PRI 2011: Todd Werner Collection of Mopar Racing History Wows

It wasn’t very long ago in human history that the horses ridden by Generals and other revered heroes from the battlefields received the very same honors of a military funeral as the men who rode them. Even in the early 20th century, famed race horses were commemorated with top honors upon their passing. Oft times more recognized or remembered than the men who piloted them, these war horses stood for something far grander than the mere flesh that made them.

Sitting behind a fence of velvet ropes and brass poles, the war horses of a bygone era were on display at this year’s 2011 PRI Show in Orlando, Florida. Not that of horse hide or bone, but of acid-dipped steel and aluminum cylinder heads and intake manifolds.

Besides the living legend, Richard “The King Petty, whose ’70 Plymouth Superbird stood as at the head of the row, the remaining icons of Mopar’s Super Stock racing heyday who manned these machines have long since left us.

Bird of Prey

As mentioned, the uniquely blue winged Plymouth Superbird is far from the usual fare found collecting dust in dealer’s back lots. Following its Dodge Charger based predecessor, the ’69 Dodge Daytona, the following model year, the ’70 Superbird widely outsold its higher-in-demand older sibling. Unfortunately, the ‘Birds that ran the big track such as this #40 were a great deal different from their factory cohorts.

Bodies were lowered on their chassis several inches for increased aerodynamics and less drag. Bumpers and body seams were tucked in for the same reason. The interiors and much of everything else was heavily gutted and a labyrinth of tube steel comprised its high speed/impact resistant cage and subframe.

It's the kind of car only fit for a King...or 'The King' as it were.

A Pair of Killer Fish

Sox & Martin were comprised of Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin. Although Mr. Martin is still very much alive and well, his cohort, Ronnie passed away several years ago.

The two were a dynamic force in manufacturer drag racing – whether it be for Plymouth or any other make.

Ronnie Sox continually battled with fellow Mopar hot shoe, Herb McCandless for the title of “Mr. 4-Speed,” which both claim as their own.

Ronnie – who typically was found behind the wheel of the Sox & Martin Plymouths – was distinguished by his flaxen hair, slight build and effervescent personality.

Photographed almost always smiling, even while wrenching on his cross- or tunnel-rammed HEMIs between heats or standing arm-in-arm with “Ms. Golden Shifter” Linda Vaughn, Ronnie was as much a star as his red, white and blue Plymouths.

On display were the #2060 A023 Super Stock Barracuda and their “body-in-white” ’70 ‘Cuda, both of which are the nearly single-handedly responsible for the awe and hushed tones that accompany the words “HEMI ‘Cuda” and “Super Stock Barracuda.”

Sox & Martin were in the winner’s circle more times with these two cars than other racers throughout their career.

The '68 Barracuda is a true Hurst and Kar Kraft-built Factory Super Stock A023 car. Lightweight fenders, hood and other components all combine to make a durable featherweight package to perfectly house the rip-snortin' 426 HEMI.

The '70 'Cuda ran in Pro Stock, allowing a few more modifications to the then-new E-Body setup.

Mr. Dick Landy requires very little introduction. The heavy hitter and often lone-gunman for Dodge’s factory drag racing effort, Landy and his brother, Mike, were responsible for developing and campaigning the first A/FX Dodges, hosting and instructing Dodge’s performance seminars and making the words “HEMI Dart” synonymous with “earth-bound rocket ship.”

Here is one of Landy’s ’68 Dodge Darts; real lightweight, Kar Kraft-built factory available lightweight race cars.

These machines are the thing of legends and have been glorified as scale models, children’s toys, art work and T-shirts.

Hundreds of clones exist replicating Mr. Dick “Dandy” Landy’s exorbitantly fast A-Body Dart, and were solely responsible for people’s frustration with Dodge’s recent announcement that the “Dart” brand would be resurrected on a FWD four-door commuter car.

The ’68 Dart featured at the PRI Show in Orlando, Florida, drew in puzzled glaces, knowing admiration and curious lookieloos. It’s signature silver, orange and blue paint scheme was matched with Landy’s impeccably-clean racing suits and iconic unlit cigar. It’s said Landy only lit one once, replying, “I didn’t like the taste.”

Landy would actively campaign more Dodges – such as his racing Coronet R/Ts, Charger R/Ts and of course, his ’70 Challenger – but the ’68 Dodge Dart with its barn door hood scoop and polish Cragar S/S rims will forever remain the thing of Mopar legend.

It's the real thing. A true legend driven by a legend.

About the author

Kevin Shaw

Kevin Shaw is a self-proclaimed "muscle car purist," preferring solid-lifter camshafts and mechanical double-pumpers over computer-controlled fuel injection and force-feeding power-adders. If you like dirt-under-your-fingernails tech and real street driven content, this is your guy.
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