Story and Photos by Bill Swanson Wed, 2017-11-29 22:45
The Muscle Car And Corvette Nationals presented its 9th edition of American muscle at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL last weekend. MCACN has earned its reputation as the premier show to feature the finest in rare vintage and faithfully restored muscle cars.
Factory involvement in racing during that era especially at the drag strip, gave birth to muscle cars. So it makes perfect sense for MCACN to feature historically significant drag machines. As well as some of the people responsible for giving muscle to the masses.
Tour the show floor with our extensive
Significant cars are given the star treatment with debut unveilings at MCACN. Among them was the 1970 Buick Skylark GS Stage 1 convertible of 3 time NHRA Pro Stock Champion Jason Line. Rare for its lack of creature comfort options and an unusual color combination, Line employed skilled craftsman to thoroughly restore a rough eBay find, while he put his mechanical expertise to work rebuilding the Stage 1 455, transmission, and rear end.
Before founding their successful business, Jesel Valvetrain Innovations, Wayne and Danny Jesel were successful racers. With partner Tony Massari they campaigned a 1956 Chevy Sedan Delivery to numerous wins and records in AHRA and NHRA Junior Stock, Stock Eliminator and Modified competition. This car, while not the original is a stunningly accurate recreation of the "Yoo Hoo Too", right down enlisting the original painter, Ed Beyer, to lay down the colors.
In the late 1960's Ford Motor Company formed the "Ford Drag Team" to demonstrate the quarter mile capability of their Mustangs and Torinos. In 1969 it consisted of six cars. Three each were campaigned by Hubert Platt on the East, and Ed Terry in the West. Five of them were at MCACN, including both 427 SOHC powered Pro Stock Mustangs. These two original cars represent the genesis of the class. The Platt car is owned by expert restorer Bob Perkins, while the Terry Mustang is owned by Dave Steine.
Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins raced this 1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS 396 to the 1967 NHRA Super Stock championship while compiling numerous wins and records. Today the car is owned by Dana and Patti Mecum.
As the weight break era took hold in NHRA Pro Stock, Chrysler's HEMI powered cars were at a disadvantage. In response, factory engineers employed advanced design techniques and materials to create a light weight, yet strong structure. Known as the "Wire Car" due to the use of tensioned steel cable to support the rear body, this small block powered 1974 Plymouth Duster never turned a tire in completion, as NHRA made it known they would not approve the design. Today, Arnie Klann is the caretaker of this piece of MOPAR history.
The mid 1960's were heady times in drag racing, especially amongst the doorslammers. Evolving from the Super Stock classes, the Factory Experimental cars benefited from direct factory involvement and the innovative minds of racer such as Tom Tignanelli. As a Chrysler engineer, Tignanelli had access to the best that MOPAR had to offer, so he created the "UFO" Plymouth Fury, racing it in NHRA competition. This car was recently restored using only period correct parts and is owned by Clark Rand.
Sitting next to UFO was the "Honker" 1965 Coronet of Bud Faubel. Competing across sanctioning bodies in 1965, Faubel took the car to several wins. Owned and restored to as raced condition by Jim Kramer, this historic car wowed show goers.
As an added treat, Kramer and Tignanelli took part in a Geoff Stunkard led panel discussion on the history that led to the creation of these cars, and their later painstaking restorations.
Two more examples of what evolved into "Funny Cars" graced the MCACN show floor, and they are indeed historic. Dick Landy's nitro fed HEMI powered Coronet and Gas Ronda's Longnose Mustang powered by an injected 427 SOHC engine. Factory engineers from two companies played a major role in creating these cars, and took two obviously different approaches. Owned by Nick Smith today, they will be offered at the Mecum Kissimmee auction in January 2018. Bring your checkbook.
As A/FX cars rapidly evolved into full tube framed/flip top fiberglass bodied Funny Cars, Doug Thorley stepped up with his own. That Corvair has been lost to time, but Illinois' Paul Brown set out to recreate the 1967 U.S Nationals winner. Underneath an original Fiberglass Trends body sits a vintage Logghe Stage 2 chassis and 427 cubic inches of all iron Big Block Chevy. The stunning recreation of the Larry Watson paint is also a sight to behold. This car is fully operational, and Brown expects to take part in the 2018 Meltdown Drags with it.
Another faithful to the original recreation was David and Rob Stewart's "Gizzle Hopper" AA/F Competition Coupe. As with the original, an altered Bantam body sits atop a tube frame made from driveshaft tubing. Riding between the rails is a stroked and poked, blown and injected 1958 430" Lincoln V8. The original was built in 1960 by Fred Perrenot and driven by his son Brian to wins in AHRA competition until it was destroyed in a 1962 crash at Oklahoma City Fairgrounds. The Stewarts Gizzle Hopper also sees drag strip action at events such as the Meltdown Drags.
You'll never know what you'll find at the back of a shop or at an auction. Tom Ellie discovered the later when he placed the winning bid on the 1969 Dodge Dart Swinger that Car Craft Magazine built, and Cragar Wheels gave away in a sweepstakes contest. Ellie is the 7th owner, and the fact that it remains largely as built, right down to the George Barris paint, is amazing.
MCACN's Barn Finds & Hidden Gems section also featured that "back of the shop" find. Keith Jernberg's '71 'cuda Funny Car is said to be the Ron O'Donnell campaigned "Big Noise From Illinois". Recently acquired by Jernberg, he is actively researching its history while acquiring parts for restoration.
Plans for #MCACN 2018 are already being made. Make your plans to attend.