engine from the Challenger because it was the correct one for his Charger resto. To get the engine, he had to buy everything, and the Ro engine replaces the removed Charger engine. Confused yet?
In 1972, this master cylinder...
In 1972, this master cylinder aided in slowing down at 150 mph. it's also one of the reasons why the car has not yet gotten down the track since its discovery. W.D. thinks it would be safer to upgrade it.
Originally built by Cotton...
Originally built by Cotton Owens in 1971, this is a drag car that has not been on the racetrack since 1972. We're not even sure how much daylight it's seen. Dig that farout paint job, man.
Barn finds and vintage race cars seem to make everyone's heart beat just a little bit quicker, increasingly rare as they are these days. For W.D. Goad of Lexington, Virginia, coming upon this Dodge Challenger in July 2005 was completely unexpected. At the time, W.D. was working on restoring a Burgundy Red '68 Hemi Charger and had begun a search to find out if the original motor was still around.
"That's a long story," says W.D. with a grin. "I was searching the title history and had tracked down the original owner-Robert Crocker. His exwife had sold the Charger during their divorce proceedings." The engine was indeed still around, and Robert had put it to good use. He was a hands-on Mopar guy from Spartanburg, South Carolina, who spent his spare time working for NASCAR legend Cotton Owens. (Robert's real job was with the phone company.) After doing a bit of street racing with his Charger, he bit the bullet in 1971 and asked Cotton to help him build something a little stronger. The result is what you see here. This is not just some old acid-tripper from back in the day; it is a real Owens-built Gas-class drag machine, complete with parts and pieces from some of the biggest names in Mopar history.
The project started life with a factory-supplied body-in-white '71 Challenger that was one of two such cars Cotton picked up directly from Detroit in the spring of 1971; the other one was reportedly turned into a street machine.
When the Challenger was started, the Hemi came out of the Charger at that point and was rebuilt for this car. It would benefit from some serious speed parts that likely originated from Ted Spehar's workshop through the late Don Carlton, including a set of Hilborn injectors, a tach-drive Ramchargers magneto, and Ramchargers motor plates. Carlton also came through with a Lakewood bellhousing for the Clutchflite transmission and a factory narrowed-and-assembled Dana 60, complete with a 5.38 gear set. Then Sox & Martin sold Robert a Milodon oil pan outfit and a set of Airhart front disc brakes; the worked 727 Torqueflite came directly from Fairbanks.
Meanwhile, Cotton and his crew were busy on the body and suspension. Working with plans supplied by Carlton, they built a drag-racing cage similar to that used in the '71 Motown Missile, but added a few NASCAR tricks to it. Since the car was not going to be raced in Pro Stock, the rear floor and seat area are completely open (no metal behind the driver's area or between the wheeltubs). The car also got a rack-and-pinion steering outfit and some reworking of the firewall for engine placement.
The price on the wild paint job is something that Robert couldn't recall, though he did remember he brought airbrush artist Doug James a case of beer every few days as it was being sprayed. Doug, from Lyman, South Carolina, outdid himself, putting on layers of multihued lacquer in all sort of cosmic shapes. The finishing touch was a mural painted on the decklid.
Hard Parts via the Bus Among...
Hard Parts via the Bus
Among the pieces that W.D. Goad picked up from Robert Crocker were several items that had been purchased as spares and still in the original boxes. Shown here is a full-tilt, brand-new Hemi crankshaft still in the box it came in. it was shipped via a Continental Trailways bus on 3-12-72 from Petty Enterprises in Randleman, North Carolina, to Cotton Owens Enterprises in Spartanburg. In the days before FedEx, we'd have to say this method of shipping was . . . well, enterprising!
When's the last time you saw...
When's the last time you saw one of these? Ok, how many of you actually know what it is? It's a timing retard/advance. The driver could retard the timing to help start the engine, and during a run, he could advance it for more power. It's a precursor to the electronic timing controls of today.
The new '72 models came out before the Dodge was finished, so a '72 grille and rear panel were added as well. The car was raced, but only briefly. In addition to cranking off a few easy passes at Spartanburg Dragway, Robert admitted it may have jousted on the city streets a time or two.
However, Robert's wife became pregnant in 1972 and with those new responsibilities, he pulled the engine and transmission out of the car and parked it in the garage until the day W.D. Goad came calling looking to finish up his Hemi car.
