If you're into the realm of drag racing at all, the name Keith Black needs no introduction.Regrettably, we lost Keith to brain cancer back in 1991, but the innovations and the mark he made on professional drag racing, particularly in regards to Fuelers and Funny Cars, will last forever.Keith actually began his career in performance engines with racing boat engines in the mid-forties.He then moved on to building race car engines on his own, and opened Keith Black Racing Engines out in California out in 1959. In 1962, friend Tommy Greer approached Keith to help him build the famed Greer-Black-Prudhomme Fuel dragster, and the rest, literally, is history.From that point forward, Keith Black became one of the nation's premier innovators with Hemi engines and before the decade was out, his aluminum Hemi engines were found in virtually every professional car in the sport.Throughout the last five four decades, Keith's name has been synonymous with the most powerful Hemis on the planet, and we don't really see anyone ever being able to fill his shoes.
Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen began his drag racing days back in 1953 with a '53 Oldsmobile; as hard as that may be to believe today!McEwen continued his rise though the ranks of West Coast racers and landed in the driver's seat of Ed Donovan's famed dragster in 1964 and beat the unbeatable Don Prudhomme in two sets of a highly hyped match race at Lions Dragstrip, got the nickname "The Mongoose," and thus started the greatest rivalry in the history of drag racing.McEwen drove the famed "Yeakel Special" throughout the rest of 1964 and became famous yet again for driving the infamous rear-engined Plymouth Dealers' Association Barracuda (which actually flew).It was McEwen who engineered and got Hot Wheels behind the famous "Snake and Mongoose" funny car team which debuted in 1970 and instantly made him one of the biggest names in the sport.Tom continued driving until 1992, leaving behind a legacy that Mopar fanatics and drag racing fans will never forget.Like his teammate Don Prudhomme, McEwen was immortalized in the 2013 movie, "Snake and Mongoose."
Few people remember that Don "The Snake" Prudhomme actually began his drag racing career in 1960 as a crew member for Tommy Ivo!Don bought Ivo's old dragster in 1961, swapped its Buick engine for a 392 Hemi, and that was the beginning of a truly legendary career.With the famed Greer-Black-Prudhomme Fueler in 1962, Prudhomme became unbeatable, literally winning 230 races in 1962, 1963, and 1964, with only seven losses!His true fame, however, came into being when "The Snake" teamed up with friend and rival Tom McEwen in 1970 with Hot Wheels, Coca Cola, and Chrysler sponsoring their Funny Car team.Prudhomme's 'Cuda Funny Car became one of the most immediately recognizable cars in the history of drag racing.He became the first Funny Car driver to exceed 250 mph, and continued his work behind the tiller until 1994.Since that time, Don's remained active with the sport, and finally had a movie made about his days with Tom McEwen, entitled "Snake and Mongoose."
Even though Butch started out with a grand career in 409 Chevys, then in Ford Thunderbolts, his racing fame really took off in early 1965 when Dick Maxell called him up and offered the Super Stock driver a Dodge A990 Hemi car that was sitting in Tennessee – that was "The California Flash's" introduction to Mopars and that intro made him a household name in Mopar circles forevermore.In 1965 and 1966, with his altered wheelbase Dodge A/FX'er, Leal became one of the best-known racers in the formative funny car circuit, and his '68 Logghe chassis Barracuda funny car became one of the first machines to breach the seven second mark.Leal continued adding to his Mopar resume in the seventies with his Duster Pro Stocker, and finally ended the initial phase of his career in 1977 driving a Plymouth Arrow in B/Gas and Pro Stock.Butch remains one of only a handful of drivers to have won national events in Modified, Pro Stock, and Super Stock.
Don Grotheer is one of Oklahoma's favorite sons – at least as far as the Mopar realm is concerned.Don's amazing personality and his incredible accomplishments behind the wheel of a wide variety of Plymouths through three decades made him one of our hobby's most beloved drivers.From his early 1960's involvement with Max Wedges, Don moved on to racing Hemis in Super Stock, then had a whole armada of Super Stockers by 1968, including a pair of Barracudas and a Road Runner.He progress from there into Pro Stock, running 'Cudas and Road Runners throughout the early seventies.Don returned to countless Mopar events and nostalgia racing events in recent years, endearing himself yet again to a whole new generation of enthusiasts, and earning himself a highly deserved position as one of drag racing's truly iconic figures.
The famed "Mr. Norm's" humble beginnings came from when he opened a used car lot next to his dad's gas station, along with his brother Lenny.They specialized in performance cars, and finally, in 1962, Norm opened Grand Spaulding Dodge in Chicago and within three short years, his marketing skills had vaulted the dealership to national acclaim as the foremost dealer of high-performance Dodges.By the late sixties, "Mr. Norm's" in Chicago was selling more muscle cars than anyone else in the country and his "Mr. Norm's Grand Sport Club" had gone international.The dealership closed with the demise of muscle cars, back in 1975, but Norm Krause's fame lives on within the Mopar community, and in recent years, Norm's been increasingly active in the hobby again, being involved with everything from modified new Dodges to retro custom builds and everything in between.
