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Imagine the idea of taking a brand new ’69 Hemi Charger Daytona out and willingly brushing its pristine flanks up against steel guard rails. Now imagine doing it at speeds in excess of 150 mph and you’ve got a hint at what a typical Mopar stock car racer did every time he unloaded the car for competition back in the sixties, when these cars were new. As they say to this very day, “If you ain’t rubbin’, you ain’t racin’”.
Thanks to a stack of vintage Stock Car Racing magazines I recently bought at the Stafford Springs, CT swap meet, my eyes were shocked to see photos of now-precious Mopars running all-out in the heat of battle on asphalt and dirt tracks across the nation. Some of the racers are famous, others not so much. But all of them ran their Hemi powered B-bodies as hard as possible in the quest for a checkered flag.
Let’s all gasp together at this collection of brutal images taken from the yellowed pages of that heap of vintage Stock Car Racing magazines. Remember, when the pictures were taken, replacement fenders, hoods, door skins, bumpers and the like were only as far away as the dealership parts counter. These cars were little more than tools – excellent tools – but tools just the same, serving their drivers well in the race to the finish line.
Taken from a story on Ray Nichels’ shop in the March 1966 issue of Motor Trend magazine, here’s proof that early NASCAR racers started life as complete cars, right off the showroom floor. This angle doesn’t allow us to see if this stripped ’66 Charger body shell has torque boxes – an indication it was born a one-of-468-built 426 Street Hemi car, though the radiator yoke seems to be sized for the Hemi-specific 26-inch wide radiator. The upshot is this: as we view the following group of racing wrecks, know that they likely depict the destruction of former Street Hemi vehicles! But remember, without these sacrifices, race victories – and the Mopar race legend – wouldn’t be possible. The caption says this one became Sam McQuagg’s ride.