1965 Dodge Altered Wheelbase: Ripples from the Past
https://www.hotrod.com/articles/1965-do ... ples-past/
More Photos: http://www.thehemi.com/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=14359Sensing an opportunity when hearing the news, the rival AHRA accepted Chrysler’s new altered wheelbase cars. At their season opener, these new FXers dominated as expected and were an instant sensation. Fans nationwide wanted to see these “funny looking” outlaws. Match races played out in front of capacity crowds everywhere.
As demand skyrocketed, Chrysler made nearly all of the special frame, suspension, powertrain, and body pieces available that were used in building these first factory racers available through their dealerships. In the end, the number of altered wheelbase Coronets and Belvederes that were racing went far beyond the original 12 that were built.
Car collector Nick Smith remembers those days not only as an enthusiast, but as a fellow racer as well. It was something he never forgot as seen by his interest in owning Strickler’s original 1965 Dodge Coronet A/FX pictured here.
“I raced in the ’60s with and against some of the them, but knew I wasn’t going to make a living from a drag racing career,” Smith said in looking back, “but when that gets in your blood, it doesn’t go away.”
With a lot of diligent work and some luck, Steve Atwell, Dick Towers, and Jim Kramer together chased down multiple leads before eventually finding the car in a chicken coop. Atwell was able to acquire the racer and do a complete restoration before it took up residence in the Chrysler Museum in Detroit.
“When I found out about the car and saw it, it was in the museum,” Smith continued. “I expressed interest in buying it and, after several months, was able to negotiate a deal to get it. Hemi Eddie Strzelecki then did some minor work of the car to keep the car as authentic as possible.
At the NHRA Spring Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee — the first ever major event on the East Coast — Strickler won a special “Match Bash” exhibition class with a 10.64 at 134.73 mph. That win was advertised nationally by Champion spark plugs. Strickler later followed that up by making the final round of the first ever Super Stock Nationals against Sox & Martin. Once again, Chrysler was winning the minds and hearts of the everyday new car buyer.
By the end of 1965, both Strickler and Jenkins were back with Chevrolet, ending their short two-year run with Chrysler. Their altered wheelbase car would end up in the hands of Chuck McJury of Syracuse, New York, who ran it for another two years before it disappeared.
Strickler would go on to campaign a stretched wheelbase Corvette in match-race action, while continuing to run in Super Stock and hosting a series of high-performance clinics for the fans. He was behind the wheel of the Grumpy’s Toy Camaro in NHRA Pro Stock in 1971 before switching to a Chevy Vega two years later.
In the end, Strickler finished with 16 class championships and over 40 national records when it was all said and done. Sadly, Strickler died in 1985 just before his 45th birthday while Jenkins lived on until 2012. Along with the other Mopar factory team members, what they did reshaped drag racing.
Strickler’s Dodge is one of but a few tangible pieces of history remaining from a remarkable era in drag racing. The ripples from those times continue in our drag racing culture today as seen with the Dodge Hellcat, NHRA Factory Stock — and even TV’s Street Outlaws — and will doubtless continue on!
1965 Dodge Altered Wheelbase
Nick Smith; Stuart, FL
Type: 426ci Chrysler Hemi
Bore: 4.250 inches
Stroke: 3.750 inches
Cylinder heads: Chrysler hemispherical
Pistons: forged aluminum
Compression ratio: 13.0:1
Crank: factory forged steel
Rods: factory forged steel
Camshaft: experimental solid lifter
Valve Lift: not available
Duration: not available
Induction: Hilborn mechanical fuel injection
Exhaust: S&S custom headers
Cooling system: heavy duty
Transmission: Chrysler experimental four-speed aluminum case
Shifter: custom Hurst
Rear Axle: Dana 60 4.56 gearing
Front Suspension: special front torsion bars with stainless K-member
Rear Suspension: Mopar Super Stock extended leaf spring
Brakes, front: none
Brakes, rear: factory drum + parachute
WHEELS & TIRES
Wheels: American 4-inch magnesium (front); custom steel 8×15 rims (rear)
Tires: 6.50-15 Goodyear Super Cushion four-ply (front); 10.0-15 Dragmaster four-ply (rear)
I always enjoyed the look of those altered wheelbase HEMI cars!
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