We returned to the Ditch (Detroit Dragway) in the spring of 1968, lured by the promise of a huge funny car line-up. The entry list left us drooling over the opportunity to see many of the top cars in the country. The radio spots guaranteed records would fall, and knowing the caliber of the cars involved I could well believe it.
Sadly, it was not to be. As we made the turn on to Telegraph road, the first rain drops hit the windshield. By the time we reached Sibley road, twenty minutes later, we were driving through a full-fledged downpour.
Could they dry the track and run the race?
I still hoped they might be able to dry the track and get the show in. When we reached the track entrance, however, the gates were locked and a small signed proclaimed “Event cancelled due to rain.”
How do you describe disappointment? A rain-out before a single funny car is able to make a pass is a good start.
I’m not sure whether my step-father spotted some funny cars from the road, or whether he just figured that a motel might be a good place to look. Whichever, he wheeled the car into nearby motel parking lot. There we found several out-of-state funny cars parked because of the weather.
Mr. Chevrolet and his Camaro
It was my first chance to see Dick Harrell’s Camaro flopper. Harrell was known as Mr. Chevrolet, and his prowess behind the wheel was legendary. Harrell started with a Chevelle match racer, then progressed to a wild Chevy II match-basher. In late 1966, Harrell had Don Hardy build a tube frame, steel body ’67 Camaro funny car. The car was a twin to Kelly Chadwick’s Wild Thing II Camaro (which was also on hand for the rained out event). Although other Chevy stars ran various body styles: Corvairs, Novas, Vegas and Monzas; all of Harrell’s future funny cars were Camaros.
Harrell was one of the first to embrace the multi-car team concept. He ran at least three, possibly four Camaros during the 1968 season. The fact that he brought one of his best cars, this flip top ’68 Camaro, is an indication of how good the field would have been that day, had the rain not interfered.
Several of Harrell’s 1968 cars still survive. There are claims and counter-claims regarding the legitimacy of some of these cars as current owners claim their Camaro was campaigned by Dick Harrell in the past. I will look further into the Harrell Camaro legacy, next time.