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It was probably sometime in the early 1990s. I had been freelancing only locally at the time, but had parlayed my writing talent into an occasional track newspaper gig with Vince Mele, who ran the media business up at Raceway Park in New Jersey. At the big events I was still in the stands, but for the NHRA points races and special events at Englishtown I was down on the starting line with the rest of the “real” photographers. That was how I first met Frank Lupo.
Frank was based out of Connecticut at the time, and he and the crew at Dynamic Converters was already known as one of the best Super Stock and Stock torque converter builders on the planet. He also had a real aluminum-nosed 1964 Hemi Dodge. This was no run of the mill machine either; this was the original Dave Strickler/Bill Jenkins “Dodge Boys” machine that the team had raced on the weekends when they were not playing with their better-known A/FX car (which had gone to England in 1964 and is now in Mike Guffey’s collection unrestored).
The Grump was gone by end of the year, but Dave took the car to Pomona in 1965 outfitted for A/Modified Production, and then won the class by beating Arnie Beswick’s very nasty 1963 lightweight 421 Tempest. The car was then bought by Frank’s dad as a high school graduation present for a young Frank.
At the time, there were not many options for getting a story published nationally, but Roland Osborne was publishing Chrysler Power, and guys like Stevie “Magneto” Magnante and myself found an outlet as budding scribes there. We did not get paid much but Roland did publish our stuff. So I began working up a story on Frank’s very cool history piece. In fact, I would go so far now as to state that this was the first real “historic racecar” I ever documented, and the research I did to get to its understanding was the start of my work in vintage drag racing; it was that interesting to me.
One other humorous aside of the process is that I got the phone number of one William Tyler Jenkins up in Malvern, Pa., and made an innocent call one afternoon while working up the text on Frank’s car. It went something like this…
“Err, hi, Mr. Jenkins. My name is Geoff Stunkard and I’m working on a story about the Dodge you and Dave Strickler had back in 1964, and I was…”
“Hrmmmph. We had about five of them f**king things that year.”
Oh, well, the perils of doing my job, I guess. At any rate, the story ran in CP, I got a $100 check, and now I was published nationally, at least to the Mopar community.
As for Frank’s Dodge, I witnessed its retirement at Englishtown the following year. Frank got a LOT of bite on his first lap at the spring points race (no wheelie bars due to the car’s rarity and Frank’s long-term relationship with it). The Alcoa nose went higher and higher, and that nose was not coming down. Frank was past the tree and finally had to lift; at that speed it came down much harder then he planned, splaying the front suspension on impact. At that point, Frank understandably decided that the car was too valuable to race any longer, and it was parked. He built a stout ’70 Hemi ’cuda that would continue to run competitively in Division 1 longer than I did; I ended up in Bristol working for IHRA.