Doug “Kookie” Cook and the Stone, Woods and Cook Mustang Funny Car
A happy Doug Cook wrenching on the Stone, Woods and Cook (SWC) Mustang Funny Car. Having transitioned from their iconic Gassers into Funny Car territory with their “Dark Horse II” Mustang in 1967, the SWC team continued their winning ways and match race money dreams. Receiving a blown Chrysler Hemi in the tube chassis featuring a stock body in the days before flip top fiberglass, driver Cook barnstormed the country match racing the beautiful racecar. Unfortunately match race success met reality when in September at Alton Dragway in Illinois, Cook was involved in a serious accident when the Mustang flipped at over 180mph. Cook broke 49 bones, and had to quit driving. He would go on to handle wrenching for rival Big John Mazmanian, and help son Mike with his Bonneville efforts. Grandson Mike Jr. campaigns a Mustang Funny Car in the Nostalgia Drag Racing ranks. Mike Sr. is completing a clone of the Dark Horse II.
In a world of boosted 600-, 700-, and 800-plus horsepower factory muscle cars, the 526hp all-motor Shelby GT350 remains a favorite with enthusiasts—and Ford announced today, which is National Mustang Day, the wildly popular Shelby GT350 and GT350R models will return for 2018.
“The Shelby GT350 and Shelby GT350R Mustang will continue for 2018, and be available in showrooms this fall,” said our source at Ford. “The new models will be unchanged from the 2017 versions, with the exception of three new exterior color choices, Orange Fury, Kona Blue and Lead Foot Gray.”
Kona Blue was most recently available on the limited-edition, 50th Anniversary 2015 Mustang, Orange Fury and Lead Foot Gray are brand new. “The Mustang is visual entertainment,” said Ehab Kaoud Ford Chief Designer. “I like positive colors, colors induce energy,” he added. So we expect the new hues to give the Pony real punch. We also expect them to differ from Competition Orange (formerly available on the 2016 GT350) and Avalanche Gray, a current GT350 color.
Most unique to the Shelby GT350 is the high-revving 5.2-liter V8 that utilizes a flat-plane crank and ported heads to produce 526 horsepower and 429 lb.-ft. of torque. Ford’s magical mill features 12:1 compression, high-lift cams, a high-flow induction system, and active exhaust, as well as engine oil, transmission, and differential coolers to keep the car properly cooled on the track. The engine is matched to a six-speed manual, which is the only transmission choice.
Shelby GT350 breaks the trend of forced-induction American performance cars, but it stays true to the theme of the first-every Shelby Mustang, the 1965 GT350. And that seems to be appreciated by enthusiasts. The original was a serious handler (for its time), and the 2018 keeps up the tradition with a track-capable suspension that utilizes MagneRide dampers and massive Brembo brakes. The suspension also features specially designed coil springs, control arms and the electronics package lets drivers select a mode that best suits the driving condition, be it street, open track, or drag strip. Additionally, three steering modes let owners customize the “weight” of the steering to provide “Comfort” for cruising, “Normal” spirited driving, or a heavier ‘Sport” ultra-precise feel on the track. And stopping is no problem with vented 15.5-inch two-piece front rotors and six-piston Brembo calipers.
Ford will also offer an optional Electronics Package for both the GT350 and the GT350R. This includes SYNC 3, voice-activated navigation and nine-speaker audio system. An available Convenience Package for GT350 models replaces Recaro manual seats with six-way power, heated and cooled sport seats with Miko® suede inserts for both driver and passenger.
This year, the world of 275 drag-radial racing is going to look a lot different when Nick Bacalis steers his 1996 Mustang GT into the waterbox. He and the team from Bischoff Engine Service are blazing a new path in that genre of drag racing by running a naturally aspirated engine in what’s traditionally a power-adder class. “We built it as an R&D project to see how quick we could run an all-motor car on radials,” Bacalis said. The undertaking has been a partnership with the shop proprietor, Tony Bischoff, and Preston Mosher.
“The goal is to run 4.50s or faster, in order to be competitive,” Bacalis said when discussing the anticipated performance. Making a legit 1,500 hp and 1,100 lb-ft of torque, this mountain motor should be close.
In a world where more power is just a turn of a boost knob, a smaller supercharger pulley swap, or bigger nitrous jet, the Bacalis, Bischoff, Mosher juggernaut is looking toward the best that Mother Nature has to offer for their 275 radial racing efforts.
