The best known of the 1966 Street Hemi racecars was the car campaigned by Jere Stahl and Bill Stiles; it won the Stock World Championship that year.© Ray Mann Collection www.quartermilestones.com
Remember 1966? Race riots in Detroit and LA. Tri-powered GTOs. Nancy Sinatra and the Monkeys. LBJ. North Vietnam. And Street Hemis. The Beatles hadn’t sung about a “revolution” yet, but the spirit of the Sixties was in the air. The muscle car era had blossomed right along side of it, and, to satisfy Bill France and the NASCAR rules, the Chrysler Corporation had decided the time was indeed right to unleash the race-breed 426 Hemi on the streets.
Racing was an important part of the promotional activities around Mopar’s musclecar effort. After boycotting NASCAR most of 1965, the new Charger and Plymouth’s Belvedere would hold court in the return to circle track action (Petty’s blue Plymouth won Daytona again, and David Pearson won the year-long Grand National crown in a Charger owned by Cotton Owens). There were little hi-po D-Darts in the new SCCA series, and the drag racing efforts were focused on the new “funny cars” that had become popular the previous season. Much of the factory’s straight-line efforts were focused on standouts Dick Landy (in a Dart) and Sox &Martin (in the infamous ‘Baccaruda”). There were no “race package” sportman drag cars built that year, though that was originally planned.
In fact, in mid-January 1966, Dodge PR guru Frank Wylie had sent out a two-page release entitled “Dodge to Start Super Stock Build-Up.” These cars would have been based on stripped-down, two-door business coupes (Coronet and Belvedere), steel bodied with scooped hoods, featuring engines with aluminum heads and the cross-ram intake. Either Torqueflite or four-speed equipped, and backed by Dana 4.56 rears, the cars would be born ready for the Super Stock division, which was still the top echelon of Top Stock Eliminator that year (Junior Stockers were in classes B/S and down). However, that program was cancelled in March, as the factory had wanted to redesign the 1965 aluminum heads before casting a new batch and had decided that it was too late in the season to go on with that process. Strikes at the plants of parts suppliers may also have impacted the hope of building these cars.
Here is Don Grotheer at Indy in 1966 also in a hemi-powered post coupe; the next year, his car would get its well-remembered “Cable Car” moniker.© Ray Mann Collection www.quartermilestones.com
So, as a result, there were quite a few campaigners who stayed with their 1965 A990-code cars, which still fit the Super Stock rules. Nonetheless, the racers who decided to go with the dealership-sold 1966 models found they fit quite well in A/Stock. The only other car that was competitive in that same class that year was the 1966 L79-powered Chevy II, which used a 350-horse 327” Corvette motor in the little body. The Charger, a ‘star’ in the 1966 marketing line-up, was too heavy to drag race compared to the Coronet and the Belvedere, and it would be those Hot ’66 Plymouths that would make the most waves that season. In 1966, the classes S/S, S/SA, AA/S, AA/SA. A/S and A/SA were the classes that made up the NHRA’s Top Stock division.