Mopar 1 Source - Mopar Collector's Guide Magazine



The 'Lil Boss Is Back

Written By: Randy Holden - Photos By: Rob Wolf

Featured in Mopar Collector's Guide Magazine's March. 2004 issue

Since we started going to the Mopar Nats in the 1980s, we’ve seen probably at a dozen fastback Barracudas painted in Sox & Martin paint schemes. Like Hemicudas, there would appear to be a lot more of these cars now than there were then. Allow us to set the record straight once-and- for-all. When it comes to the single most historic fastback Hemi Super Stocker to wear the red, white, and blue, you're looking at THE car right now. As authenticated by Ronnie Sox himself, this is the ‘68 Super Stock Barracuda that carried the team to fame and limited for- tune during the summers of 1968 and 1969. As you might expect, there’s a remarkable story here. It’s a remarkable car, driven by a remarkable man, and the car still exists through a remarkable set of circumstances.

We were privileged to see both the car and Ronnie together at the 2003 14th Annual Houston Mopar Show. Needless to say, we felt fortunate to be part of his historical reunion. We spoke with Ronnie at the event and later on the phone about the car and some of his recollections of the Hemi Super Stocker. With his typical dry wit, he gave us enough information to fill a book. Starting back with the beginning of the 1967 season, Ronnie informed us he and Bud Martin were a little nervous about stepping down, as they saw it, from being a Funny Car team to driving door slammer Modified Production machines, Stockers, and Super Stockers. The ‘67 GTX though, in hindsight, probably launched the team into greater notoriety than any other car in their history.

In 1968, the fiberglass nosed Hemi Dart and Hemi Barracuda Super Stockers were introduced. Asrelated 1 in some of Geoff Stunkard’s articles, most of those ‘68s were disasters which required major reconstruction before they would go fast and go straight. Not so Ronnie’s car. Sox told us their Barracudas must’ve been some of the first ones built and they were pretty good right out of the box. He saw the problems most of his peers had with their cars, but the Barracudas S&M got were really tight, so Ronnie’s always thought their cars must’ve been hand- picked machines. Whatever the case, there’s certainly no denying, this “68 has lived a charmed life.

There were two Sox & Martin ‘68 Barracudas; one ran in Modified Production and the other ran in all-out Super Stock. The one shown here is the hardcore Super Stock car. The Modified Production car is easily distinguished in contemporary photos by its small deck lid spoiler. While the fastback was a force to be reckoned with in 1968, it was the following year that the S&M Barracuda wreaked havoc on the racing world. In 1969, Ronnie absolutely dominated Super Stock behind the wheel of this little fastback. He won every national event, except one, that he entered in 1969! The biggest feather in his cap that season? Instantly, Ronnie related the season ender at Dallas, the World Finals.

Hurst put up a $1,000 cash prize if anyone could set a new Super Stock record at the event. Ronnie knew the car could do it, so he pounded the Barracuda down the strip to a 10.19 pass, setting a new record and pocketing the grand. He then went on to win the making for a really good weekend. The best thing of all this? On the record setting pass, the Barracuda was wearing deliberately mismatched tires. No kidding! Out back, there was a Firestone slick on one side and a Goodyear slick on the other. Was it a speed secret? No, it was a gag. Ronnie and Buddy had noticed that other racers were quick to copy whatever they did, thinking there was some big secret that had been discovered by the seemingly unbeatable team. Having mis- matched tires on the car really didn’t mean anything, Ronnie and Bud Martin simply wanted to see if any other racers would do the same thing - it was nothing more than an attempt to mess with people’s heads and they set a new class record in doing so!

Making the transition into the new E- body for 1970, the S&M team sold the “68 Hemi Super Stocker to nearby Sam Carroll. Sam left the car in S&M colors, modifying the lettering and going through several partnerships. Sam campaigned the car extensively in Modified Production, but he also broke into the early ranks of Pro Stock with the older Plymouth. There are several vintage photos which show the car clearly wearing Pro Stock lettering on its windshield, most notably at the Gatornationals in 1971 or 1972. How this old pony made it into the exotic early Pro Stock field is a puzzler, but Sam didn’t hack the car ordo much updating.