The billet LSM engine block features a 5-inch bore spacing. It’s that extra space between the cylinders that allows you to build engines this big. The BES Racing group punched this engine’s bores to 4.750 inches and combined that with a Bryant billet steel crank that features a 4.925-inch stroke. Ross Racing pistons provide a static compression ratio of 16.7:1, Total Seal rings maintain the proper seal, and titanium Crower connecting rods complete the rotating assembly. An ATI balancer keeps it all smooth when the engine is singing at 9,000 rpm. A Daley six-stage dry-sump oiling system and Moroso two-piece oil pan ensures the engine is lubricated with Valvoline racing oil.
For a naturally aspirated engine to crank out 1,500 hp, cylinder heads need to flow a ton of air, and the BES Racing Pro Stock Wedge cylinder heads seem well suited to the task, though we couldn’t pry the specifics out of Bacalis. The Victory titanium valves measure 2.700 and 1.85 inches, intake and exhaust. Bacalis also wouldn’t give up the cam specs, but admitted the LSM 65mm cam core carries lobes with more than 1.20-inch lift! The rest of the valvetrain is comprised of Manton 5/8- and 9/16-inch pushrods (exhaust/intake), Jesel 1.062-inch-diameter keyway lifters, and custom-made Jesel rocker arms with aluminum arms on the intake and steel exhaust rockers. The valvespring setup is unique with PSI triple springs and Manley components to help keep the valves under control.
The huge scoop sticking out of the hood is normally found in the A/Fuel Dragster ranks in NHRA drag racing. If you’re unfamiliar with A/Fuel Dragster, it’s essentially a naturally aspirated version of a nitro-burning Top Fuel motor. According to Bacalis, it’s the largest throttle-body they could find, has two butterflies, and measures a robust 12.5 inches long and 7 inches wide! It is perhaps the most unique, talked-about addition to their engine, and it’s mounted to a custom BES Racing sheetmetal intake with short runners and a huge plenum.
Fuel System/Engine Management
Holley’s Dominator EFI is the preferred engine-management system, as BES Racing runs that same unit on its in-house Pro Modified engine program as well as other projects. The high-octane racing fuel is delivered to the Holley 120 lb/hr injectors in large volume from an Aeromotive Pro Series belt-driven fuel pump. Russell lines and fittings are used exclusively throughout the Mustang.
RPM Transmissions are the masterminds behind the two-speed TH400 automatic, and it is said to be the lightest one ever built for drag racing. A bolt-together torque converter from Ultimate Converter Concepts will give the engine the ability climb in the revs while on the transbrake, but have very little slippage in the high-rpm range.
The SN95 Mustang has been treated to the typical modifications for a fast, stock-suspension car. The rollcage was built to SFI 25.3 specifications by Gary Rohe Race Cars. The rear suspension is considered “stock-ish,” with factory mounting locations that feature multiple holes for the proper geometry. The rear shocks are AFCO’s double-adjustable coilovers, mounted inboard similar to a four-link suspension setup, and they help plant the 275/60R15 Mickey Thompson ET Radial Pro tires. The front suspension has bolt-on K-member and A-arms with coilover front struts. The front part of the chassis has been heavily modified for weight savings and to fit the extra-large big-block.
Whether we’re talking about an old girlfriend, a big fish, or a car, everyone has the story of something that they thought was in their grasp and then got away. Typically, these stories don’t result in the thing that escaped later being possessed by the person that lost out on it. In the case of John Howard and this 1970 Challenger, it does and boy is this one a doozy. The best part is that both Howard and the Challenger have served to rescue each other at differing points in their respective lives. Better than any fish story, this is a big-block four-speed tale and instead of some tasty fillets on the grill there’s a machine with looks for days and the ability to fry tires for a fortnight.
The story begins with a chance encounter in 1976. While hanging out and bench racing at a friend’s speed shop, a guy pulled in with a 1970 Challenger he was looking to sell. Always out for a good deal, John Howard and his pal Tim Butler hopped in for a test drive. After some spirited cruising in the car a deal was struck and John would pay $1,200 for the 440-powered, four-speed machine as soon as he could get the money out of the bank the next morning.
The next morning did not bring a new car, however. The next morning brought a phone call informing John that the car had been sold out from under him to another guy. If that was not painful enough, John discovered that about two weeks after the new owner got hold of the car he completely disassembled it with the intention of rebuilding the Challenger from the ground up. As happens so often in the muscle car world the now-disassembled car sat, and sat, and sat. The mass of Challenger parts was kept in a garage for 30 years! Over the course of those 30 years John attempted to buy the car multiple times but the owner refused and the project went nowhere.
