While a lot of racers probably won't admit it, drag racing is an addictive sport. Jack Werst knows all about it. After all, Jack was in the middle of the fray during the glory days of factory racing in the '60s, moving from Super Stock to Pro Stock. By 1972, when the Detroit conduit was running dry, Jack wisely decided it was time to do something else. After leaving Chrysler, he went to work for Winnebago Industries-a career spanning 20 years-before returning to a dragstrip. Now, with a couple of years back in the saddle in a Max Wedge car built by Jerry Stein, "Mr. 5 and 50" is loading fuel into a Hemi again.
As recounted in the historical story that accompanies this car feature, the A990 Plymouth that Jack drove in 1965 and 1966 was no slouch. After all, he had none less than Bill "Da Grump" himself Jenkins spinning wrenches on those first 426 drag machines, and Werst was a pretty good shoe. To his recollection, the only time the car didn't live up to its reputation as a winner was at the NHRA Nationals in Indianapolis, where mechanical problems sidelined him both seasons. Still, of all the storied cars in his career, the '65 was his favorite, so his obvious choice was to move back into the dome-chamber brigade.
As luck would have it, Joe Smith of Dallas is building full-tilt '65 Hemi car replicas. Since the car would be running in Nostalgia Super Stock instead of the more intense NHRA/IHRA version, it was a perfect solution. Therefore, the body was built just like in the old days, with a 115-inch wheelbase, lightweight body stampings, and corning glass. Smith also did the tin work, adding tubs to support larger rubber in the back and a 12-point cage to keep Jack out of trouble if the car got out of shape. Inside were the JAZ seats, a Grant steering wheel, Simpson belts, and Autometer gauges.
Suspension technology is light years from what it was in 1966, and Jack took full advantage of it. Mopar shocks help support the front, and the traction factor out back is a Joe Smith ladder-bar suspension tricked out by S&W Racecars. Mickey Thompson rubber is on all four corners, riding on Centerline Convo Pro rims, and braking duties are accomplished with Wilwood brakes. The next 5 and 50 is covered in the '65 option Spanish Red Metallic paint sprayed by Media Camping Center, and it sports gold-leaf lettering by Motor Sportz Creative in Novi, Michigan. About the only difference between this car and his original is that it rides a lot better.
Did we mention it's fast? After the Grump decided he really wanted to be a Chevy guy, others aptly filled the shoes and are now premier builders of the big ol' pachyderm. One of those is Ray Barton, who held a number of records during the '90s. Werst called on Ray to create an iron lung for the Plymouth, which sent the dyno needle to-brace yourself-898 horses! The new Hemi block is overbored .070, and Ray's magicians brewed up a combination that uses 13.5 compression JE pistons, Barton-designed Manley rods, and a Comp Cams roller grind that . . . well, let's just say it works.