Shirley Shahan has often been called the "first lady of drag racing," and for very good reason.An otherwise "normal" California housewife, Shirley began drag racing Chevys in 1958 and immediately made a serious name for herself on the West coast circuit.She continued running Chevys until landing a prime ride from Dodge with a '65 Hemi Dodge, and for the next half of the decade, she became synonymous with Dodge Super Stockers.In 1966, Shirley became the first woman to win an NHRA national event with her Coronet, and her '67 Hemi Coronet quickly became one of the most copied cars in the sport.Behind the wheel of a '68 Hemi Dart Super Stocker, Shirley's famed continued to grow, but lacking factory sponsorship, AMC lured her away in 1969.When Shirley came out of retirement to enjoy some nostalgia racing, however, she and her son opted to recreate her famed '68 Hemi Dart.Having paved the way for ladies everywhere, we're just happy Shirley went down that road behind the wheel of a Dodge!
Bob Riggle will forever be attached to his famous black-and-gold ride, the Hurst "Hemi Under Glass" wheelstander Barracudas.Riggle initially shared wheel time in the first Hemi Under Glass built in 1965, then took over driving chores completely in 1966 and continued to make exhibition passes across the country until 1969.Hurst withdrew their corporate sponsorship in 1969, but Riggle continued to make appearances in the popular car throughout the early seventies until he was injured in a funny car crash in 1975.In 1991, Riggle opted to bring back the good old days, building another 1966 Hemi Under Glass Barracuda and racing it at countless events before he retired once more in 2005.Bob's probably spent more time on a drag strip with all four wheels off the ground than any man alive!
Herb McCandless is such a racing legend that both his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee and the entire state of North Carolina wants to fight over who has bragging rights to him!Having been privileged to have known Herb for many years, it's rare to find anyone else who's done as much to further the Mopar hobby.Herb earned his famed nickname "Mr. Four Speed" with his '65 Hemi Super Stock Dodge, before moving on to a '68 Hemi Dart.He was enlisted as a driver and mechanic by the Sox & Martin team, and ended up driving several of their more famous cars including their Road Runner and the mythical Superbird in 1970.Herb then went on to become one of the foremost car builders and drivers during the formative years of Pro Stock in the early seventies, before finally leaving the track and opening Herb McCandless Performance in North Carolina.Since that day, heaven only knows how many engines Herb's built and he's continued to be a steady source of information, parts, and has always been eager to lend a helping hand to any Mopar enthusiast in need.Whether he's racing, wrenching, or cruising in one of his muscle cars, Herb has consistently been reinventing the wheel and going out of his way to help as many people as he can.
While Ramo Stott may not be a household name among those who aren't racing enthusiasts, those who know stock cars know his accomplishments very well.Stott was one of those all-around fantastic stock car drivers who came along at just the right time with just the right skills.Lacking major corporate sponsorship, Ramo built himself a Superbird and went out and won the ARCA championships with it in 1970 and 1971, making it one of the most successful winged cars of all time.Stott also became the USAC stock car champ in 1975, and started on the pole at the 1976 Daytona 500.Ramo retired from racing in 1977 and has also been inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame.
Hands-down the most famous 1969 Charger in history, believe-it-or-not, the "General Lee" was cited by the Guiness Book of World Records as being the "most recognized car in the world" years ago!That in itself is enough of a claim-to-fame to cement the Charger's place in history forevermore.For Chrysler enthusiasts, the General is something of a two-edge sword, as more than two hundred Chargers were destroyed filming the Dukes of Hazzard television show and the movies which made the car so famous.However, the sacrifice of those cars has made the 1969 Charger instantly recognizable to the general public, even if it's a restored car and isn't necessarily orange.The General Lee, love it or hate it, singlehandedly made the 1969 Charger the most famous Mopar muscle car on the planet, and for that, no one can argue the orange car with the crazy horn doesn't deserve some credit!
Joe began racing Max Wedge Plymouths for Fenner Tubbs out of Lubbock, Texas, in 1963.He won the NHRA Division 4 championship title in 1964, 1965, and 1966!In 1965, Joe and his '65 A990 Plymouth won the Top Stock World Championship.Between 1969 and 1971, Joe moved up to Oklahoma City, where he became Don Grotheer's chief "wrench" on all his race cars.Moving back to Dallas, Joe opened Joe Smith Race Cars in 1973, with the intention of building Mopar-oriented door slammers.With the factory backing away from racing and the muscle car era coming to a close, Smith wound up biting his tongue and building a wide variety of drag cars over the next two decades.In 1979, Smith was inducted into the NHRA Division 4 Hall of Fame.Having sold his race shop in 2005, Joe Smith continues to build racing chassis today for Sullivan Motorsports.