“I was thoroughly annoyed when the guy sold the car after I committed to it,” John said. “Back then we did not have an ATM and I probably had $50 in my pocket. It was even worse when I found out that the guy drove it for about a month before he took the whole thing apart. The one good thing is that if I had gotten the car in 1976 I would have turned it into a race car and it certainly would not be as nice as it is today.”
Finally in 2005, there was a breakthrough. The Mopar “collector” was informed by his then wife that he had two choices: Sell all the Mopar stuff or sign the divorce papers. After off-loading the entire collection to a friend of John’s, the coast was now clear for him to score the Challenger that had been eluding him for two decades to that point. By the time all the stuff gets back to John’s home, it is 2006 and it is officially 30 years since the Challenger has been a whole, running and driving car.
“I knew the guy who bought all the stuff,” John said. “When he called me and I went over there to look at everything, the guy went into his sales pitch. I told him just to show me the car and all the stuff that went with it. This was probably the easiest sales job he ever had.”
The first step in the process was to take stock of what they had and bag/document it all. From that point forward the plan was simple. Rebuild the car! The stripped body, which had been well-kept in a garage for decades was sent to the body shop after John’s son Colby had the fine duty of torching and scraping the undercoating off of the car.
While at the body shop the car had the little rust that was on it repaired and it was shot with color. The first shop was working with what they thought was a pretty good surface, so they turned the job around reasonably quick. After a few months back at John’s garage rust began to bubble through the paint and things quickly got worse from there. As it turns out, the first shop was a little too trusting of a 30-year-old body and did not prep the surface as well as they should have.
The result was the car heading to another shop to be completely stripped bare and painted again. John is nothing if not persistent, and while this car was fighting him hard in this part of the process, he was in for a much larger fight shortly. After taking the car home from the paint shop the second time, John was gung-ho to finish the job. He attacked assembly immediately, installing the suspension, rear axle, and the engine/trans from below the car to avoid scratching his awesome new Top Banana paint job. In went the dash and the steering column along with the wiring to get the car fired up. Unfortunately, there was a problem.
No, not with the car. That was going fine. With John. He had been diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and was undergoing chemotherapy to battle the cancer. With the chemo came the fatigue and strain that those rough treatments bring. Through all that he trooped on, making slow progress until his body decided to fight him again. This time the news was more ominous: his cancer had undergone something called Richter’s Transformation where it was no longer the leukemia but now Large B-Cell Lymphoma—a cancer that is known to spread aggressively and is very hard to treat.
“I went from having a fairly moderate type of cancer to having one of the most aggressive forms that can actually kill you pretty quickly,” John said. “When that started we all kind of knew what would be ahead and it was a tough road. I did my best to do what I could but eventually I didn’t have the strength to do the work.”
This is where John’s will to live took over. Despite the sickness and the tough treatments, he was adamant that he would get the car done by the time the Mopar Nationals rolled around. He dreamed about the day he would drive his car onto the grounds at Columbus and show it off. He dreamed about a day that he knew might not ever come and he did that to keep himself positive and motivated. Reality set in very quickly for John. He was not going to be physically able to do this job himself. The aggressive treatments left him too weak and too preoccupied with his health to continue on. This is where things get awesome.
John’s friends heard of his plight and jumped into action. Terry Moyer, Mike Salter, and Matt Roops were the three point men and they took it upon themselves to finish the car for John when he was not physically able to do it. It was a classic mad gearhead thrash to get the Challenger done in time, but they did, and John was supposed to ride to the show with Terry.
“I was really sick there for a while and when these guys jumped in I was really thankful,” John said. “They did most of the interior work, got the bumpers on, and did the finish things that I could not do. My job was simply to get them the parts. They are all great friends.”
There was another catch. John had to spend more time than he expected at the cancer center to get stem cells harvested for a transplant and he could not ride down. Mustering his strength, he flew down at the last minute, making the show in time to experience the thrill of piloting this Top Banana Challenger R/T in front of the assembled throngs of Mopar lovers.
The cherry on top of this awesomeness was the fact that after about an hour inside the show, John was approached by the people at Mopar and asked to bring his car to their tent to display. If there is a higher honor at the Mopar Nationals we’re not entirely sure what that is.