"I really only wanted the motor," says W.D. "This thing and a bunch of parts were sitting there, but Robert really wasn't interested in selling just one piece-it was all or nothing. So we ended up reaching a price we could both live with, and I dragged all this stuff back home. I was originally thinking about converting the Challenger into a Pro Stock clone with Motown Missile-type paint since the paint that is on it is pretty crazy. However, now I'm considering keeping it the way it is as a history piece."
W.D. is no stranger to drag racing, including IHRA's radical Pro Mod class. A body and paint shop owner by trade, he has spent his recent years in more street-based programs. Meanwhile, the engine that had been in this car was obviously going back into the restoration, meaning another Hemi would have to go into the Challenger.
W.D. says, "I had a few pieces, including a '67 model race Hemi that Marvin Hughes built for Super Stock racing. We pulled all the race parts off the '68 motor and swapped them onto that engine. I figured out how the injectors worked, and, with some help from the internet, fired up the motor before we put it down into the car."
Since the car has sat since 1972, things like the transmission and brakes will need to be gone through before the car is ready for a blast down the quarter-mile. However, this Challenger is a time capsule of early '70s race technology with a little circle track engineering thrown in for good measure, and proves there are still rare cars out there. You just have to locate them, and, like W.D., you may end up getting more than you bargained for.
'71 Challenger Race Car &bull: W.D. Goad • Lexington, VA
The original factory-supplied...
The original factory-supplied gas tank is long gone. Each run down the track will get the needed witches brew from this fuel tank. Note the monster filter underneath.
The Challenger had the original Hemi out of the Charger that W.D. was restoring, but he had to buy the entire car in order to get it. Once home, he decided to replace the engine with a '67 vintage RO mill built by Marvin Hughes, using the old race parts such as the Hilborn injectors, Ramchargers magneto and motorplate, Milodon oil pan, and the Hooker headers from the first Hemi.
Transmission: Since it is a race car with a lot of Hemi under the hood, Fairbanks Performance Transmissions built the 727 in 1971, turning it into a ClutchFlite. It's not very street friendly, but it doesn't need to be. A Lakewood bellhousing holds it to the Hemi, and was there to keep things from flying all over the track and into the driver's compartment if it came apart.
Rearend: Do you remember when you could order a prebuilt and narrowed Dana 60 directly through Mopar Performance? it was an option, and one Cotton and Robert took advantage of. It's filled with 5.38 gears, and we're pretty sure they are not mounted on an open differential.
Horsepower & Performance: Although no one seems to remember how fast the car ran during its few passes down the track, we would really like to hear about the "jousting" that was done on the street.
Doug James' psychedelic paint...
Doug James' psychedelic paint scheme is still intact. Owner W.D. Goad, a bodyman by trade, admits it's a little crazier than he would like.
Suspension: In 1971, the Challenger was built for one purpose-racing. The front suspension is basically stock, with the addition of a rack-and-pinion steering system. the inner fenders were removed, which meant the new shock mounts had to be added to the chrome-moly cage struts. The rear suspension is all old-school mopar with a Dana 60 and leaf springs. It all hangs from custom-built framerails.
Brakes: Although state of the art in 1971, the Airhart brake system is still on the car, which makes W.D. a bit nervous about making a full pass in the car. The single pot master cylinder operates the Airhart discs up front and the factory drums on the rear.
Wheels: In 1971, aluminum slots were all the rage. They're still on the car. So are the American 10-spokes in front.
Rubber: Nothing but vintage stuff here. Good Year 8.00-15.00x15-inch slicks on the back, and standard street rubber up front. These are the same tires installed in 1971.
Body: Chrysler body-in-white, designed specifically for race car applications. This is one of two shipped to Cotton Owens' place. The whereabouts of the other is unknown.
There's very little inside...
There's very little inside except a Cotton Owens fabricated dash with a couple of gauges, a B&M shifter, and lots of chrome-moly tubing.
The Dana 60 was narrowed and...
The Dana 60 was narrowed and sold though Chrysler Performance Parts back in the day. Notice absence of rear floorpans-unsafe, but made the car lighter.
Paint: It was the '70s, man, nothing but hallucinogen-induced colors used. We're not sure where painter Doug James got his inspiration, but he was definitely inspired.
Interior: It's all race car and unrestored. A roll cage, a couple switches, a couple gauges, and one seat are all that was required. The absence of a rear floor aids in emergency escape if the car lands on its lid. We're sure that's not the reason the floor is gone, but it sounds good to us.