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The Reher-Morrison Era

The Rat That Roared

By Rick Voegelin, Photography by Rick Voegelin

On the Dyno: The Way It Was

David Reher was pumped. "Man, that was fun!" he exclaimed. "We just ran the 1982 500ci Pro Stock motor on the dyno. It made 1,042 hp at 8,500 rpm, and the power was still going up when we stopped the pull.

"That's exactly what a Pro Stock World Champion engine made in 1982," Reher added. "That's all the same stuff that we raced 30 years ago. We didn't update the heads, we didn't change a rocker arm, we didn't change anything. That was the state of the art in our world in 1982."

The NASCAR Connection

Before Rick Hendrick won 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup championships as a team owner, long before his Hendrick Automotive Group acquired more than 100 franchises and 7,000 employees, Rick Hendrick was a bucks-down drag racer. Hendrick's racing roots reach back to a 1931 Chevrolet C/Gasser that he built and raced as a teenager with his father.

"I raked together some parts from an old Modified," Hendrick recalled. "It had a 327 Chevy with an empty GoJo can and a heater elbow for a hoodscoop. We ran an old McGurk roller cam, and one day when we broke a roller lifter, I put in one flat tappet, filled the motor with STP, and we won the race."

Hendrick has risen from those humble beginnings to become a powerhouse in NASCAR competition and in the automotive industry. What's less well known is the role that Reher-Morrison Racing Engines played in the early days of Hendrick's NASCAR program.

"I didn't know Rick Hendrick, in fact I had never heard of him," Reher recalled. "We were running IHRA races in the South, and one of his guys said that Hendrick wanted to talk with us. Rick was just starting All-Star Racing, which later became Hendrick Motorsports. We met with him at his City Chevrolet dealership, and that's where it all began.

"Our only previous connection with NASCAR was that we'd done some heads and intake manifolds for Waddell Wilson, when he was crew chief and engine builder for Henry Ranier. They were basically what we used on our B/Econo Dragster engines with Holley intake manifolds and TRW titanium valves. Nobody used those parts in NASCAR, but Waddell tested our stuff and decided to run it in the Daytona 500. Buddy Baker drove for Waddell, and that was the year they won the pole, won the race, and set the all-time record."

The 177.602-mph speed record set by Baker in 1980 with Reher-Morrison cylinder heads and intake manifold still stands as the fastest Daytona 500 in history. Baker dominated that day, leading 143 of 200 laps in Ranier Racing's Oldsmobile.

"So we met with Rick, and he said he wanted to help us if we would help him," Reher said. "That's how it started. It was a mutually beneficial relationship, and we've been friends ever since.

"We did cylinder heads and manifolds for Hendrick for many years and helped solve some of the engine problems they were having. We had Hendrick Motorsports sponsorship on our Camaro, and later on, he brought us a Levi Garrett deal when they were sponsoring his Cup car.

"I really have to give all the credit to Rick for what he has done to preserve the history of Reher-Morrison," Reher said. "None of this would have happened without him. These cars bring back a lot of memories and emotions. Seeing them now makes me proud and grateful."

Hendrick credits Reher-Morrison and Shepherd for contributing to his team's early success in NASCAR.

"Buddy and David had an impact on our success getting started in Cup racing," Hendrick said. "We had our name on their car, and it was just a great relationship. So with our common heritage, I thought it would be really cool to have one of the Reher-Morrison cars in my museum."

This enduring relationship is about more than just hardware, however. There is a human element, too.

"Sometimes in life, you meet people that you know immediately are genuine," Hendrick observed. "Buddy, David, Lee, and Bruce were always totally up front with me. We shared information, they helped us, and their cylinder heads produced a lot of power. I was a drag racer at heart, so to be associated with those guys and their success was really neat. I was happy to give them a hand when they needed help. They're quality people."

By Rick Voegelin
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