The feel-good part of the story is handled by John’s friends and how they took care of him in his time of need, but the look-good and drive-good portions of the story come from the decisions made when putting this car back together. One of the themes to this car that we see is subtlety. The engine looks like a factory stocker, but it is 500ci. “I was not going to stroke the engine at first but we decided to go that route,” John said. “I was actually going to go more aggressive with the engine than we did but I am happy how it turned out. This is a real V-code car but the original engine was blown up back in the early 1970s. It is not the original block in the car.”
The wheels look like factory Rallye examples but they are a 17-inch diameter. The paint looks OEM quality but it is relatively fresh and it is very beautiful. This is a car that takes a great thing in the form of the 1970 Challenger R/T and makes it just a little bit better in a lot of places, allowing the overall package to frequently stand out from the rest on the streets or in car shows.
“I really love driving the car,” John said. “It has great power, it drives well, and the paint gets plenty of looks as you cruise down the road. We have done well with it as shows, too.”
In many ways the story of John and his Challenger are the ultimate in perseverance and love. Not just the love of the car but the love between buddies who saw a friend in need and stepped up to help him live a dream when time was tight. It may have taken John Howard 30 years to complete his dream Challenger, but we know that every step along the way was worth it. The one that didn’t get away won’t be leaving his hands any time soon.
1970 Dodge Challenger R/T | John Howard – Sarasota, Florida
Type: 498ci Chrysler RB big-block
Bore x stroke: 4.380 x 4.150
Block: 1970 factory Chrysler
Rotating assembly: 440 Source stroker crankshaft, 440 Source Platinum Series pistons,
440 Source Platinum series 6.760-inch connecting rods, Total Seal piston
rings, balanced by Bad Iron Machine Shop; Bradenton, Florida
Cylinder heads: Chrysler 906 iron cylinder heads, 10.67:1 compression
Camshaft: COMP Cams
Valvetrain: Cloyes timing chain, factory valves, COMP valve springs, pushrods,
and rocker arms
Induction: Edelbrock Six Pack style intake manifold, three Holley 2bbl carbs on
top of intake
Fuel system: factory-style mechanical pump
Exhaust: TTI long-tube headers, Magnaflow mufflers, custom bent pipe
Ignition: Mopar Performance Orange box
Oiling system: Hemi 6-quart style pan, factory mechanical wet-sump oil pump
Cooling: factory-style cooling system with mechanical fan and water pump
Engine built by: Diamond Racing Engines; Sarasota Florida
Best ET: has not been raced yet
Transmission: 1970 A833 four-speed manual transmission, McLeod clutch
Driveshaft: Mopar Performance
Rearend: Super Track Pack Dana 60 with 4.10 gears
Front suspension: stock front suspension with factory swaybar and Koni shocks
Rear suspension: stock-style leaf spring rear suspension with Koni shocks
Steering: factory OEM steering
Brakes: factory OE Bendix brakes
Chassis: OE torque boxes are still in the car
PAINT & INTERIOR
Color: Top Banana Yellow
Painter: B&B Auto Body Sarasota, Florida; Bob Bennett
Interior: factory-style interior with Ultimate Ride dash upgrade and woodgrain
wheel from WoodGrainWheels.com
WHEELS & TIRES
Wheels: Year One Ralley; 17×8 Year One (front), 17×9 (rear)
Tires: BFGoodrich 245/45R17 (front), 275/40R17 (rear)
Special thanks: John wants to extend a huge personal thanks to Terry Moyer, Mike Salter,
Matt Koops, Steve Mason, and Mike Amo for their help in getting the car
done. That’s one awesome group of friends.
I’ve updated the wiring and the charging system of my 1956 Chevy. It works fine but I would like to make the stock “idiot light” operational. Is there a way to that with an aftermarket one-wire alternator?
Via the Internet
Thanks to their ease of installation, one-wire alternators have become extremely popular. They are generally capable of supplying all the amperage required to operate the array of electrical items found on today’s street rods. But while there are obvious benefits to a one-wire alternator, the drawback is they lack the circuit necessary to activate the “idiot light” found on many stock instrument clusters.
To keep tabs on a street rod’s electrical system a voltmeter has become the norm and an ammeter can occasionally be found as well. But while both types of instrumentation are valuable the fact is a bright red light indicating a problem will probably get your attention faster than either of them.
