In 1965, the Head of Chrysler Corporation Racing Program, Ronney Household was boycotting NASCAR after the sanctioning body banned the 7.0-liter (426 cubic-inch)”RACE” HEMI V8 from race competition. The Chrysler Racing Program then moved money to sponsor drag racers and led to two special cars being built exclusively for its factory drag racing program that year.
Developed by the same engineers working under the Race HEMI engine creator Tom Hoover, the Chrysler Racing Program created two new Super Stock sedans using the bodies of the mainstream Dodge Coronet and Plymouth Belvedere. Called the “A990” package, the Super Stock duo were powered by the same Race HEMI engine. Although the Race HEMI still retained its 12.5:1 compression ratio and 425 horsepower rating, the engine did get several improvements for NHRA competition. This included a redesigned solid-lifter cam, aluminum cylinder heads, and a magnesium intake manifold.
The Coronet and Belvedere bodies were outfitted with thin-gauge steel components and lightweight Corning glass in the doors, side-glass, and rear window. In order to make the car ready for competition, the Chrysler Racing Program had to sell 100 units of each. In total, Chrysler’s Lynch Road Assembly Plant ended up building 203 A990 package cars in total (101 Coronets and 102 Belvederes).
Needless to say, the A990s were fast, especially the Plymouths. Driver Joe Smith won the 1965 NHRA Top Stock World Champion title in one, and Ed Miller won the 1967 Super Stock World Finals in his 1965 Plymouth A990 (that car crossed the auction block at Mecum in 2019). Plymouth even hired Mercury factory team Sox & Martin to campaign one of their A990s, leading to an important partner within the sport. The Sox & Martin team would campaign two cars in 1965, a hardtop model the factory had acid-dipped and a modified sedan based on the Super Stock release. This car here followed in that tradition, but many years later. It first became famous for another reason.
Skilled guitarist Roy Clark made a big impression on his fans and the producers of the TV show “Hee Haw,” which he eventually hosted for more than two decades. What most people don’t know is the well-liked musician also had a penchant for racing both cars and boats, and he purchased this modified Plymouth hardtop during the 1990s to run it as a weekend match racing car circa the 1965 tradition, and it featured skyward-reaching fuel injectors, reworked altered wheelbase and lightweight body panels. Not surprisingly, it was lettered up as the “Hee Haw HEMI.”
When Clark sold it, the person on the other end of the sales transaction was none other than Ronnie Sox, who wanted an exhibition car to race as a circa-1965 Sox & Martin Plymouth. The original hardtop example he and Buddy Martin had campaigned back in 1965 had long been understood to have been parted out in the 1960s, so there would be no confusing this tribute with that first car. Moreover, this Belvedere was already updated to the safety needed for a more modern performance level.
Still, care was taken to make it appear as it may have back in the day, which included the trademark-worthy red, white and blue Sox & Martin paint scheme, lettering for the Gate City Motor Company of Greensboro, North Carolina, and a decal from the 1964 U.S. Racing Team Tour of England, which the Sox & Martin team had appeared in, marking the first appearance of the three-tone paint scheme.
Of course, with injected HEMI power residing under (and through) its fiberglass hood, the “funny car” name that applied to these creations is instantly evident. As easily seen, the wheelbase has been rearranged in the fashion of the original release, bringing the front wheels forward 10 inches to be directly behind the front bumper and the rear axle forward 15 inches, all in the name of weight transfer and creating the A/FX (factory experimental) class.
Set up to run on methanol, even a cursory examination reveals the quality of parts Sox selected for the powerplant. The front fuel tank feeds Hilborn injectors mounted on the HEMI, sparked by MSD ignition pieces. The engine is backed by a racing automatic transmission and narrowed Dana-style differential. Strange Engineering disc brakes slow it down, while the interior features a modern driver cage, Moroso gauges, a Cheetah SCS shifter, and red seat covers. The tinwork throughout is well-executed, while extreme-duty suspension components were selected with durability in mind.
There is a lot of historic significance to this car. Ronnie Sox, himself, actually made a number of passes in this exact car. The post states that Sox himself piloted the car down the track in its last travel down the strip during a test drive for the next and current owner, Pete Eavers, who never raced it nor changed anything Sox had done.
Retired after Sox succumbed to cancer in 2006, this car has since been on display in a Virginia car museum until recently, and it’s now coming to auction for the first time since Sox modified it. The car is scheduled to cross the Mecum Kissimmee auction block this coming Friday, January 5th, 2024. For those curious to bid on and own an important part of Mopar drag racing history, you can visit Mecum.com for more information.
1965 Plymouth Belvedere Sox & Martin A/FX A990 Image Gallery: