June 19, 2021

Vintage-Nitro

Still car-crazy after all these years

Bill Jenkins and his successful white Camaro

The mud couldn't keep Bill Jenkins from sweeping the match

Grumpy’s Toy Camaro: Killer Pro Stock

As I already discussed, opening day at Detroit Dragway for 1970 featured a match race between the Pro Stocks of Bill Grumpy Jenkins and Dick Loher.

The Pro Stock category was brand new for 1970, but Jenkins had already established himself as a dominant force in the class. He won the NHRA Winternationals and Gatornationals, the first two major events of the year. As the year progressed, it was evident that two teams had a lock on the Pro Stock ranks. One was the Sox and Martin team, with Ronnie Sox and Herb McCandless driving identical Barracudas. The other was the duo of Bill Jenkins and Dave Strickler in a pair of Jenkins prepared Camaros.

Loher was a former funny car driver who moved to Pro Stock when Ford offered him a position on the Ford Drag Team. The Ford Drag Team was a heavily backed effort supplying each member with multiple cars and engines, as well as specialty-built car haulers.

Independent driver versus the Factory racer

On paper, Loher seemed to have the advantage, with his giant Ford backing. As an independent, Jenkins looked like an underdog. But almost everyone believes that certain entities at Chevrolet were secretly supplying Jenkins with parts, money and engineering help.

GM had turned its corporate back on racing in the mid-sixties. The company had so much market share that some legislators saw it as a monopoly and wanted to break the corporation up. To combat this, GM abandoned all racing activity in order to reduce its mammoth marketing reach.

Naturally, many engineers and division heads weren’t happy about GM’s anti-racing stance. Although they couldn’t publically sponsor racing programs, many GM racers received support under the table. Team Jenkins would have been an excellent choice for this backdoor assistance.

Muddy conditions couldn’t keep the Grumpy’s Toy Camaro from sweeping the match

In any case, Jenkins took the match three straight, which must have caused some embarrassment to the Ford Drag Team in their hometown outing.

For 1970, the Grumpy’s Toy Camaro was a ’68 Model

Camaro fans will notice that Jenkins was still running the ’68 body style at this juncture. As detailed in Hot Rod magazine, Chevrolet had problems with sheet metal on the original 1970 Camaro design. As a result, they continued to build and sell the ’69 body style while they refined the dies for the ’70 Camaro quarter panels. When the new design Camaro finally arrived, it was tagged as the 1970-1/2 Camaro.

Grumpy would eventually switch to the ’70-1/2 Camaro. He and Strickler enjoyed great success with that new body style. For the Detroit opener (and most 1970 major events), however, Team Jenkins was getting the job done with `68 huggers.