A simple method to incorporate a warning light with a one-wire alternator is with the use of a voltage sensor from Ron Francis. Found under PN LS-11, the connections required are a keyed 12V source, a ground, and a lamp. Any time the vehicle’s voltage drops below 11 V the sensor will activate a light. An LED, small indicator lamp, or an existing factory idiot light (including the one that’s in your 1956 Chevy) can be used, along with an existing voltmeter or ammeter.
I thought I would pass on a warning so what happened to my friend won’t happen to anyone else.
Several members of the local car club decided to go for a Sunday afternoon ride down to the local doughnut shop. We all met at one of the member’s homes only to find the garage door open and the battery of his 1955 Chevy on a charger. We didn’t know this at the time, but the charger was on the highest setting, as our friend didn’t want to keep us waiting.
As I walked around the front of the car I detected that smell that often comes along with charging a battery. About that time my friend disconnected the charger, which we later realized hadn’t been turned off. The next thing that happened was an explosion that sounded like a shotgun going off and we were both covered in battery acid. I got hit in the face with acid, fortunately I had on sunglasses that protected my eyes and the hood of the car kept my friend from getting a face full of acid as well. Our quick-thinking friends guided us to the laundry sink in the garage and we washed ourselves off. Fortunately the only real damage was a blown-up battery and one of my favorite rod run T-shirts. All kidding aside, this could have ended up much worse.
Please advise your readers to be extremely carful when removing, replacing, and charging batteries
Name Withheld By Request
Sooner or later most street rodders will have to charge or remove and replace a battery, and like everything else there’s a right and wrong way these tasks should be accomplished.
Batteries do pose a hazard due to the hydrogen gas that may be present during and after charging that can be ignited by a spark. For that reason when a battery is removed from the car always disconnect the ground cable first—if the wrench hits ground there won’t be a spark because the battery is already grounded. With the ground removed, if the wrench hits metal while removing the positive cable there won’t be a spark because there isn’t a complete circuit with the ground removed.
General Charging Guidelines
There are a variety of battery chargers on the market and most will work for all types of batteries except Gel Cell batteries. However, it should be pointed out that AGM (absorbed glass mat) batteries (such as the Optima) have very low internal resistance, which in some cases will cause a conventional charger not to work when the battery is in a very low state of charge.
Overcharging or charging a battery too quickly that can create hydrogen gas must be avoided. Many older chargers must be stopped manually to prevent dangerous over-charging while most contemporary chargers have a microprocessor to monitor the process and keep it within safe limits. These digital chargers will stop the process automatically when the battery is fully charged and will also work on deeply discharged AGM batteries.
Using Jumper Cables
On occasion jumper cables are a necessary evil. Use them properly by:
1. Connect the positive clamp to dead battery being careful not to let the any of the other clamps touch.
2. Connect the positive clamp to the positive terminal of the good battery on the donor vehicle.
3. Attach the closest negative clamp to the negative terminal of the good battery and the other negative clamp to an unpainted bolt on the engine.
4. Start the car with the good battery and rev the engine just above an idle for 30 to 60 seconds.
5. Start dead car. Remove the cables in reverse order, then allow the car to run for approximately 10 minutes to charge its battery.
Wes Allison, Dominick Damato Jeremy Bonnett – Photographers;
Gear Vendors Drag Week Powered By Dodge brings all types of people and all types of cars (and trucks!) together with a single goal in mind: finishing. One of those people crazy enough to try surviving the torture is Jeremy Bonnet from Litchfield, Ohio. He and his crew chief, his 11-year-old son Ian, decided to bring their family built, 1929 Pontiac sedan to complete Drag Week in 2016.
Jeremy has been a motorhead all his life, working alongside his father, and now with his own kids the family has been building, driving and racing cars all from the home shop for years. The 1929 they brought to Drag Week is a true family affair and built mostly from recycled parts and pieces — from the frame to the roof.
The pre-war sedan is a true street car after logging thousands of miles before and after Drag Week. In the engine bay lurks a 414ci small block that is topped with a Dyers 6-71 blower, sending the power to the rear through a TH400 before putting the power to the tires thanks to a Ford diff. So far the car has managed a 9.64 at 141mph. For his first Drag Week that is a pretty good number, especially with an 11-year-old crew chief! (I think that kid is going places!)
Jeremy was thrilled that he got to spend the week with his son as he couldn’t have asked for a better crew chief and co-pilot for the journey, meeting all the fellow Drag Weekers and seeing rural America from the driver seat of classic American car. Jeremy hopes he can get the car into the 8’s on DW next year and have an even better time with the little sedan.
