July 24, 2021

Vintage-Nitro

Still car-crazy after all these years

Firebrewed Dodge Funny Car: Detroit Dragway

Think funny cars on pump gas weren't electrifying? Dick Smith and his injected Firebrewed Dodge A/FX will convince you otherwise.
Firebrewed Dodge funny car
Dick Smith’s Firebrewed A/FX Dodge dominated the funny car show Detroit Dragway in May 1966. Tom Bonner photo (Kodak Instamatic)

Detroit Dragway 1966: For those who might think that gas funny cars couldn’t possibly be exciting, this image of Dick Smith’s Firebrewed Dodge funny car might just change your mind.

Smith was one of a loose collection of gas funny cars that showed up to do battle at Detroit Dragway in May of 1966. After the first round, it was apparent that unless Smith broke, he would walk away with the title. Smith didn’t break, and Firebrewed was the last car standing.

The car was painted in a blend of gold fading into candy-apple read. It wasn’t a pretty car; it lacked a hood and that moon tank cut into the grille wouldn’t win any best appearing car trophies. The big Dodge was a race car at heart though, and it showed every time Smith hit the starting line.

This picture shows Smith on the return road at Detroit Dragway. Most of the funny cars that day were towed back to the pits after their runs. In contrast, Smith drove the injected Hemi back under it’s own power.

Forty-four years afterward, I can still hear the car lumbering down the return road. Tanka, tanka, tanka, tanka. It wasn’t as throaty as a blown nitro engine, but it was still impressive as it idled by.

Firebrewed: an original A/FX Coronet Coupe

When I first saw the car, I thought Smith might have bought one of the famous factory Dodges and repainted it in the Firebrewed colors. Then I realized the factory Dodges of the Ramchargers, Lindamood and Landy all were hardtops, with the distinctive parallelogram rear roof pillar. Firebrewed was based on a two door coupé style, with the heavier, wrap around roof pillar. Smith either built the car himself or obtained a coupé style car from the Chrysler racing program. In either case, the car received the standard Chrysler altered wheel based treatment, with the front wheels moved 10 inches toward the front and the rear axle shifted forward by 15 inches.

A year later, in 1967, Smith returned to Detroit Dragway to take on another batch of gasoline funny cars. It was a rerun of 1966, with Firebrewed easily taking the winner’s cash.

The return of the Firebrewed funny car?

After 1967, I never saw Firebrewed again.. I assumed the Dodge A/FXer had been sold off, parted out or wrecked.

In preparing this post, I came across a reprint of the November 2009 Mopar Collectors Guide. Firebrewed is on page 26…or what was left of it. It is in pretty rough shape, but it appears mostly intact. The article indicates the current owner hopes to fully restore the old A/FX machine.

I’m happy that the old Firebrewed has been saved and is apparently undergoing restoration. The car never earned the fame that the nitro funny cars of the era enjoyed. But the big Coronet’s domination at Detroit Dragway and elsewhere make the Firebrewed A/FX Dodge well worth preserving.