Volume III, Issue 10, Page 17

INCIDENT AT THE “DIRTY D”

etroit Dragway where are you now? Buried under an industrial park where its ghosts will forever haunt the territory bordered by Sibley Road and Dix. The Dirty D was the baby of promoter Gil Kohn (who ran Motor City Dragway concurrently) ran from ’59 to ’98, under one auspice or another. I was there one afternoon in ’72. If I had a complete collection of Car Craft magazines I’d be able to tell you, but I don’t, so this is all I remember 36 years on.

This began a year previous when I wrote what turned out to be the seminal story on (the late) Jimmy Addison’s cross-ram stroker Hemi-powered “Silver Bullet” Plymouth GTX, the one with the four Cadillac mufflers stuck up underneath it. Others chronicled this car too, but my report was lauded beyond reason. Some people even credit me with naming the car from the title of the story. I think maybe the Chrysler race group called it that. Regardless, they flipped Addison the mule GTX and he turned it into street racer to try out parts that would eventually wind up in a Pro Stock chassis and to assert the dominance of Chrysler cars on the street. Concurrently, it was Jimmy’s job to keep the Mopar flame burning bright out on the street.

So finally it comes down to two things: Everyone swears that Addison never lost a street race and that may well be. However, I did see him get outrun two times out of three at Dirty D on a mild afternoon in October, 1972. Even the circumstances were spooky. A few days before leaving LA for Detroit, I got a call from one of the Ramchargers asking if they could use the track too. Somewhere along the line, a local DJ named John Spears had hustled the deal together on the premise that he’d found a big-block Camaro for a duel to the death, as it were. Though I have no proof, I’m sure there was a pile of cash riding on this deal.

I edited a racing news section in Car Craft called “The Elapsed Times” and wanted to cover this sliver of history in print. Now I have no recollection of the challengers’ names but my research turned up the two guys who might have been responsible for the Camaro—owner Larry Turner and drive Steve Mare. I remember them as being a lot more amiable than Addison and the Chrysler affiliates. Before the match racing began, they asked if I’d like to attend a party they were having that Halloween night.

Dirty D was a bare-bones facility (Kohn was never known as being extravagant) on the outlands south of the city. I don’t remember if there was a real ‘tree on the starting line or a red-yellow-green traffic light depending from a cable stretched across the track. I do remember being downright shocked at the rest of the timing “equipment,” though.  No Chrondeks? No problem.

The timing shack was on the left side of the track and hewn (I’m being kind here) from plywood sections. The clocks got started when the first car rolled over a rubber-covered conduit at the starting line. When the front wheels made contact, they activated a huge sweep-hand “clock” nailed to the inside of the shack. The clock stopped when the car passed over another cable in the speed traps.

By modern street machine standards, this car might have gotten a second glance today, if only for its 10-wide slicks, but this was the early ‘70s and right on the cusp of federally mandated emissions regulations, so it was an anomaly. Addison’s car would consistently reel off 10.70-second times and was such a notoriously bad MF that the locals were afraid to race him.

The red Camaro was an unknown quantity, or at least that’s how the history was portrayed to me. Whether the Mopar mavens had heard of this Chevy upstart, I have no idea. On the other hand, its handlers may have even called me in LA to set this up and I, in turn, dangled it in front of the Chrysler contingent as teaser, knowing that they could not resist. The brain cells that collect such trivia have apparently gone south.

The weather was balmy, way too warm for Detroit at the edge of winter, adding a slightly surreal aura to the proceedings. I don’t remember if the Ramchargers showed up to test or not. I do know that the Camaro cleaned Addison’s clock twice and won the match race, thus defeating the undefeatable factory car. I duly recorded the incident in the magazine, but don’t remember getting any unfavorable comments about it or for that matter or any comments at all. If I did, they have disappeared forever with my disintegrated brain cells.

I don’t remember anything else about the incident except that soon after arriving at the party, somebody dosed me with a hit of acid. Happy Halloween, kiddees! 

 

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