When it comes to mid-1960s NHRA Super Stock racing, fans generally associate AMC with the 1969 Hurst-AMC SS/AMX program, as they should. These machines dominated the SS/D through SS/J classes. However, as successful as the SS/AMX program may have been, it was not the groundbreaker many AMC aficionados assume. Three years earlier, Kenosha, Wisconsin’s Topel Rambler decided to build a Rebel Super Stock car to campaign around the Tri-State area. The dealer’s principles approached local car builder Dennis Porcaro.
“At the time, I had built a number of successful race cars, and Kurt and Hal Topel wanted me to build a car for them,” says Porcaro. “I quoted them a price, which was a little too steep for their budget. The Topels were well aware of the fact that I was about to lose the lease on my building, so they made me a counteroffer to go to work for them as a line mechanic at the dealership, and build the car there on the premises.”
Topel Rambler made arrangements through AMC Director of Motorsports Carl Chakmakian to retrieve the remains of a Samoa Gold Metallic 1967 Rambler Rebel R&D car that was sitting at Tony Tag’s Auto Salvage in Kenosha, says Porcaro.
“The car had been a rollover. The top was caved in. There were no front fenders, no doors, and the rear quarter-panels were pretty well torn up. I said, ‘What in the world do you expect me to do with this piece of junk?’”
Nonetheless, Porcaro persevered. He bumped out the top and rear fenders, replaced the front fenders, and added body parts as they were brought to him at the dealership.
“It was pretty funny. The body was gold. The doors were green, the hood and fenders were another color, and so was the trunk.”
Once the car was transformed into a roller, Topel service manager Kenny “Skip” Oettel (who was slated as driver) towed the car over to his home shop for the serious racecar prep. Bernie Pucci was an engine man who worked at Topel’s dealership, and was brought into the project as the build progressed.
“Dennis Porcaro, Skip Oettel, assistant service manager Gregg Kishline, and parts manager Kenny Shiodo were the main people involved with that project,” recalls Pucci. “Skip pretty much built that  engine out of what was lying around the dealership. I maintained the car.”
Curiously, Topel Rambler may have lent its name and exerted influence as one of the Midwest’s leading Rambler dealers to bring this project to fruition, but AMC’s involvement still remains in question.
“They gave us the car, that much I know,” says Pucci. “It came straight out of Tony Tag’s junkyard. I don’t even think we had a title for it. There was a guy who worked in AMC’s Experimental Department named Elverne Pfeifer who was a friend of Skip’s and hung around a lot. He never turned a wrench on the car, but he was at the dragstrip on a number of occasions when we ran the car. I am sure that he reported its progress to the higher ups at AMC.”
Porcaro says, “Funny thing is, the dealership raced the car, but other than paying our salaries, they never contributed any money toward it. The guys in the back room forked over the necessary funds out of their own pockets to keep things going.”
Carl Chakmakian also stated that Topel’s Super Stock Rambler served as a development mule for AMC’s Group 19 Parts program. Pucci weighed in on that subject. “I have heard a lot of talk about the Topel Rebel being the first known AMC drag car to participate in the Group 19 parts program, and that may or may not be true. All I know is that all parts we used on that project came out of the parts room at Topel Rambler. The last thing I remember is that [Topel was] thinking about changing the single four-barrel intake over to a dual four-barrel setup. Edelbrock had been assigned a Group 19 part number for that particular application, but I don’t know whether anything ever came of it.”
A big concern was that the Rebel Super Stocker remain 100 percent AMC, but according to Pucci, that proved problematic at times. “We had a lot of problems with the rearend. We broke ring gears. We bent driveshafts. We kept breaking axles. There was talk of going to a Ford 9-inch rearend, but Hal Topel would not hear of it. He wanted the car to remain ‘pure AMC.’ Finally we bought a set of steel billet axles from the automotive aftermarket, and that seemed to cure the problem.”
The Topel Rambler Rebel’s colors were also unique. As it turned out, the vertical-panel red, white, and blue paint job would set the standard for all other factory-sponsored AMC racecars to follow, according to Porcaro.
He says, “One of American Motors’ show cars was painted half red and half blue. But those colors just didn’t look right once transferred to the Rebel body. Finally we decided to paint them vertically and add the white panel spanning the midsection of the body.”
