Created in 1970, the initial seasons of Pro Stock Eliminator (NHRA-Style) were predominantly made-up of entries converted from top-of-the-line Super Stockers or late model Modified Production class cars. If I were going to build an authentic replica of the 1971 Motown Missile … I would start with a stock first generation Dodge Challenger kit or promo and add modifications allowed per the rule book. This mimics how most of the real cars were built circa 1971. Aside from the motive force and running gear, the ‘Missile (like all Pro Stockers of that era) was surprisingly factory stock.
Need proof? Here’s the 1971 NHRA Rule Book mandates for Pro Stock Eliminator: “Reserved for American built cars with American automobile engines with a wheelbase of 100 inches or more. Body, engine, drive train, chassis, etc., may not be altered, modified or relocated, except as outlined in Class Requirements.”
Now, here are those Class Requirements: Stock Body (fiberglass hood with scoop, front fenders & rear deck okay), Stock Bumpers & Grill, Stock Driver Location (upholstered bucket seats okay) Roll Bar & Seat Belts Mandatory, Stock Firewall, Stock Fender Splash Pans, Stock Fuel Tank, Stock Automobile Frame for Car Body Used (properly reinforced stepped frame okay), Stock Frame Cross Members (may be altered for engine/tranny swap), Stock Radiator, Stock Front Suspension, Any Rear End Okay, Any Stock-Type Tranny, Full Stock Interior Trim Must be Retained, Any Internal Engine Modification Okay (Carbs limited to 2-4V or 4-2V & open headers), Traction Bars Okay, and Slicks Okay (rear tire tread may not exceed two inches outside the rear fender which must retain the original contours). Additionally, the battery can be relocated to the trunk … and any street equipment which does not affect the external appearance of the car may be removed.
Per the rules … back in the day, the NHRA was diligent to keep the “stock” in Pro Stock (aka the Factory Hot Rods). So -- with the rule book as a guide, augmented with research info – it seems logical for one who wants to build an accurate 1971 Motown Missile replica to start with a stock Dodge Challenger kit.
Modeling Considerations: Transforming a first gen Challenger street car into the “Motown Missile” Pro Stocker. The body would be stock, but the distinctive ‘Missile hood scoop would have to be fabricated. The interior would be stock with the addition of a roll bar and racing shifter (research would determine the roll bar configuration i.e. 2, 4, 6-point and type of shifter i.e. 4-speed w/line loc, etc.). The chassis and front suspension would be stock, but research would also dictate modifications in terms of frame reinforcement, cross bar modifications, traction bar installation, and rear axle type and mounting. Plus, the ‘Missile’s unique wheelie “bars” would have to be researched and fabricated. And, of course, a full-race Dodge hemi with a tunnel ram and two 4-bbl carbs would have to be sourced and installed. Finally, paint and graphics based on prototype variant.
A few words about wheel size: the 1971 ‘Missile used solid, one-piece cast Gyro wheels manufactured by the Racing Division of the Fenton Wheel Company of Gardena, California. The 1971 Gyro product line was designed especially for NHRA Pro Stock Eliminator. The front wheel size was 3-1/2” x 15” and the rear wheel size was 8-1/2” x 15” (which was the widest size available). I have no idea what size slick was used on the ‘Missile … but an 8-1/2” wide wheel is not that wide! So, if I was building a replica, the absolute maximum width rear tire I would use would be Monogram’s 1/24th scale “show rod” slicks (which are based on Goodyear Blue Streak Dragway Specials 11.00-15) … definitely not a Revell dragster/funny car slick. If research proves the car ran Firestone Drag 500’s -- the Goodyear lettering can be sanded away.
Building any replica is a challenge – especially a car that raced 46-years ago! But it’s a very admirable ambition to attempt such a project. I saw the Motown Missile race … it had that something extra: a no-nonsense look and strictly business reputation. The ‘Missile was all about performance and it contributed greatly towards making Pro Stock Eliminator an integral part of NHRA Championship Drag Racing’s Golden Age.