June 23, 2023


Still car-crazy after all these years

The Southern Style Dodge Charger at Detroit Dragway.

Jack Thorton and the Southern Style Dodge Funny Car

Jack Thorton competed in both the UDRA and NASCAR circuits with Southern Style Dodge Funny Car during the 1967 season,
Southern Style Dodge Charger
The long nose Southern Style Dodge Charger on the return road at Detroit Dragway.

Another tough Dodge funny car at Detroit Dragway’s Midwest Championships was Jack Thorton’s Southern Style Dodge Charger.

Thorton was running in the gas funny car ranks that Sunday. I snapped this photo on the return road after Thorton lost to eventual winner Dick Smith’s Firebrewed Coronet in the first round.

I’m not exactly sure what the term “Southern Style” match racing come from. I know it is supposed to be summed up by no-holds barred, “run what you brung”  racing, but that mode of competition isn’t exclusive to the South. After all, the altered wheelbase match racer was basically invented in Michigan, and many of the top match-bash racers hailed from California, the Midwest and the East Coast. Nothing against Southern racers, but I’m not sure what makes this Dodge Charger all that different from the other funny cars at Detroit Dragway that day.

I don’t know that much about the car, other than it features an extended nose, the rear wheels have been moved forward significantly and the engine appears to have been set back to further increase weight transfer. I can’t say what sort of chassis the car used, although I can see a husky roll cage inside, and it looks like the car has a straight axle. I found another photo that indicates the rear suspension used leaf springs, which is a tip-off that the car may have retained a modified Charger frame.  Most of the tubular funny car chassis of the era used coil over shocks for suspension, front and rear.

Whatever the specifications, I really like the looks of the Southern Style Dodge Charger.  I can’t say how much longer the nose is, but  would guess it is at least 18 inches, possibly longer than a stock Charger. While some lengthened funny cars looked ungainly, the long front clip actually helps this car’s appearance, giving off the impression “I’m mean, don’t mess with me.”

Painted on the rear fender is the word NASCAR, followed by the competition number 89. From this we can deduce that Thorton ran the NASCAR funny car series in 1967. Since most of the cars running Detroit Dragway that day were part of the UDRA circuit, I assume Thorton also ran other UDRA meets.

I failed to find any more information about Jack Thorton, other than the car was sponsored by Thorton Auto Parts, which suggests he or someone in his family owned an auto parts store. As to where that auto parts store was located (and presumably the car was from the same location) I have no clue.

Anyone know where Jack Thorton and his Charger were from? Let us know in the comments.


Tom Bonner