Once the car was lettered, Hal Topel, Dave Graves, Skip Oettel, and Kenny Shiodo posed for a picture with it in front of the dealership. In fact, the car looked so good that it won its class at the 1967 Chicago Autorama!
All told, the Topel Rambler Rebel was campaigned for a little over three years. Oettel recorded a best of 10.60 seconds at nearby Great Lakes Dragway in Union Grove, Wisconsin.
“The car wasn’t all that competitive at national events,” Pucci explains. “It was more of a billboard for the dealership than anything else. We would go out there, make a lot of noise, and just look good.”
Topel Rambler went out of business in 1971. By then the Topel Rambler Rebel had already embarked on its journey into oblivion, according to its current owner, Fred Aherns.
“The car showed up on eBay in 2003,” Aherns says. “A friend of mine named Ellis Tripp bought the car but decided that he didn’t want to do anything with it. I traded him a 1975 AMC Matador with 12,000 miles on the odometer, a 1967 AMC Marlin that was a nice restoration, and a 1966 Rambler Classic with 10,000 original miles.”
According to Aherns, there have been 21 owners of the Topel Rebel, but its lineage is pretty cloudy. What we do know is that Kurt Topel was the first owner. Then Dennis Cloet bought the car. He struggled with it for a couple of years, running 11.20s. After Cloet sold the car, it went off the radar only to resurface again in Michigan in 1995. James Sweet bought the car, then consigned it eight years later to Classic Auto Showplace Limited in Madison Heights, Michigan. In 2003 Ellis Tripp purchased the car from Classic and traded it to Aherns in 2006.
The Topel Rebel has gone through a full rotisserie restoration. The coachwork, which features a 12-point rollcage and subframe connectors, has been completely smoothed and painted by its owner and helpers Herb Anderson and Bob Van Canneyet in the factory AMC Samoa Gold Metallic on the inside and PPG red, white, and blue on the outside.
The Rebel’s front suspension was rebuilt with a pair of AFCO adjustable shocks. The car’s Moser-equipped, 4.88-geared Dana 60 rear axle has likewise been rebuilt using AMC OE suspension components and AFCO adjustable shocks.
“The engine was done by R&R Engines,” says Aherns. “The 390 AMC block now displaces 426 inches.”
Internals include a stroked 390 AMC crank, Crower rods, 13.0:1-compression JE forged-aluminum pistons, and a Competition Cams 739/714 cam. A set of R&R Performance ported AMC square-port 390 cylinder heads features a combination of Crower and Comp Cams valvetrain hardware, ARP fasteners, and finned Offenhauser valve covers. The intake is the original Group 19 Edelbrock manifold mounting 650-cfm Holleys.
“Greg Friederich over at Gizmo’s Performance did all the plumbing, exhaust, and headers to get the car up and running,” says Aherns.
Aherns rebuilt the original Hurst-shifted BorgWarner T10 four-speed transmission, which utilizes a Proven Force clutch, flywheel, and pressure plate housed inside a Lakewood bellhousing. A Gizmo’s Performance aluminum driveshaft sends an estimated 600 hp back to the Dana 60.
When it came to the car’s interior, Aherns selected reproduction SMS burnt gold vinyl and cloth weave upholstery with ACC carpeting.
“All told, we spent about five to six years restoring this car,” Aherns says. “It’s one of one. Due to its rarity, I am not really interested in racing it, as I want to preserve it just the way it is. But I do plan on taking it out, and showing it at AMC enthusiast events.”
At a Glance
1967 AMC Rebel 770 Super Stock
Owned by: Fred Aherns, North Branch, MN
Restored by: Owner; R&R Engines, Spring Lake Park, MN; Gizmo’s Performance, Ham Lake, MN
Engine: 426ci/600hp (est.) V-8
Transmission: BorgWarner T10 4-speed manual
Rearend: Dana 60 with 4.88 gears
Interior: Gold vinyl bucket seat
Wheels: 15×8 front, 15×10 rear Cragar S/S
Tires: Goodyear Radial T/A front, Goodyear Eagle slicks rear
In July 2016, Fred Aherns brought the Rebel Super Stocker to the site of the former Topel Rambler dealership, where it was reunited with two of the men who helped build the car originally, Dave Graves and Skip Oettel. Also on hand were about a dozen AMC enthusiasts, other former employees of the dealership, and Kenosha News photographer Sean Krajacic, whose photos helped make the event front-page news.