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Drag Racing Stories
Oct 29, 2005

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Special To Drag List:


Dick Harrell Cars and Stars Highlight 2005 Forge Musclecar Show


By Geoff Stunkard


An overview of the Forge Show; the two cars in the foreground are George Roland’s survivor blue Hemi’cuda and Matt Harlow’s black 440-4 version.


There is not a lot that can upstage the Mopar Hemis, the Yenko Camaros, the 427 Thunderbolts, and the GS Buicks, but promoter Tim Lopata and his crew pulled out all of the stops this year. So, in addition to the 70+ pristine musclecars on hand, Lopata, together with Valerie Harrell, daughter of the late Dick Harrell, and her close friend Dale Pulde, brought in the stars and cars that had made her father a household name back in the day.


Some of the original Dick Harrell crew, family members, and friends in front of Matt Murphy’s original Harrell funny car. From left to right – Dale Pulde, Jennifer Harrell, Jimmy Elgan, Valerie Harrell, Dave Libby, Buddy Rice, Elaine Harrell, and Matt Murphy.


These included original crew members like Dave Libby, Jimmy Elgan, Buddy Rice, and former Harrell Super Stock racers Jack Walker and Harry Kalwei. It also included Dick’s wife Elaine, Valerie, and her daughter Jennifer. Along one long row in the Gaylord Opryland convention center were many of Dick’s cars. These included the real 1968 and 1969 funny cars, Kalwei much-modified Nova, and Bill Porterfield’s well-known ZL1 #1, which also won the 1971 AHRA World title under the tutelage of Jim Hayter. There were street cars as well, including Ray Morrison’s one-owner 1968 427 Nova, a similar example just completed by Dave Belk, and three late model Dick Harrell Signature machines courtesy GMMG and Matt Murphy. Coupled with a couple other Camaros, it was by far the largest tribute to the man who earned the title ‘Mr. Chevrolet’ before his untimely death in an at-speed funny car accident at Toronto in 1971.


Ray Morrison’s one-owner Dick Harrell Nova.


Of course, there WERE the Hemi and big inch Mopars, including a Don Grotheer ’68 Cuda, and Sox & Martin ’68 Cuda, and several street cars. Among these were Kevin Hand’s 1968 Mr. Norm 440 Dart, Dale Mathews’ unrestored Hemi Road Runner factory pilot car, and W.D. Goad’s pair of Burgundy Red ’68 Hemi Chargers.


For Ford fans, the race machinery included Dan and Mary Girolomo’s 1968 Gas Rhonda Cobra Jet Super Stock restoration, Jim Barillaro’s ex-Jack Chrisman Comets from 1965 and 1967, and the 1964 cars of Larry Davis and Larry Short. Street iron included Lee Deamon’s 429 1970 Cobra Torino, Pete and Sandy Robinson super-rare 427 Comet 202 from 1967, and Shelby Mustangs from Roy Mundy, Carl Todd and others.


Chrisman’s Comets courtesy Jim Barillaro.


Todd also brought in a 1968 Camaro with a Smokey Yunick engine; Rickie Smith had an experimental Smokey Yunick motor in the 1972 Vega he owns. Smith also did the restoration on Kevin Hand’s Vega wagon, a four-barrel four-cylinder sold through the Yenko dealership franchise. Other Camaros were too numerous to mention, but they included Ron Norman’s Nickey-modified Z28, Matt Murphy’s just-located Berger 454, and Cliff Ernst’s Olympic Gold ’69 Yenko Camaro, an original Super Stock magazine test car which driver Ed Hedrick autographed over the weekend. One final car of note was John Maher’s race-prepped ZL1 Corvette.  


Ed Hedrick signs Cliff Ernst’s SS&DI Yenko Camaro test car.


The other GM products included Colin Comer’s 1965 GTOs, one a Hurst Giveaway seen in that year’s Hurst advertising, the other a real pace car for the Riverside 500. Buicks were represented by John Chamberlain’s 1970 Stage 1 show car, Mark Reeves Motion-modified GSX, and more.


Super Stock circa 1968 display – Gas Rhonda, Don Grotheer, and Sox & Martin.


Cliff Ernst hosted a special gathering at his private showroom on Saturday night, where Lopata, together with collectors like Gary Holub and Dave Belk, announced that special Super Car Fest, for those Chevrolet vehicles that were COPO-released or dealership modified back in the day, would be held in conjunction with the 2006 running of the Forge Invitational Muscle Car Show. Log onto www.detroithorsepower.com for the latest information on dates and locations.... and BE THEREEEE..... 


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