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Danny's Corner

Pro Stock’s "Old Car" Resurrection

by Danny White (11/97)

The 1970s were the halcyon days of Pro Stock and what worked today might be gone tomorrow. The subject of this story will concentrate on the long wheelbase resurrection of the first generation Pro Stockers, the 1970 Mustangs, the 1969 Camaros, and the lone'69 Dart. In 1975 the powers to be at NHRA had weight breaks for every different type of combination, it seemed. The weight breaks were for small car/small block engine, big car/big block engine, small car/big block engine, and big car/small block engine. The different car companies all had different weight breaks for their engines to make it even more confusing. The rules at the start of 1975 had been taking away from the Pinto/Cleveland engine combination with a 6.90 pounds per cubic inch requirement but longer wheelbase cars could run at 6.45 pounds per cubic inch. The cars made at that time by Ford really did not fit into the category of sporty cars that might be considered race cars. They forgot to tell the racers that -- the most famous of the cars to take NHRA up on their weight break was the Gapp & Roush Tijuana Taxi 75 Maverick. Wayne Gapp and Jack Roush found that they had a 100-pound weight advantage running the four-door Maverick over their Pinto.

The current year models are not what my story is about, however. Somewhere around the same time, the year rule, which had been four years from last year of manufacture, was waved. The disappearance of this rule, the reason why I have not been able to find, led to some of the neatest cars ever built for Pro Stock. The Fords built using the new rules had weight breaks in mind and soon disappeared after the ruled were changed. Some of the racers who built 1970 Mustangs were Don Nicholson, Bob Glidden, and the Marriott Brothers. Dyno Don Nicholson had Don Hardy of Floydada, Texas, build his 1970 Mustang using the 366 Cleveland Ford for power. The car was raced only a couple times, running a known best of 8.93 at 145 mph. Don had the car rebuilt into a Mustang II not long after the Winternationals in Pomona. Bob Glidden also had his 1970 Mustang built by Don Hardy and the 366 Cleveland Ford built by himself. Bob 's car was sleek and very trick using all the tricks of the day. The car was built high in the back and real low in the front.

Bob was more successful with his "old" new car than Nicholson running an 8.76 at 154.63 mph. Bob quickly sold his car after the weight break was taken away. Bob was going through cars very quickly during this time, using a couple of Pintos, a Mustang II, a Chevy Monza (!), and the 1970 Mustang. Luckily, the car did not disappear completely. The Glidden car was sold to New Jersey-based Pro Stock racer Larry Sengstack. Larry, it seemed, followed the beat of his own drummer, using the rare SOHC engine to propel the star-spangled Mustang. The car did not qualify at the U.S. Nationals, running in the nines. Larry went back to his Pinto for the next year, running local Pro Stock races.

The Marriott Brothers did not start out to run a 1970 Mustang -- it just happened that way. The Marriott Brothers with driver Bobby Lee Marriott had raced a 1973 Camaro on the Texas Pro Stock Circuit, unsuccessfully. At the same time, Rick Brantley of Gunrunner Pro Stock fame was having a new car built to replace his Pinto. Rick did not want a normal Ford, so he chose the Shelby Mustang to be built by Dallas-based car builder Joe Smith. While in the process of having the car built, Rick retired from Pro Stock and ironically would end up the president of a Nova club. The Marriotts bought the car and finished it in 1976. The car had a Gapp & Roush 366 Cleveland for power and was very successful in Division 4 and AHRA races. The best elapsed time we have is a questionable 8.65 at 154.63 mph from Green Valley Race City. The car was sold in 1977 and the Marriotts bough Scott Shafiroff's Mustang II to replace the unique Shelby. The Marriott Brothers would end their career in Pro Stock with a Camaro, going full circle.

The Mopars of that era all seemed to be the same -- they were Dusters or Darts (formerly known as Demons) -- all except for one. The lone outcast of the Mopars was Dean Tait and his 68 Dart. Dean may be more famous as a company executive, or as the brother of Brian Tait, a Super Stock legend. During the seventies Dean made a name for himself racing his Hemi Dart against newer and more advanced cars with some success. The Dart was a built for A/MP originally but Dean would run Pro Stock when the need arose. Dean was runner up at Bakersfield in 1973 and ran the car through 1977. The best we have Dean running is a 9.76 at 139.76 mph, but he probably ran better than that. The times Tait ran may seem slow, but you have to remember this was a real factory Dart with a true four speed!

The'69 Camaros run during the mid-seventies were not fielded by teams with big budgets or for weight breaks but because the teams were purists to the early model body style. Don Lorentzen from California would definitely be called a purist. Don Lorentzen raced Pro Stock from 1970 to 1977 according to our files. The car he ran all those years was a 1969 Camaro with a 427 Chevrolet for power, updating from time to time to keep pace with other Division 7 Pro Stockers. The best times we have Don running is are 9.29 at 145.63 mph. A strong running 1969 Camaro from the great northwest was the black Camaro of Gene McKinney. The car, based out of Washington, was a show shopper indeed and ran nicely also. DragList.com files show that he ran an 8.66 at 153.03 mph in 1979, but that time could be from a newer car. The best times I have found for the'69 Camaro were low nines run during 1976. Jack Manchester was a Pro Stock racer from both sides of the fence as an owner and driver. Jack now is best known for owning the car in which Kevin Rotty set a national record at 8.49 and was runner up at Pomona that year. Jack had a 1969 Camaro that he ran during the mid seventies on the West Coast. The car was a chassis twister and ran a good 9.10 at 140 mph plus. Jack raced this car and drove a new 1976 Camaro for the Milwee race team with more success than the'69 Camaro.

The most trick 1969 Camaro of the mid-seventies had to be car of Texan Harry Hronas. The car was built by Joe Smith and was loaded with the latest technology. Harry Hronas was a very popular racer in local Texas Pro Stock races and on the defunct AHRA circuit he frequented. Harry ran the car for a while then debuted a Monza. He brought back the Camaro, however, due to personal taste and the fans’ love for the 1969 Camaro. The Camaro is listed as running a best of 9.17 at 148 mph even though he did record some questionable 8.90 clockings. The Monza ran better than the Camaro with times in the 8.80’s. Harry Hronas still runs Performance Machine in Mesquite, Texas, catering to bracket and dirt track racers equally. His son Pete Hronas is host of a radio talk show about racing on 570 KLIF that can be heard on the web Sunday nights.

These Pro Stockers had to be my favorite Pro Stockers of all time due to their sharp appearance and the fact that they were not just another run of the mill Pinto, Mustang II, Vega, Monza, or Duster. 

'Til next time, Danny


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