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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Super Camaro and Son

1971: Goodbye Super Camaro; Hello Trader Ray

By Perry S. Wyatt, Jr.

Perry Wyatt, Sr., and the Super Camaro. Photo thanks to Perry Wyatt, Jr.
Perry Wyatt, Sr., and the Super Camaro. Photo thanks to Perry Wyatt, Jr.

Perry S. Wyatt, Jr., has put together a great story for his dad, Perry Wyatt, Sr., who owned and tuned the Super Camaro funny car. He kindly consented to share his story with Draglist.com readers. As it spans 40 years, we are running it in installments. Check out the links at the bottom to navigate the entire story. Perry is looking for any info on his dad's old funny car, the Super Camaro. If you know of any info or photos, please drop him a line. bp

1971. The "Super Camaro" is history. Ray had sold the car and my dad had decided not to go in on a new car. Ray had pretty much given up on the idea of driving anymore and decided he was going to hire a driver.

Enter Dwane Ong. Oh yea, I remember this guy. Last season at Detroit Dragway, I saw him; he had this red, white, and blue dragster, with the engine in the back, called "Pawnbroker."

Well maybe a little history is in order here, as seen through my eyes. We all lived in Lincoln Park: Ray, Dwane and us. My dad stored his "55" in a garage during the winter at a house on Buckingham St. Right next door, there was this guy that raced dragsters and his parents owned a hardware store, right next door to a Big Boy restaurant. The dragster he had, I found out later, was purchased from the "Ramchargers." The "Ramchargers" were in Allen Park, less than 10 minutes from our house in Lincoln Park. (Well actually they were in Taylor on the west side of Allen rd., had they been on the east side they would have been in Allen Park)

Anyway, Dwane had this dragster called "Pawnbroker" (I have pictures I got from his nephew in 1991) that he then got the Big Boy restaurant to sponsor. So now, it wasn't the "Pawnbroker" anymore.

Woody Gilmore built the dragster and of course, it had a "Ramchargers" engine, but Dwane knew how to work on it. I don't know the details, but Dwane had a working relationship with the "Ramchargers" and they hooked him up with Woody Gilmore. This made Dwane a firm believer in "Ramchargers" engines and Woody Gilmore chassis.

As you all know, Woody Gilmore had this idea about a rear engine dragster. He had asked Dwane if he was interested in one. Dwane was all over the idea and he received one of three that Woody built. Dwane did not have the Big Boy sponsorship anymore, hence the "Pawnbroker" name returned and most of you know the history that car created.

1971. I think it happened sooner and I don't know all of the details, but here is what I do know. Ray approached Dwane about driving a funny car for him. Dwane agreed, but told Ray that the car would have to be the way he wanted it. Ray said, "I'll supply the money and I want the best of everything." Dwane took him at his word.

Ray was introduced to Woody Gilmore; a deposit was left, with instructions to build a "state of the art" funny car! Dwane was sized up and Woody was told "to build it like you were building it for yourself."

What would this car be called? Well Ray finally got off the "Super" kick and decided on a name that reflected him as he wouldn't be driving it, but wanted everyone to know who owned it. I told you Ray was into used cars and he had a nickname, that everyone called him, because of it.

Hence the birth of the "Trader Ray" funny car!

1971. Ray spared no expense (where was this attitude, when partnered with my dad?); the "Trader Ray" would have the best of everything!

A Woody Gilmore chassis, a Ramchargers 426, a Lenco 2 speed, a Kirby paint job, even this latest rear end a "live" axle they called it (had a tube axle you could look though from one side to the other and knock off spinners to hold the rear wheels on), plus a "hired" driver.

A brand new Chevy one ton dually, stretched and a ramp added by Louie Oleynik with a twin size sleeper, all state of the art at the time.

Like I said though, racing didn't change for me, I still only went to Detroit Dragway, except my dad doesn't race anymore, so we only went when the F/C events came. There were two major races every summer at Detroit and sometimes a special match race event.

When we would go out with the "Trader Ray" car to Detroit, it was just like before. I would get to ride the ramp truck, plus Ray had handouts for this car and I would pass them out.

The "Trader Ray" ran in the sixes right away. It set the track record at Detroit Dragway almost every pass it made. It would swap back and fourth with the "Ramchargers" or "Color Me Gone." This was also the summer that Shirley Muldowney ran a 71 Mustang body F/C on Connie's old Logghe chassis and I saw her for the first time.

On a little side note, every F/C that was anybody at all ran at Detroit Dragway one time or another during this era. Up until 1978, I believe that was the last year that "Nitro" F/C's ran there (only BB/FC after that).

Anyway, back to the "Trader Ray," this car was a contender right away, not just another also ran. I remember the joke around the shop was the Ramchargers asking Dwane how he outran them with their own engine (Dwane had secrets I'll discuss later).

Dwane established a real good friendship with my dad, while he took care of the engine himself; he always had my dad service the trans and the rear end. I remember him asking my dad if he could work on the Lenco, my dad told him there wasn't a transmission made that he couldn't work on.

First time he had the Lenco apart, I remember him saying that it was just a fancy automatic, that is manually shifted and at that time still had some crossover parts from stock automatics. Dwane also prescribed zero clearance on the ring gear, for the rear end, so that's how my dad would set it up.

Dwane quickly got nicknamed the "ditch digger" by the guys around the car, because he seemed to put the car in the ditch at Detroit on more than one occasion.

The one time was a Tuesday night, because Sunday's event had rained out. He was in the left lane and toward the top end the car veered of the track and drove the ditch past the finish line. The body was completely destroyed and the car was a mess (I have some pictures).

Mind you, this was Tuesday, and Indy was that weekend coming. Dwane surveyed the damage and told Ray to get on the horn, about a replacement body. The thrash was on!

1971. Tuesday night after the crash. The car was loaded on the ramp truck and Dwane took it right back to his house on Buckingham St. The body (what was left of it) was thrown over in the yard. The car was rolled into Dwane's garage and striped to the bare bones.

My dad loaded the rear end and tranny in his truck and took them to the Trans. shop the next morning.

Wednesday, Ray had a body lined up and sent Jerry Shields with the ramp truck to Chicago to get it. Jerry got back, late Wednesday night and Ray had arranged for Tom Smith (good ol' Tom) to "tin" the body and mount it.

Tom worked all night to get this done (Tom really is a great guy). Thursday morning, Jerry brings the body back to Ray's shop. Ray has a sign painter there waiting to letter the car. Body was in the gel coat and Dwane wanted pertinent info on the car, plus Ray wanted the name back on it, even though it would be temporary.

Jerry was then sent over to Dwane's, to load the car. My dad had delivered the Trans. and rear end back to Dwane Wednesday night.

Dwane had finished up the engine Thursday. The car was put back together. No damage was done to the chassis. Tom had checked it out! Later that evening, Dwane and Jerry showed up with the car at Ray's shop.

I had been at Ray's shop all day Thursday. I watched as the sign guy made a template off the side of what was left of the body and transfer that to the new body. He worked all day and painted on as many "elements" as time would allow, of course including the required info to compete at Indy.

Now the really cool part, I got to sit in the car as they pushed it into the shop and I steered! (Remember, I was 10 at the time). They finished putting the body on the car and loaded it up on the ramp truck.

Dwane and Jerry went back to Dwane's house and finished loading the truck. They took showers and then left for Indy.

I have an 8x10 in black and white that I just got a year ago, of the "Trader Ray" leaving the line, with Buster in the background, it is from that time with the body in gel coat and temporary lettering.

Ray left Friday morning. Over the weekend, my dad gets a call from Ray; they were the number two qualifier, Incredible!

1971. There are a couple of stories I remember being talked about from Indy, but not sure if it was 71 or 72 when either happened.

First, I'm sure 71 was when they qualified #2, but then after that not sure which story goes with which race.

Anyway, the one story is Dwane meeting Danny Ongais, in Big John's car and the lights foul up and they have to rerun, only to have the lights foul up again! Third time Ongais won and lights were ok that time. The first two runs, Dwane had won.

Other story is about "Trader Ray" car being touted as a stock stoke 426 and the only one in attendance, even had another racer call them on it, Dwane said $300 and I'll drop the pan, dude didn't take him up on it. It was a 526!

I told you Dwane had his own tricks to make his Ramchargers engine outrun the "Ramchargers." I was told Dwane filled his Ramchargers engine with Ed Pink parts, whatever those could have been!

End of season, Ray orders new car from Gilmore for next year!

Up Next: 1972, 1973
Previous: 1970

Perry S. Wyatt, Jr.
perryswyattjr@aol.com

 

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