Sam’s quest for a faster ride caused him to sell the Barracuda to Sonny Shipmon, who incidentally, used to drive trucks for Ronnie Sox! Sonny owned the car longer than anyone else, racing it and shelving it intermittently throughout the next fifteen years. Toward the end of its career in the mid-1980s, there was finally an attempt at updating. The wheel tubs were cut and some work was done on the roll cage, but Sonny stopped short, never finishing the work and never returning the car to the track. It sat parked in his North Carolina garage with an uncertain future as Shipmon and his son were busy building and racing more modern cars.

That’s when collector Randy Miller took an interest in the historic Barracuda. Randy bought the former Sox & Martin ride, taking a chance and believing the story that this was indeed Ronnie Sox’s former ride. Since Randy’s also a North Carolina boy, it wasn’t difficult to arrange a meeting with Ronnie Sox for him to have a look at the unre- stored car. The paint was wrong and there had been some modifications, but there was plenty enough of the original car left for Sox to be certain this was the car he’d driven to so many victories in 1969. That led to the first letter of authenticity from Ronnie in the late 1980s. Interestingly, Randy was content to know what be had. but didn’t make any move to restore the car. The fastback continued to sit.

In 1998, the time came for the Barracuda to take up space somewhere else. That's when well-known race car collector and all-around restoration junkie Fred Engelhart found out about the car, as did fellow collector Clark Rand. Clark’s known Fred for the better part of ten years and the two have bought and traded vintage race cars back and forth quite a bit. The news of the alleged Sox & Martin Barracuda being for sale hit both guys at the same time. Both guys wanted the car, so a gentleman’s agreement was reached; Fred would buy the car, then sell it to Clark, and Clark would finance the restoration. It was a mutually beneficial deal that ultimately benefitted the entire hobby.

Fred picked the Barracuda up in the late summer of 1998, carting it back to his shop inMinnesota. For the better part of the mext year-and-a-half, the Barracuda sat while Fred and Clark researched the car, gathering loads of photos, films, and information from Ronnie Sox himself. Their zoal, unlike a lot of so-called nostalgia racer restorations we’ ve seen, was to make the car as true to its 1969 NHRA appearance as possible. Top to bottom, inside and out, if they couldn't figure out how something was supposed to be, they kept researching until they d found an answer.

At long last, the disassembly work began in Fred’s shop. Much to their delight, thanks to the car having been through relatively fewowners, a significant amount of the car’s original parts were still present. All of the fiberglass and sheet metal you’re looking at are the same pieces the Barracuda was born with. That’s the original glass, much of the interior is original, and even that cool straight Hurst shifter is the same one that Ronnie Sox was churning back in 1969. As race car restorations go, this one wasn’t all that difficult. The biggest areas of concern involved returning the rear wheel houses to their original configuration, patching a few holes in the inner fenders, and putting the roll cage back to its 1969 appearance.

When acquired, the Barracuda’s engine was long gone. That’s when it comes in handy to be Fred Engelhart, because Fred has a ton of old performance Hemiparts lying around. What Fred didn’ t have, he had the connections to find. What we have here is a correct early 1968 casting 426 Hemi that’s been built to basically the same specs as a circa 1969 Super Stock Hemi. That’s an orig inal magnesium cross ram, those are the correct Holley carbs. The distributor is an incredible vintage dual point gear drive tach unit with a mechanical rev limiter, which is just what the S&M team used, just in case Ronnie was to miss a gear (like that was going to happen). Don’t like the screw-type hose clamps? Too bad, Sox & Martin did, and their race motors used the more reliable and stronger clamps rather than the cheapo spring clamps. The Hemi’s color drewalot of comments at Houston. Hemis are supposed to be orange, aren’t they? Generally, yes. There’s a cool story here.

A major ingredient in the success of Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin was their ace wrench turner Jake King. Jake was the chief mechanic for the team and oversaw the con- struction of all their engines. Jake had jumped the fence to work with Sox & Martin, leaving behind his days of being a highly successful Ford engine builder. The blue paint is 2 boldover from Jake’s days at Ford. BecameaJake King earmark emgime’s Ford Blue, r gardless of what type emgmmes they were, so the big Hemi in Sox’s Hemi Super Stocker was blue, not orange.

