John Grin­wald’s Gold Dig­ger

Drag Racer - - Contents -


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/, 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.

Text and pho­tos by Bob McClurg

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.

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