October 19, 2021

Vintage-Nitro

Still car-crazy after all these years

Dick Loehr Ford Drag Clinic

Dick Loehr and the Ford Drag Clinic at a dealership

Dick Loehr and the Ford Drag Clinic

Dick Loehr and the Ford Drag Clinic

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the opening day match at Detroit between Bill Jenkins and Dick Loehr. Pro Stock was an exciting new eliminator for 1970 and both Ford and Chrysler offered up factory PS teams.

Ford had been heavily invested in top fuel and funny car programs in the late ’60s. For 1970, the company largely abandoned the nitro ranks in favor of the “factory hot rods.” Micky Thompson and Connie Kalitta attempted to carry on with 429 factory programs, but the Boss didn’t seem to like nitro like the older ‘Cammers. Accordingly, funny car star Loehr parked his Mustang flopper in favor of a new factory-backed Maverick pro stocker.

Ford Drag Clinics: a better idea for 1970

Ford went all with a new Ford Drag Clinic program, which included the Boss 429 Maverick as well as the specially designed car hauler you see in the photos.

Ford Drag Clinic hauler
Loehr’s Ford backed hauler.
Maverick seen on Ford Drag Clinic transporter
The impressive Ford Drag Clinic team transporter.

You have to understand that in that era, drag racing teams were not employing 18 wheelers as race car transporters. The days of the enclosed Chaparral trailer were still in the future. Most of the better-healed guys were conveying their machines on uncovered ramp trucks, while some big-name cars still arrived at the track on open trailers. So the large Ford Hauler was a standout attraction, both at the race track and at the dealership clinics. At the time there were no more impressive racing rigs.

Ford prepared two similar rigs for Ed Terry and Hubert Platt. The three Ford Drag Clinic ambassadors appeared at Ford Dealers throughout the country, providing advice and the latest performance part numbers to enthusiastic racers. Ford drag racers large and small found they now had access to engineering resources direct from the factory.

In late February 1970, Loehr was on hand for a clinic at Spitler-Demmer Ford in Wayne, Michigan. That was early in Loehr’s Pro Stock operation, so it probably was one of the first clinics he presented. I don’t recall the details, but the dealership was packed with Ford racers seeking the newest hot setup.

Loehr was mostly successful with his Mustang floppers. Longtime Crew Chief John Skiba effortlessly made the transition from nitro SOHC powerplant to carbureted, gas-burning Boss 429.

Loehr and Skiba lead the Ford Pro Stock efforts

According to Draglist, Loehr ran a best of 10.055/136.98 with the 429. Those numbers were competitive, but as I mentioned in the Jenkins post, Sox & Martin and Team Jenkins claimed top honors at most of the major events.

Loehr was in the thick things, however. He was the top Ford qualifier at the NHRA Winternationals and his 10.12 made him the quickest qualifying Ford at the Gatornationals.

Unfortunately, the Michigan-based Loehr couldn’t hold off Jenkins and his Camaro at the ’70 Detroit opener. Grumpy’s Toy swept the match three straight.

Loehr and Skiba continued in the Pro Stock ranks for a few more seasons. In ’71, Loehr dropped the 429 for a high winding 351 small block. Ultimately, he fielded a 427 powered Maverick for match races.

Upon retiring from the sport, Loehr became involved in numerous successful automotive and RV endeavors. He passed away in 2008.

Did anyone else attend a Ford Drag Clinic back in the day? Tell us what you remember in the comments below!