If you study color photos of Sox & Martin cars, you'll notice a lot of blue emgimes through the years. Wherever you see the Dlue power plants, you know Jake King’s involved in bolting it together. While Jake didn’t put this particular motor together of course, it’s blue because that’s the correct color for this car and it’s paying tribute to the man who made this pony giddy-yap back in “69. Hardly all show, Engelhart built this one legit inside and out, which means it dyno’d at Just under 600 horses before it was bolted to the four speed and lowered into place!

Once the chassis and mechanical aspects were close to kosher, the Barracuda was off to Jim Remlinger’s shop for the paint and body work. Typically, most people go berserk making factory Super Stockers far more slick than they were to begin with. Fred and Chuck wanted the car to look like it did in 1969, so if a factory flaw was found in the fiberglass, they left it alone. They didn’t want the body overdone. Jim applied the glorious red, white, and blue paint using a lot of old photos. The lettering on this gem has to be seen to be appreciated. Those are not decals. Contrary to popular belief, Sox & Martin didnt use decals for the major lettering, that’s paint and it was all done by hand. The same techniques used in 1968 to letter the car were duplicated to perfection, with gold foil lettering calling out Ronnie’s name. Simulated machine turned silver foil paint was used for the “Sox & Martin” lettering, as well as the “Plymouth” logos on the quarter panels. Take special note of the location of the “Plymouth” lettering on each side of the car as well. You can’t ahead ofthe gas see both sides of the car at time, the grossly staggered lettering deemed a problem back in 1968, so it sure isn’t aproblem now!

Fred finished the restoration just before the Houston Mopar show and hustled the fastback down to the event, where Ronnie Sox was reunited with the restored car for the first time since 1969. Likewise, this was the first time Clark saw the car restored and wearing its original colors! Emotions ran high all the way around. No passes were made at the Houston event, but both Ronnie and Clark got to enjoy a little low speed manipulating ofthe stick atthe show, much to everyone's delight. Who would’ve thought, thirty years after winning the World Finals in Texas, Ronnie Sox would be back in the seat of the same car, close to the location of per- haps their biggest win? It was a great week- end to be a Mopar fanatic.

As of this writing, the Barracuda’s back in Fred’s shop fora little more tweaking, Ronnie’s back in North Ca olina, and Clark’s home in Missouri waiting to take delivery of the car this winter. Clark plans on having this historic Plymouth at as many Mopar events as possible in 2004. He’s nota big time collector, he just likes to share his cars with fellow enthusiasts and is thrilled to have this bit of our history coming at his garage.

And if Clark’s name sounds vaguely familiar to all of you who follow drag racing, there’s good reason. This car’s especially important to Clark Rand, as Clark is a former AMC Pro Stock driver! Yes, back in the 1970s, Clark was driving a Pro Stock Javelin wearing the familiar red, white, and blue paint those cars were famous for. While he never faced off against Ronnie Sox back in the day, Clark watched him in action count- less times and became a tremendous fan. In the 1980s, Clark raced various Super Stock and Super Gas cars before hanging up his spurs, but believe us, this guy’s still got that spark in his eye and everyone knows it. We’ve no doubt that with this much horse- power on tap and Clark Rand behind the wheel, the nose of the “Li’l Boss” Sox & Martin Barracuda will lift again . . . it’s just a matter of time.

Maverick's Last Stand

Written By: Randy Holden - Photos By: Rob Wolf

Featured in Mopar Collector's Guide Magazine's Feb. 2004 issue

There comes a time when all good things must come to an end. As desperately as each of us would love to cling to that cherished moment, that magical time when all was right, the clock has no respect for us, so those moments pass by. We are left with photographs, memories, and stories to tell those who come after. How many of us would’ve liked to have seen certain historical events that our grand- parents saw? What was it like to shake hands with Orville Wright? To sit on a fence post and watch him test new airplanes in a field near their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio? Years ago I had the privilege of spending several days with a ninety-three-year-old man who had done just that as a boy. Later, that same boy trained to be a fighter pilot during WWI. Needless to say, I count myself lucky for by knowing him, I had a rare window into history that few people get to look through. Those of you who’ve seen the Little Red Wagon hurtling down the quarter mile with a shower of sparks flying off the tailgate, you too have been witness to history which will likely never be repeated.

