MUSCLE CAR MADNESS

“One day Richard stopped by to have his car serviced. He had to work that day so “Lewis” asked me to drive him to the Carr’s grocery store on Gambell. I was elated on finding I’d be piloting the GTX.”

Me parked in front of Cheney Lake on Beaver Street.

I was blessed to grow up in Anchorage during the muscle car era. With my dad eventually owning a gas station, I got to drive many of the hottest vehicles Detroit offered. This journey started in 1969. My passion for fast cars began a few years earlier when I discovered Hot Rod and Car Craft magazines.

My father was in the Air Force stationed at Elmendorf. He worked evenings at Marswalk Texaco, located on DeBarr Road and Boniface Parkway. Isaiah Lewis and Doug Sizemore were also employees of this business; Bill Fisher and Joe Ridge included.

One afternoon when I was hanging around the station, Doug Sizemore offered me a ride in his 1963 Ford Falcon. It had a built 260 V-8 under the hood with 4-speed transmission. He banged all four gears while I held on for dear life. I was hooked at that point.

A couple of years later my father and Isaiah Lewis purchased Yeager’s Texaco on Taku Drive. They changed the name to Wonderpark Texaco. I was hired at $2.00 an hour to pump gas, clean floors and windows, plus other assigned duties. It wasn’t long before I was changing oil, lubricating chassis parts, turning wrenches, and of course taking the necessary test drives to make sure all was good.

Richard Watts was a fledgling employee of Carr’s in 1969. He had a ’69 440 powered Plymouth GTX back then, so he must’ve been making decent money. I idolized the young man for his vehicle alone.

One day Richard stopped by to have his car serviced. He had to work that day so “Lewis” asked me drive him to the Carr’s grocery store on Gambell. I was elated on finding I’d be piloting the GTX. It was a moment that’d change my life. I became addicted to Chrysler products because of that one experience.

Richard Watts went on to climb the ladder at Carr’s. A hard worker, he was a positive influence in my life. Ed Moses, a customer of ours, was the same. I don’t recall Ed having a fast car like Richard’s.

A fellow named Tom owned a 1964 Pontiac GTO. It had a 389 with single Rochester carburetor. Tom wanted three, two-barrel carbs installed like some GTO’s came with. Lewis told me it was one of the man’s final wishes as he had a serious health problem.

Lewis made sure that happened. I got to test the car afterwards and found it quite peppy. Only a few years later Lewis told me that Tom passed away. I remember him being a super nice guy.

Tom’s 1964 Pontiac wasn’t as fast as a 1970 455 HO GTO owned by a soldier named Anthony. We called him Bob for whatever reason? I no longer remember his last name although several years back I did.

I test drove Bob’s emerald green Pontiac on a drizzly rainy day. Going about 50 mph on the Glenn Highway, I punched the throttle to see what she’d do. Don’t ask me why female connotations are used for cars, but they were back then. Bob’s GTO immediately went sideways. Luckily I was able to keep her out of the ditch.

Later on I got to try things out on a dry road. To this day I believe it was faster than Richard Watt’s Plymouth GTX. It’d smoke the tires at will.

We had a supercharged Corvair in the shop numerous times. It was unimpressive in the acceleration department. An Army guy brought it up the Al-Can Highway. When the engine tossed a connecting rod, Alaska Towing & Wrecking hauled it away on a wrecker. I’m sure the square Chevy was crushed.

A 1967 SOHC 6-cylinder Pontiac Firebird was fairly quick. It had a 3-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter. I delivered it to a customer who lived downtown near Bootlegger’s Cove. Going through the gears a few times on the way there, before long, burnt clutch permeated my nose. I made sure to roll both windows down and air things out as the owner had to take me back to the station. Thankfully he didn’t notice the pungent odor.

There were Dodge Challenger’s and Barracuda’s in for service on occasion. One 1970 340 Challenger belonged to a young fellow in Mt. View. He must’ve had three pine-tree air fresheners hanging from the rearview mirror. Lewis mentioned with a grin that they were needed to drown out any plant smell. I guess this guy was a big user including dealer. I’m sure it was for medicinal purposes.

I still remember like yesterday, taking that car back to a little trailer on the outskirts of Mt. View. Cisco Kid played the whole way going and coming. Yea, he was a friend of mine too.

We had Mustang’s galore come in for service. I drove a good many of them including a Boss 302. It was quick. The majority were unimpressive 6-cylinder and 289 powered models.

For all the Camaro’s running around town, I can’t recall any of them coming to our shop. I did get to drive several belonging to friends. They were light-weight and snappy with 302, 327, and 350 engines.

A customer living in Muldoon owned a 1967 American Motors Marlin fastback. To this day I believe it’s the ugliest car ever manufactured. The fellow possessing it bragged on how fast his Marlin was. I transported this slug to Action Locksmith on 5th Avenue for new keys to be made. It was absolutely gutless in the power department. I cringed thinking someone from high school might see me in it.

I picked up my own muscle cars and hot rods as money became more readily available. A 1968 Charger R/T 440, 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T convertible, 1954 Chevy sedan with 302, Z-28 Camaro engine, 1972 SS454 Chevelle, Corvette 350 V-8 powered Vega, 1969 and 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner’s (at least 7), 1968 426 Hemi Charger’s (2), 1968 supercharged 426 Hemi GTX, 1975 SS454 El Camino, 1969 SS L78 350 Camaro, 1961 Corvette, 1975 Firebird Formula 400, plus vehicles not worth mentioning like a gold 1970 Camaro Sports Coupe with 6-cylinder engine.

These days I’m still into fast vehicles but not as heavy as my early years. I’ll always keep a Hot Rod in my garage just because I’m a car guy. Right now, that’s a 2021 Charger Redeye. It’ll have to suffice until either a faster vehicle comes along, or I build another.

I’m thinking about a new project. Something tells me this next one will be electric!

Supercharged 426 Hemi GTX now has a new owner.

Author: michaeldexterhankins

ordinary average guy

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