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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Super Camaro and Son

40 Years of Drag Racing Memories

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 going to run it in installments. Here is installment one. 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

1961. May 26, a Friday. My mom's giving birth to me. Where's my dad? He's getting an escort to the hospital, courtesy of the Wyandotte police. Seems he was out, running with the "gang" in their "Bad Banana." You know the story, baddest car in town just ask him. They ran on the "ID" in River Rouge at Great Lakes Steel. Well he's coming down Jefferson a little fast and convinces the officer who stopped him that he was just in a rush to get to the hospital. Lucky for my dad, it was true, as the officer came to the hospital to verify. Let him off with a warning. That's what I was born into!

It's 1964. I'm three. My dad is always working on cars. He rebuilds transmissions for Harold Lang in Ecorse. After work, he's always going to some garage to work on some "hot" car. (Not stolen).

He has a 1955 Chevy, Nassau Blue. He put a 327 "fuelie" motor in it he got from a totaled out Vette. We make a trip to Detroit Dragway, my first memory of it! I don't know what the car ran, but I remember seeing cars race four abreast!

By 1965, the car had been stolen. That same year my dad went into business for himself, opening Melvindale Transmission. Shortly after that, the car was found, but it had been parted out and the rest burned.

1967. My dad has worked very hard to build up the business and business is good. During the summer and weekends, I'm allowed to be at the shop with my dad. One Saturday a couple of guys walk in. I could tell my dad knew them, by how he greeted them. My dad is pouring trans fluid into a car and I'm standing in front. My dad asks the one guy to go and start the car up. His name is Ray Gallagher. The other guy walks over by me and tells me "never stand in front of a running car." His name is Joe Natt. I'll never forget him telling me that. Joe has treated me like a son, ever since and I'll always respect him for it.

Well, these guys are talking about the dragster Ray has been driving, something about nitro in a wedge motor. Turns out Ray was driving a dragster called "Top Cat" and another one called "Pandemonium." Apparently, he had crashed the latter one. Ray then goes on to tell my dad that, he's having a funny car built. I have no idea what he's talking about. He asks my dad to build a "Hemi" Torqueflite tranny for it. My dad agrees.

1968. My dad gets a phone call from his buddy, Pete Gentile. He says that he knows a guy selling a really clean 1955 Chevy, but it is a real ugly brown color. My dad goes and checks it out. Turns out, the car is spotless and that ugly brown is actually a beautiful gold. My dad buys the car and brings it to the Trans shop. He did what seemed to me like all kinds of work to this car. The paint and body were spotless, so it was just mechanical things he did.

He installed a 5:57 ring & pinion and put on the tallest and widest M&H slicks that would fit. He installed heavier springs in the front so the front end would set up higher. The tires were mounted on Ansen chrome dish slotted wheels. He removed the front bumper. One unusual thing he did was to install the Black leather seats out of a T-Bird; the rear was that "cocktail" wraparound style, with buckets up front.

He had a 283 that had been bored out to 4 inches. My dad and his friends called them 301's, but Chevrolet put it in a Z-28 and called it a 302. It had 4-speed "Muncie" Trans and "Hooker" headers. The tow bar, which was made from a Ford model a wishbone, bolted up to the bumper brackets.

Early spring, we tow the "55" to Detroit Dragway. This is my first time back since 1964. They mark H/HR on the window with shoe polish. The car runs 13 0's and my dad wins a trophy, what a great day!

Still 1968, this is a very important year! Every week we race. There's some "Big" race coming up at Detroit, it's not just Sunday this time, we're going there Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Well we're flat towing the "55" with the El Camino as usual, except this time it's Friday. Coming down Sibley as we approach the track, I can't believe my eyes.

OH MY GOD! I can't believe my eyes! The colors, they're beautiful and they're on the hood, roof, and deck. How can I tell this? OH MY GOD! The body is sticking up in the air! Turns out to be Roger Lindamood's "Color Me Gone" 68 Charger. "Dad, Do they race like that?"

We get inside the track and I dart right over to the "Hot" pits. I'm in awe! I can't believe what I am seeing! My dad catches up with me and we head over to Ray's "Super Bear" 68 "Cuda"(the one my dad built the "Hemi" Torqueflite for). I'm looking over every inch of this car I'm overwhelmed! Then someone starts one of these beauties up.

OH MY GOD! The sound is incredible! The smell! My eyes start to water; I cover my ears and pinch my nose. Then "Rap" goes the throttle; I jump a foot off the ground! "Dad, We got to get one of these." Later when they go to race, they are given very special treatment, they don't get in the same line my dad has to put the "55" in, they cut right through the front! After they start up, they "peel out" across the starting line, "What are they doing?" Dad says it's a burnout. Everyone is on his or her feet. The cars line up finally and take off. They're so loud and fast. They have flames coming out. I've never seen anything like it! Why do they call them Funny Cars, Dad?

This memory started my total passion for Funny Cars, nothing else compares! I was 7 years old then and that passion burns just as great today!

Late 1968 (I told you it was a very important year). Having been to two major events at Detroit Dragway, with Funny cars there for 3 days each and my dad racing the "55" about every week, it has been the greatest summer of my life! Then, as if things aren't good enough, near the end of the season, Ray asks my dad if he would like to go in as partners and build a new funny car for 1969. I don't know if my dad took him serious or not, but he told him "yea, but it would have to be a Chevy." Ray said, "We'll build whatever you want." Well, that was it! I'm on cloud 9; we're going to have a funny car!

Oh My God! What kind of Chevy will it be? Ray says, "It's got to be a new Camaro." What color should it be "Got to be bright"? How about yellow or red? How about "Candy Apple Red"? What are we going to call it? What else? "Super Camaro."

Up Next: 1969

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

 

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