For those of us in the Mopar world, the name Bill “Maverick” Golden is one that needs no lengthy introduction. The famed owner and driver of the Little Red Wagon Dodge A-100 wheelstander, Maverick has thrilled countless hundreds of thousands of drag racing fans through the years with his full quarter mile wheelstands. There are certain things that simply become American institutions. People become linked with certain things. You can’t mention Roy Rogers without thinking of Trigger, can’t mention Charles Lindberg without thinking of the Spirit of St. Louis, can’t mention Batman without thinking of the Batmobile - and you can’t speak of the Little Red Wagon without thinking of Maverick. The two are inseparably linked.

Last October, a large number of us were astonished to see Maverick’s Little Red Wagon for sale on eBay - it couldn’t be! Maverick was selling his famed truck? No way! This prompted a phone call to Maverick as soon as it was brought to my attention that the truck was on the net. The seemingly unthinkable was true. Maverick and wife Theresa had come to the realization that the time had come for the legend to hang up his spurs. And if you’re not gonna’ wear the spurs anymore, you sure don’t need a horse.

If you were at Milan, Michigan the first weekend of August, 2003, you saw history. Unknown to anyone at that time, including Maverick, that event marked the last passes oi the Little Red Wagon with Bill Maverick Golden at the helm. Typical of Maverick’s recent exhibition passes, the truck was to make three passes down the 1320 that weekend. The first two runs went off text book perfect, just like so many thou- sands of passes he’s made in the truck. Despite the volatile nature of the Little Red Wagon, for the last three decades, the truck’s been amazingly consistent and user friendly; it really seemed to be an extension of Mav’s body. On the third run, everyone, Maverick included, got a real lump in their throat when the truck lurched toward the guard rail several times, darn near got completely out of control, and Maverick was forced to get out of the throttle and bring the nose down to avoid something really ugly. Maverick’s had plenty of closer calls than that, but not in a long time.

Upon returning to Arkansas, the soul searching began with his wife Theresa. At the age of seventy, how much longer could Maverick keep doing this? During his career, Maverick had cheated death several times, the most horrifying crash occurred in 1975 in Little Red Wagon #3 which rolled so many times no one thought he would come out of the carnage alive. Not only did he survive, after his lengthy hospital stay, Maverick immediately set about building truck #4 and was back on the race track as soon as it was finished! But that was 1975, nearly thirty years ago. That was a horrific experience Maverick certainly wouldn’t want to go through again, and at some point, one realizes the reflexes are moving a little slower, those formerly automatic actions now require concentration. And when you’re in Maverick’s business, things like that can literally kill you in a heartbeat. It’s a wise man indeed who knows when it is time to put the cards away and go out ahead of the game. So, without any fanfare or amidst any hoopla, the sport of drag racing just got a little less exciting.

Maverick started racing when he was eighteen with a °36 Ford; seldom on legal drag strips. In 1957, he started his racing career in earnest, making it his full time job. By the early 1960s, Mav’ had landed a job as a factory backed driver for Dodge. In 1962, he set both ends of the national Super Stock records. His yellow and black Dodges were the most sanitary and most feared machines in Super Stock. In 1964, he rode his Maxie Dodge to both ends of the A-Mod Production records an won a remarkable thirty- five out of the thirty-six events he attended!

It was later in 1964 though, when Dodge’s Frank Wylie asked Maverick to drive a very difficult new creation, that the legend was born. The Little Red Wagon A-100 wasn’t intended to be a wheelstander when new, it was simply designed to go fast and gain publicity for theA-100 platform. Problem was, the darn thing wouldn’t stay on the ground. After scaring eyietee driver’s off, nobody wanted to drive the seemingly dangerous truck, but Dodge still the publicity. That’s when Maverick decided, hey, if it wants to fly, let’s let it fly. The truck became an exhibition wheelstander and in January, 1965, the Little Red Wagon did its first full quarter mile wheelstands and was an overnight sensation.

Boldly going where no one had gone before was tough on the former Marine. The hard landings forced Maverick into the hospital in short order, so he had to figure out a better way to launch this thing and bring it back to the ground softer. He did. In fact, the technology Maverick pioneered created a whole new world of similar vehicles. By the end of the decade, there were half a dozen wheelstanders making regular appearances around the country, often appearing in match races with the Little Red Wagon.

