You simply can’t effectively enjoy Chrysler history without examining its history in the world of drag racing. That subject can, and has, inspired any number of historical books on the cars, teams and engines that did battle for Mother Mopar during the heady muscle era. There’s enough raw material and sheer historical sweep to allow for some deep angling for facts, images and anecdotes about Chrysler and drag racing. This is one such effort. It’s a project to tell the story of Chrysler’s entry into the then-new NHRA eliminator category of Pro Stock, viewed through the lens of a team that did most of the brand’s most critical technical development work. Read it, and you will immediately come to appreciate that Chrysler’s Motown Missile is a veritable font of overlapping, highly detailed information on Mopar’s effort to be competitive in the open factory warfare that Pro Stock enabled.
Subtitled “Mopar’s Secret Engineering Program at the Dawn of Pro Stock,” this is essentially the tale of three people: Engine builder Ted Spehar, Chrysler powertrain engineer Tom Hoover, and owner/driver Don Carlton, who got the program on track before he died in a 1977 testing accident. The narrative is an in-depth, profusely illustrate saga of continuous research and problem-solving, both at the track and in the halls of Chrysler design. We’ll leave the story for the author, historian Geoff Stunkard, to lay out, but will tell you that this an enormously detailed insider’s account of trying to begin an entirely new racing program from scratch. In 176 softcover pages, the author makes clear his familiarity with and emotional attachment to the saga and its participants. It immediately becomes clear that Stunkard has nearly boundless, intimate knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject; technical sidebars emcompass everything from air-scoop evolution to early aerodynamic research that didn’t involve the use of a wind tunnel. We were pleasantly surprised to see the great Brooklyn racer Ronnie Lyles in these pages, and learned that his power came from Randy Dorton, who went on to head the engine operation for Hendrick Motorsports in NASCAR before dying in a tragic plane crash. This is really good stuff, and any drag enthusiast will love it. The book retails for $36.95 from CarTech, which publishes a range of excellent titles on drag racing history.