John Grinwald’s Gold Digger
JOHN GRINWALD EATS, SLEEPS AND DRINKS HIGHPERFORMANCE CARS, AND THIS 1965 ALTEREDWHEELBASE DODGE CORONET IS CERTAINLY PROOF.
Injected on alcohol, Grinwald’s “Gold Digger” Nostalgia Super Stocker brings smiles to those who remember these legendary cars from back in the day. It is capable of producing times of 8.66 to 155.00 mph.
“My dad was in the car business,” says Grinwald, today CEO of Watertown, Wisconsin’s, Grinwald Ford. “In 1958, he started selling used cars on the side of his Cities Service (CITGO) station. Then, he got into a Studebaker dealership, where I started working when I was 11 years old.
“I absolutely loved it! I did whatever was needed: I swept floors, washed parts and handed tools to the mechanics. When Studebaker went out of business, he acquired Watertown Dodge; and suddenly, I found myself standing in the wheelhouse of high performance. After all, it was the muscle car era. All those wonderful Mopars! At 13, I’m moving cars around the lot and working in the service department. Dad was letting
At 13, I’m moving cars around the lot and working in the service department.
Dad was letting me drive anything I wanted to drive by age 16 (1970)—Hemi Chargers, 440 Six Pack Challengers, 340 Darts—you
name it, I drove it.
me drive anything I wanted to drive by age 16 (1970)—hemi Chargers, 440 sixpack Challengers, 340 Darts—you name it, I drove it.”
In 1972, Grinwald senior walked into the back room and said, “One of our salesmen is sick. We’re really busy right now, and I need you to sell some cars. Get cleaned up and put on a shirt and tie.”
Eventually, John became general manager and ran the store until 1998.
Grinwald was out of drag racing for quite some time, getting married and having kids. Then, in 2002, he bought the "Asphalt Elephant," a 1964 Nostalgia Super Stock Dodge.
“In 2010, I was approached by Brian Kuhlman, who owned the Bell Dodge AWB car. Brian was thinking about building a newer, updated version but changed his mind. When I saw him at the World of Wheels car show in Milwaukee, he said, ‘Hey, you always wanted an altered-wheelbase car.
I’ve got an extra one that I’m not going to build. I’m into Harleys now and want to sell it. You interested?’ So, I went over and looked at the car.”
The 1965 Dodge Coronet Kuhlman mentioned was originally raced at an outlaw drag strip in Arkansas. The car was unaltered but seriously stripped down.
They had taken out the dash. It had only one gauge (oil pressure) and a 5-gallon gas can with a rubber hose running from it that served as the “fuel cell.” The car was originally a 383 two-barrel with a Dana 60 rear end in it. It also came with a straight axle out of a Dodge D100.
“The old Dodge was a perfect candidate for an altered-wheelbase car; the body was perfect. It had the entire factory lightweight fiberglass, the doors, the hood, the deck lid, the bumpers and the dash, so I bought it. It was a dream of mine—an altered-wheelbase car and its place in drag racing history. Things were evolving pretty fast during that time, and there was a lot of excitement. I wanted to depict a car that fell into that slot in the history of drag racing, but I wasn’t sure how to do it.”
According to John the car sat in storage for three years awaiting a plan.
“Of course, the car had to be cut up, and things had to be moved around for altering. I took a long, hard look at the car and tried to figure out how the hell I was going to do this.
“I’d heard about an Internet site called A/FX-er.com, so I went on that site. Holy cow! It was fantastic. There were people from all over the world on there talking about altered-wheelbase cars. The guy who was in charge of the site connected me with automotive author Steve Magnante, who had a wealth of knowledge and had done a story for HOT ROD Magazine on his “Wilshire Shaker” altered-wheelbase Chevy Nova. He did a “how-to” and had a book and a DVD.
“I’m looking all this stuff over, and a light bulb goes off. I’m like, Yup, I see how they do it, and it’s simple! There’s a lot of welding involved, but the concept is simple: You move the rear axle forward 15 inches. You cut that section of floor pan out. You cut all the way through the car, the section for the wheel tubs and everything, and you literally roll that section ahead. Then, you start welding in place. My friend, Steve Rice, who altered some wheelbases and moved front axles forward in a couple of cars, said, ‘I don’t have a project this winter, so I can definitely do it.’”
Grinwald continued, “When we were building the car, Brian Kuhlman cautioned me not to mount the front axle too high in the air, because at about a buck fifty, that thing will be all over the track. He also suggested that we install a hand brake in the car instead of a Line Loc for better launches. As a safety precaution, I also installed a dual fuel shutoff switch—one on the outside of the car, per NHRA safety regulations, and one inside the car with easy access for the driver.
“Not wanting to break with tradition, the Dodge would be powered by an equally nostalgic 426 hemi. Nostalgia Super Stock Club President Rick Berlisk and I had always envisioned doing the early version and install two fourbarrels on the car, as they were when they first came out. Then, we went to the PRI show and saw this freaking Kinsler stack injection. We both said, ‘Damn!’
“Rick then said, ‘If you put those carburetors on, I’m going to kick you in the ass!’
“Brian Kuhlman also suggested that I set the car up to run nitro, but because I was basically exploring new territory driving an altered-wheelbase car, I didn’t want to go that far with it!”
The winner of the NonConformist Award at the 2016 Meltdown Drags at Byron Dragway, “Gold Digger” brings smiles to the faces of nostalgia buffs wherever it runs.
Origin of the term, “funny car”: Moving the rear axle 15 inches forward of the stock location and moving the front axle 10 inches forward made the Mopars look odd—or funny.Grinwald's '65 Dodge brings back fond memories of the time “Dandy Dick” Landy,Bob Harrop, Bud Faubel, Dave Strickler, the Ramchargers and Roger Lindamood campaigned the original cars.
Power is provided by an iron-block 426 (now 572 ci) Hemi. See the sidebar on page 30 for details.
It's difficult to imagine how the original funny cars morphed into their modern-day, 3.80 sec./340 mph variants.
ABOVE. The rear suspension primarily features Strange Engineering products: brakes, Ford-type, 9-inch aluminum housing, gears, billet axles attached to a Dan Hare four-link suspension, dampened by Penske Racing coil over shocks.
RIGHT. The interior is understandably spartan—a single Kirkey race seat, Kinsler and Stewart Warner-equipped dash, Simpson Safety harnesses and Cheetah shifter.
Owner Grinwald (right) proudly stands by his Dodge, accompanied by crewman and current Nostalgia Super Stock, Inc. President Rick Berlisk.