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Steve Reasbeck on Drag Racing 1962 to 1965 Mopars

Steve Reasbeck on Drag Racing 1962 to 1965 Mopars

May 2009: One thing about Western Pennsylvania, it is a great place to live and raise a family. I have been so blessed to live here...a good marriage, put my kids through a great Catholic school system, and we’ve been extremely fortunate in that they have all gotten good careers in the area. It is beautiful in the summer, and the days where it is approaching the 90 degree mark are fairly rare, and unheard of in April. But, that is what this past weekend gave us, and it was welcome, especially after the long and hard winter that we just endured.

1964 Plymouth Curt George Jr. at Ghosts Goblins Gearheads
Curt George Jr. 1964 Plymouth at Ghosts Goblins Gearheads

Anyway, this past weekend was as close to perfect as one could get. It started off as a bummer, as circumstances beyond anyone’s control caused us to miss a 422 Motorsports Nostalgia All Star event at Mason Dixon Dragway, in Hagerstown, Maryland on Saturday. After pouting for a while, everyone’s spirits were boosted by watching our hometown Pittsburgh Penguins take out arch rival Philadelphia Flyers to end the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Then, that evening, the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the San Diego Padres, thus continuing to play well and give us long suffering Pirate fans some hope.

Sunday morning dawned hot and sunny, and after attending Mass (always my first priority) at our Parish, we loaded up our venerable 1965 Dodge and headed to Pittsburgh Raceway Park. It was 88 degrees, more July like than April like, and I knew it would not be particularly quick day. But, I was anxious to see what the changes we had made to the Super Stock Spring setup would do, as in studying last year’s photos it revealed an exceptional amount of rise in the car, more than the three inches we desired. This caused me to become concerned about breakage, primarily the tail shaft of the transmission due to excessive movement. When I removed the rear shock absorbers over the winter, I found that they had been bent into pretzels. I mean, I’ve seen straighter bananas. They were bent to the point where they were incredibly hard to compress or extend. So, I had added new Comp Engineering adjustable shocks, and also some extra clamps onto the front segment.

I had my son Kyle make a pass, and although it showed a lot of rise, the car’s short times (60 foot) were the best ever, a 1.52. We made three passes on this test and tune day, and I had flat forgotten over the winter just how much fun that old 1965 Mopar is to drive. The first pass was a throwaway 11.39 at 119 mph: the first pass after sitting in the garage for the last six months and a pass where myself, as a driver, made about every wrong move I could make. I paid a bit more attention the second pass, and it responded with an 11.02 at 122, clean and perfect. The final pass Kyle went 10.93 at 122 and change, and it is not uncommon that it was quicker. To be frank, it generally is a tenth quicker with him in the car, as he is younger, lighter, and quicker. But, for me, it is still fun. There is just something about having that Hemi pull that old B-body into the lights, and it is still a hoot, even after forty one years. Many things have changed, like my priorities, not only in the daily walk of living this gift of life, but the importance of pitting near the rest rooms. However, driving the car is still as big a hoot as it was in 1969.

One thing that is obvious, though, is that the leaf spring setup, for us, is coming close to an end. Past experience has shown us that you start dipping into the mid-ten second range and the leafs make the car handle kind of funny. It will pivot on the snubber, causing it to drive toward the right, and will wobble around a bit on the big end. Although I don’t think we will make any changes now that the year is underway, ladder bars are in the near future. I really think that our weak link, at this point, is the SS springs, and changes are in order. However, I still believe that for the average budget racer with a Chrysler product that tried and true SS spring setup is hard to beat for the money spent.

One other point must be made....western Pennsylvania, especially Pittsburgh Raceway, is rife with mid sixties MoPars racing on a weekly basis. There is a ton. I don’t know why, but there are. Fords are in the minority, but the number of Chrysler products racing on a weekly basis is comparable to the number of Chevrolets. 1962 to 1965 B bodies are popular, and be made to run good with available factory pieces. Someone else has already done your homework for you. It’s incredible. Just order the right pieces and go. The beauty of it is that most, if not all, of those pieces are still available.

Ronnie first time out with Hemi.jpg
Ronny’s Dodge: first time out with Hemi

The original engineering by the race program back in those years continues to amaze me. Although a significant amount of it has gone into obsolescence, all of it will allow the rank and file racer create a fast, reliable, consistent bracket car if one just follows the directions. To my way of thinking, the biggest mistake so many young racers make is that they try to reinvent the wheel. If you want to get into this game, find someone successful and listen to them. Most guys are real good about giving advice to beginning racers, and are glad to do it. These guys have already made the mistakes, and you can save yourself time and money by not repeating them.

Of course, the big news this week is the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by our beloved Chrysler. As one of many old timers who have bled Pentastar since the early sixties, it was and is sad to see the end of an era. But, upon retrospect, in all honesty, to most of us racer types it really doesn’t mean much. I am sure MoPar Performance will survive, it is too profitable and has too much of a following. There is very little in common with what we are racing and what the factory produces today that it really is kind of irrelevant. The racing only equipment we use comes from outside vendors anyway: Indy Cylinder heads, Milodon, Moroso, and on and on. Blocks come from World Products, heads are cast by Edelbrock, even the Hemi heads. Intakes, all of it, are from outside foundries and all MP does is give them a way to market them. I only drive Chrysler cars and Dodge trucks anyway, and will continue to do so anyway, no matter who produces them. It is more the sad closing of an end of American history. I am not sure that the Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday applies much anymore, as the parking lots at NASCAR races are full of Honda, BMW’s, and Kias.

The photos on this page are from Pittsburgh Raceway park: many extremely tough 1962 to 1965 Mopars race there! PaulVinkleratKRP.jpg
Paul Vinkler at KRP
In the Western Pennsylvania area, Pittsburgh Raceway Park (Keystone Raceway from 1967 to 2005), Quaker City Raceway in Salem, Ohio, and the long closed Pittsburgh International Raceway has always had more than its share of winning 1962-1965 MoPars. See below for additional pictures from the past, all courtesy of Bill Truby.

Next time, I will give some personal insights into Nostalgia Super Stock racing, and my views on what it takes to run a good vehicle in that competition.

God Bless,
Steve Reasbeck
Contact: Reasbeck Racing
Johnstown, Pa.

Keystone 1970 Rudy Schings SSBA 1965 Plymouth Hemi
Keystone 1970: Rudy Sching’s SSBA 1965 Plymouth Hemi

Bob Celani Black Magic at Keystone.jpg
Bob Celani Black Magic at Keystone

Bill Diehl Hemi with another paint scheme.jpg
Bill Diehl Hemi with another paint scheme

truby-BillDeihlrenamedcarSteelCityHemi-at KRP 1976
Bill Deihl: renamed car Steel City Hemi at KRP in 1976

Billy Deihl Pittsburgh City Cop Barnett prepped HemiSSBA vs Camaro at KRP
Billy Deihl, Pittsburgh City Cop,
in Barnett prepped Hemi SSBA vs. Camaro at KRP

Carlon Hine Plymouth
Carlon Hine Plymouth

1965 Plymouth AWB at Keystone
1965 Plymouth AWB at Keystone

1964 Plymouth at Keystone
1964 Plymouth at Keystone

Bill Heasley Weekend Fantasy 1965 Dodge at KRP circa 1975

-MW at Keystone Raceway circa 1975
Max Wedge at Keystone Raceway circa 1975

Contact: Reasbeck Racing
Johnstown, Pa.

May 5, 2009

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