13 Greatest Mopar Drag Cars of All Time
13 Greatest Mopar Drag Cars of All Time
Speed was taking over America in the early 1950s. Drag racing was spreading across the plains one small-town airstrip at a time, and overhead-valve V8s like Chrysler’s new Hemi were putting Ford’s once dominant flathead in the history books.
Mopar has been synonymous with drag racing ever since. And quarter-mile performance cars from Dodge and Plymouth, as well as their drivers, have become legends on the street and the strip.
More than 65 years later, they keep on coming. With the imminent introduction of the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, we decided to look back at the greatest Mopar drag cars of all time.
It wasn’t easy. We considered countless machines that won races, pioneered technologies, and advanced the sport of speed. Read on for the historic baker’s dozen that made the final cut. Then consider buying yourself a “Mopar or No Car” t-shirt.
13. Ramchargers’ 1949 High and Mighty Plymouth Coupe
When this car debuted at the 1959 NHRA Nationals with its innovative nose high stance and altered wheelbase, it looked like nothing else and ran like nothing else. Entered in the event as the Ram Rod, but known to history as the High and Mighty, this was the first car built by The Ramchargers, a car club of highly creative Chrysler engineers in Detroit. And it was totally revolutionary for its time, from its appearance to its engine modifications. It beat up on the Chevys with a 354-cubic-inch Hemi truck block with 392 heads and drag racing’s first tunnel-ram intake manifold and tuned single-pipe exhaust headers with bell ends.
12. 1967 Plymouth “Silver Bullet” GTX
This car never really saw the race track. Known as the Silver Bullet because of its paint job, this GTX dominated the street racing scene on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue in the late 1960s. And it became a legend in the process. Owned and driven by Jimmy Addison, who worked at a Sunoco gas station on Woodward at the time, the 426 Hemi-powered GTX is said to have been full of experimental and proven speed parts supplied to Addison by Chrysler engineers as part of an underground, backdoor, and covert marketing effort and parts testing program. The car survives today and lives in a private collection.
11. Ramchargers’ 1962 Candymatic Super Stock Dodge
After two successful years with the High and Mighty Plymouth, the Ramchargers became a factory team, and by 1962 they were competing all around the country in two Max Wedge-powered 413 Super Stock Dodges with 410 horsepower, a huge number at the time. Nicknamed Candymatic because of their distinct red-and-white-striped paint scheme and new 727 TorqueFlight automatic transmissions, these cars were factory lightweights with extensive use of aluminum parts. And they won the Super Stock Automatic class at the 1962 NHRA Nationals with Al Eckstrand driving. In 1963, the cars got aluminum front ends and the engines were bored to 426 cubic inches. In 1964, the new 426-cubic-inch race Hemi debuted in the Candymatic.
10. 1965 Altered-Wheelbase Dodge A990
This was one of the sport’s first altered-wheelbase doorslammer race cars, which eventually led to flip-body funny cars minutes later. Dodge sent 12 A990 Super Stock Hemi-powered hardtops to Amblewagon in Detroit for surgery. For improved rear weight distribution and traction for the 1965 season, the Mopars’ front wheels were moved forward 10 inches and their rear axles up by 15. The cars were much faster but funny looking, hence the name. They were delivered to the sport’s best, including Dick Landy, Ronnie Sox, Al Eckstrand, and “The California Flash” Butch Leal.
9. Raymond Beadle’s 1981 Plymouth Horizon Funny Car
Raymond Beadle is ranked number 20 on the National Hot Rod Association’s 50 greatest drivers list. Longtime driver of the Hemi-powered Blue Max funny car, seen above in the far lane, Beadle won 28 total national events and four straight NHRA championships from 1979 to 1982. His third in 1981, driving this Plymouth Horizon bodied flopper, included a US Nationals victory. What’s incredible is that same year, Beadle also won his third IHRA funny car championship in the same Plymouth. It was an unheard of twin championship season, and it secured hall of fame status for Beadle and his Blue Max Plymouth.
8. 1990 Pro Stock Dodge Daytona
Despite the incredible achievements of Ronnie Sox and Dick Landy, Mopar's all-time Pro Stock leader is three-time class champion Darrell Alderman. After a decade-long absence from the class, Alderman, Mopar, and the “Dodge Boys” from the Wayne County Speed Shop showed up and ruled the class with this Dodge Daytona winning back-to-back championships in 1990 and 1991, and 11 of 14 events in 1991. While that rear-drive racer shared practically nothing in common with the stock Daytona seen above, it was also the first successful Mopar-powered Pro Stocker without a Hemi; the dominating Dodge Daytona used a 500-cubic-inch wedge engine instead. The car is now on display in Ocala, FL, at Don Garlits’ Museum of Drag Racing.
