Certain names evoke an era in drag racing and for Super Stock and Pro Stock in the late-1960s to early-‘70s, few can rival Sox & Martin in accomplishment or significance. After joining as teammates in 1963 with Ronnie Sox behind the wheel and Buddy Martin behind the wrenches, Sox & Martin went on to rank among the most successful Mopar-backed racers in history.
Using Mopar muscle, Sox & Martin combined for 15 NHRA national event wins (9 P/S, 6 S/S), 14 IHRA Pro Stock wins, two IHRA Pro Mod event wins, and five world championships including NHRA and AHRA Super Stock (’69), NHRA Pro Stock (’70, ‘71) and IHRA Pro Stock (1981). In addition, the North Carolina-based duo was among the frontrunners in bringing a professional image to drag racing and set the early standard in sponsor servicing and appreciation.
Sox passed away in April 2006, but Martin, 71, is still living in the Carolinas and operates an automobile sales and leasing company with his son, Chris. After getting out of racing after the 1976 season, Martin was back on the trail in the late-‘90s with a Pro Stock Truck effort and eventually wound up as part of the court case launched in October 2001 after the NHRA killed the class a few months earlier.
Most recently, Martin is getting back into the drag racing scene this year as consultant and the public face of a new Sox & Martin-themed SS/AH team that will be running a 1968 Barracuda with Hemi power tuned by Bob Panella Jr.
Martin recently sat down with MoparMax.com to recall his Sox & Martin heydays along with the current state of NHRA drag racing and what the future may bring.
: How did your teaming up with Ronnie Sox come about?
Martin: Well, Ronnie and I were both racing Chevys against each other in 1962 and it didn’t take long at all for me to realize he was a much better driver. So I approached him toward the end of ’62 and asked him if I could get hold of one of the 1963 Z-11s that were coming out, would he be interested in driving it and that’s where it all started for us.
So we ran Chevrolets in ’63, but of course they had pulled out of racing in February of ’63 and by the end of that year we’d pretty much used up all the parts we could get our hands on and had to make a switch. I’d heard that Mercury was interested in doing something with the Comet for ’64, so I went to Detroit and met with Fran Hernandez and we were fortunate enough to get the first Mercury Comet coupe when Don Nicholson elected to take the stationwagon. And then we were fortunate enough to beat Nicholson in the A/FX final that year in the Winternationals at Pomona.
: So how did your relationship with Mopar begin?
Martin: What really happened was we were planning on staying with Mercury in ’65 and had told them what we needed as far as a contract was concerned. We thought everything was set and we would not only be sponsored by the Lincoln-Mercury Division, but by the Washington, D.C.-area Lincoln-Mercury dealers. So we had gone to Washington to meet with the dealers and Fran Hernandez, who was heading up the Mercury division had flown down and he gave us the contract.
Well, I read it and they were supposed to furnish us two personal cars, one for Ronnie and one for myself, but the contract only called for one personal car. Of course, our thinking was that he and I probably wouldn’t be going to the same place every time so we needed two cars, so I told Ronnie I couldn’t sign it and he agreed with me. But Fran said, ‘This is all we can do,’ and he kind of got mad and got back on his plane back to Detroit.
So when we got back to Burlington (NC), I called Dale Reeker, he was right under Bob Cahill at that time, told him what the situation was and that we’d consider moving to Mopar. So he said, ‘I’ll call you back,’ and he called back within a couple of hours and said, ‘Get on a plane and come to Detroit.’ So that’s how we started with Mopar, as simple as that.
Of course they called us back from Mercury a couple of days later and said they had worked it out, but by that point it was too late.