Truck #1 didn’t live very long, ending its career in a violent crash in 1967. Maverick got out of that one with relatively light injuries, and quickly set about building truck #2. That one lived an even shorter life, but thankfully, Maverick got out of that wreck without much harm as well. This set up building truck #3. Truck #3became the most infamous of all Little Red Wagons. With each new truck, Maverick worked to improve its steering and braking system. Truck #3 was the most advanced thus far and he felt quite safe in the rig, making a number of perfectly successful passes before heading to - Quebec City Canada in 1975 for an exhibition race there. It was breezy, the track was slippery, and Maverick came as close to death as he ever — has. When the smoke and dust settled, the Wagon had rolled fourteen times, nine times end- over-end! That one put Maverick in the hospital with a number of broken bones and other injuries, but while laid up, he began planning how to make an even better truck #4.

Little Red Wagon was ready to race in 1975, but this truck had something in its favor that no previous truck had had. Before going to his first event with the new rig, Maverick had his good friend and Father Eddie Campbell, bless the new Red Wagon and ask God to watch over Maverick and the new truck. Is Maverick a believer? Allow us to testify. The first three Little Reds combined only lived ten years, the bless Red Wagon#has been on the track twenty-seven-years and has never suffered so much as :a scratch in the paint! Can we hear an amen!

In 1977, the truck set a world record — wheelstand that still stands to this day, 4,230 feet! We doubt anyone will ever better that mark. It’s truck #4 that most all of us remember seeing, and the unbelievable success he attained with the truck won him serious Maverick’s we EShcomeneloe awards for his achievements with the Wagon, scores of other PTT and has been — inducted into the Chrysler Hall of Fame, the Drag Racing Hall of Fame ,and Hot Rod magazine has named the Little Red Wagon “America’s Most Famous Racing Vehicle.” And hey, lest we forget, when Maverick got married on the starting line at the Mopar Nats three years ago, he left the scene with his bride in the Wagon and she became the first bride ever (we’ d bet) to make her escape from the wedding in a nitro burning
Hemi powered wheelstander. Who says the boy’s not a natural born romantic?

Here's something we bet you didn't know about the current Little Red Wagon, at least we didn’t. We had always thought the truck was built in 1975 to replace the mangled truck #3. That's not entirely accurate. The truck you're looking at was actually built as a Little Red Wagon way back in 1967 by a man from Tulsa, Oklahoma named Ron Perao. Since Maverick was constantly on the race track with the Wagon, Dodge needed another one for display purposes at auto shows and Dodge dealerships around the country. Ron built the truck for Frank Wylie taking it on tour around the country. In fact, there were a number of occasions where Maverick appeared with this look-a-like truck at dealerships and shows, signing autographs. Cosmetically, the truck looked just like the one on the strip, but it
didn’t have any of the trick gizmos which the real one did that kept it straight on the track.

In 1972. Maverick bought the display version of the Little Red and parked it at his home in Arkansas. He really didn't have any plans for the truck, but after the destruction of truck #3, he was extremely glad he had made the purchase. The display vehicle which he had been touring with since 1967 was transformed into truck #4, and that’s the same one you're looking at now. So, while its only been on the track since 1976, this particular truck has been a Little Red Wagon and associated with Maverick since 1967! Pretty cool eh,?

While the truck didn't sell on eBay, we're informed a deal is in the works to sell the truck to a celebrity owner out west. By the time you read this, said deal maybe done. If so, we'll have an update for you as soon as possible on the truck’s fate. And what of Maverick? His immediate plans call for an extended camping and fishing trip, and he’ll see what he wants to do come next race season. Have we seen the last of Maverick? Knowing him as we do, we'd bet the farm he may be hanging up spurs, but he’s not going to throw them away. We fully expect to see him at future Mopar events, perhaps not driving, but he’ll surely be there.

Know this too. Maverick’s mom is ninety-years-old and still on a bowling team. This year she went to at we lve pound ball after having used a sixteen pounder all her life - you’ve gotta’ cutback sometime. She also just drove three hundred miles to a family reunion. Sitting unfinished at Maverick’s home is yet another Little Red Wagon- truck #5, which was intended to replace #4years ago, but#4 never wore out. So, if Maverick gets tired of fishing, there's another truck already in hand and enough spare parts lying about to finish it.

To Maverick, thanks ever so much for all the wonderful memories, and for all of us at MCG and on behalf of everyone we know, enjoy yourself buddy. If you ever get tired of drowning worms & crickets, you know you've always got a welcome mat at any Mopar show in the world. We'll see ya' around cowboy.

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