7. 1968 Hemi Dodge Dart and Plymouth BarracudaThis was a factory race car program, available under option code L023. These cars left the assembly plant incomplete, without engines, transmissions, interiors, or front-end sheet metal and in special primer paint. They were then towed (not trucked, towed) eight miles to the Hurst facility where race-prepped 426 Hemi engines were installed and lightweight fiberglass fenders and hoods were bolted up. Hurst also opened the wheelwells on the Darts for tire clearance and installed lightweight seats and side glass. Approximately 150 were built, and they dominated Super Stock racing with 10-second ETs when new. Many still compete today despite deep-six-figure values.
6. 2009 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Forty one years after the Hemi Darts and Barracudas, Dodge went back to the future and unleashed the 2009 Challenger Drag Pak, a factory-built drag special. A full 1,000 pounds lighter than a Challenger SRT8, these cars were rolled off the assembly line without insulation, a ventilation system, or air bags. Then Mopar removed other components and installed the composite lift-off hood, plastic windows, and manual steering. They also shortened the wheelbase a half-inch, pushed the engine mounts rearward for better weight distribution, and installed a 5.7- or 6.2-liter Hemi V8 depending on which NHRA class (Comp, Super Stock or Stock) the owner planned to compete in. About 100 were built. The cars were so successful the program continues today and it triggered the competing Cobra Jet Mustang and COPO Camaro programs.
5. 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon
This is the only car on this list with air conditioning, air bags, traction control, a navigation system, and a factory warranty. And unlike the Drag Pak, it’s street-legal. Incredibly, it’s also one of the most powerful cars on the list. The new 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon is the quickest and most powerful factory muscle car to ever come out of Detroit, and it’s the only one to ever leave the factory with a trans brake and drag radials. Its supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8 is expected to make it the most powerful production V8 in the world. It ought to be pretty quick on a drag strip with all of its power and tech.
4. 1970 Hot Wheels Plymouth Barracuda Funny Car
Don “The Snake” Prudhomme was already a drag racing star in 1970. This car helped make him an icon. Prudhomme and pal Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen sold Mattel on a lucrative Hot Wheels sponsorship for their two Mopar-powered and -bodied funny cars. It was the first big mainstream sponsorship deal in professional drag racing, and it changed the sport forever. The two match raced each other all over the country and the exposure and toy sales made the Snake’s yellow Hemi-powered, ‘Cuda-bodied flopper one of the most famous funnies of all time. Restored by Prudhomme along with its original hauler, the pair sold at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale in 2014 for $247,500.
3. Dick Landy's 1970 Pro Stock Dodge Challenger
Pro Stock became an NHRA class at the 1970 Winternationals in Pomona, CA. The first race was won by Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins in a 1969 big-block Camaro. After that it was all Mopar, including a victory at the Summernationals in Englishtown, NJ, by Dick Landy, famous for driving with an unlit cigar in his mouth, and his beautiful blue, red, and silver Hemi-powered 1970 Dodge Challenger. Dandy Dick, as it said on his muscle cars, ran his team out of the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles. His Dodges, which included a Hurst Hemi Dart, a 1968 Charger R/T, and a Coronet R/T, were consistent winners in a variety of classes and always wore Cragar S/S mags.
2. 1970 Sox and Martin Pro Stock Plymouth ‘Cuda
Nicknamed “Mr. Four-Speed” for the way he threw gears, Ronnie Sox and his team manager Buddy Martin were the number one team for Plymouth. They outran many throughout the sixties and seventies in their red, white, and blue factory-backed Mopars, which included a ’67 GTX, a ’68 Hurst Hemi Barracuda, and a 1968 GTX. But their most famous and most beautiful weapon of all time was their 1970 Hemi ‘Cuda riding on the team’s signature Keystone Klassics. Running times deep in the 9s, the E-body won the second-ever Pro Stock event, which took place in Dallas. Watch the videos on YouTube.
1. Don Garlits’ 1971 Rear-Engine Dragster
“Big Daddy” Don Garlits, the most famous and most successful drag racer of all time, started running Hemi V8s in his Swamp Rat 1 dragster in the 1950s. By 1970 he was the biggest star in the sport and then the clutch exploded in his Hemi-powered front-engine dragster and took half his foot with it. Determined, Garlits moved the supercharged Hemi behind the driver and designed the first ever successful rear-engine dragster. It said Dodge on its flanks and debuted with a victory at the 1971 Winternationals in Pomona, CA. Swamp Rat 14 as its known, was not only faster than the front engine slingshots, but much safer. And it revolutionized the sport immediately. By the following year most top fuelers in the field had their engine behind the driver.