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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Dick Harrell's '67 Camaro, 1966-2003

By Dave Libby

There seems to be a little confusion about a funny car that I am pretty familiar with so I thought I might tell a story about it. There are many of you who are also somewhat familiar with it or you may think you are so maybe to clear up a few things, I put this on paper to share with you what I have personal knowledge of. 

It began its life in late 1966 as a "body in white" being shipped somewhat secretly in an enclosed truck along with another of the same, which was destined to be the first built and Dick's would be the number two in line. They were shipped from an unknown location from General Motors Corp. To Don Hardy's shop in Floydada TX. The first car finished became Kelly Chadwick's "Wild Thang". For the sake of this paper this will be the only reference to Kelly's car I will make to avoid confusion. Dick's car was finished in time for a first outing in late March or early April 1967. There are many structural differences in the two cars which there is no need to point out but construction pictures I have seen bear this out. Its configuration was simple it was a "real" car rear clip with the rear wheel wells moved forward approximately 8 inches and the front end extended approximately 15 inches. Its wheelbase then became 115 inches. It had an extended front end, doors, and trunk lid of fiberglass. All this was mounted on a 2x3 inch rectangular tube hand-built chassis typical of early funny car construction by Don Hardy.

With an all iron big block Chevrolet engine, a 400-turbo hydro and the reliable 57-64 Olds/Pontiac rear end, its weight was about 2300 pounds.

This car was the single most important car to bring Dick's name to prominence with the drag racing community nationwide, even though it was raced primarily in AHRA events it went match racing literally from coast to coast. It's red with a black simulated vinyl top were recognized everywhere it went. Its short injector stacks sticking out just slightly ahead of the windshield made it unique in the days of when a Camaro was fairly new on the streets not to mention its stretched wheelbase. 

Later in the year a blower was added which improved its performance considerably to say the least.

I will not attempt to put a date on the blower installation because I am not certain of an exact date so I will only say sometime in the July/August as an approximate time frame.

This car served Dick well and had a very good win/loss ratio. Dick sold the 67 when his new "fliptop" 68 car was delivered. Therein lies the start of the confusing existence of this car, the party who contracted to buy the 67 failed to pay Dick for it, however during the time it was in his possession it was to be the car a new AMT model car was to be patterned after and AMT through means unknown (at least to me) painted the car. It became a (IMHO) a beautiful pearl yellow with a "fade" of red from the door crease line down to the rocker panels, The black top was retained and it had a popular for the era black stripe around the front header with gold lace painted in it.

Now Dick was a very patient man but after a while when no payment for his 67 was coming he just sent Charlie to "pick it up" and he did so. Now along about this time Dick saw the need to "put this car back together," which meant the building of a new engine and getting a couple of new transmissions from B&M. To make a long story short that happened in fairly short order and Dick had the car re-lettered and it was ready to make its way back to the races. The original intention for it was to use it as a "fill in car" to satisfy match race appearances Dick had and when Charlie had the "new" car at another location. As it turned out both Dick and Charlie ran the "old car" at many locations in it's now yellow/black paint. You can't have a car in two places at the same time. This car solved that problem for the time being.

(FWIW) references in this writing to "Charlie" mean Charlie Therwhanger whom I regard as a friend then and now, even if I never get to see him again.

After some time doing this, Dick contracted to borrow another fliptop car from a friend of his and did so. (That is another story).

The 67 was again sold, this time to Bruce Neff who had it repainted a sort of orange/red and the black top was again retained along with the stripe around the front header and the car became known as "The Stroker." I understand that he raced it for a long while with good results. As a side note here I might add this was a great car and was nearly like driving a street car it handled so well and making three runs for a match race was a lot of fun. In hind sight I wish I had the sense to buy it at the time when I had the chance but as they say live and learn.

Whom Bruce sold it to when he was through racing it is unknown to me however whoever it was raced it only for a short time (according to the present owner) after changing its color to a medium blue. It was seen as the "Super Streaker" in its blue paint and after an undetermined time (as of this writing) it actually just sat for lack of a better term for me to use.

It wound up being advertised in a "car trader " type publication and bought by a fellow in Michigan for use as a bracket racer. This fellow has it today and only within the last couple of years or so discovered it's true past. It has been positively identified and he is restoring it to its original state as I write this. The fellow in Michigan has now had the car for nearly 25 years. It seems ironic that it took that long for someone to recognize a true piece of drag racing history. I refer to the present owner only as "the fellow" because he wishes to remain anonymous at the present time.

Who knows what else is still out there? If you find one of these gems get and preserve it better yet put it back together and get it going again even if you don't race it get it where we all can see it and relive a bit of the past. 

So there you have it, the how, why and what will be for one of Dick(ie) Harrell's Camaros.

Dave Libby
nhrafan@sound.net

 

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