What you see on these pages has been cloaked in secrecy for 30 years. We are unlocking a time capsule, lifting the lid on drag racing's version of King Tut's tomb.
Reher-Morrison and Shepherd’s Camaro reigned supreme in 1982, dominating the first season
This is the real deal—not a replica, not a re-creation, not a reasonable facsimile. It is the original Reher-Morrison big-block Chevrolet engine that won the NHRA Pro Stock championship in 1982 and 1983, the first two seasons contested with 500ci engines. These same cylinder heads were on the 615ci engine that won the IHRA Pro Stock championship in 1983.
This amazing motor has been perfectly preserved, unmodified and unmolested for 30 years. It is a messenger from the past, revealing secrets from the beginning of Pro Stock's modern era.
And the race cars? They are the genuine articles, as well. For students of drag racing history, these tri-colored Reher-Morrison Racing Engines Camaros are the crown jewels of door-slammer drag racing. The second-generation Camaro is the ‘82 NHRA championship-winning car. The third-generation RMRE Camaro is surely one of the most successful and significant race cars in Pro Stock history, with five championships on its racing résumé: back-to-back NHRA titles in 1983 and 1984, and three consecutive IHRA championships in 1983, 1984, and 1985.
Thirty years later, Reher and partner Bruce Allen (left) were reunited with the original 5
The team of David Reher, Buddy Morrison, and Lee Shepherd—known collectively as RMS Racing—roared out of Texas like a Gulf Coast hurricane. This unlikely trio of longhaired Texans cut a swath through the quarter-mile sport like a twister ripping through a trailer park. Their creativity, intelligence, and ambition were the lightning bolts that rocked Pro Stock with the roar of Chevy thunder.
When driver Lee Shepherd was killed in a testing accident on March 11, 1985, in Ardmore, Oklahoma, Bruce Allen became the third partner in the re-christened RMA Racing. With Allen at the wheel, the team's tradition of winning continued. Then, on December 15, 1998, Buddy Morrison lost his long battle with cancer. Lee and Buddy are gone, but Reher-Morrison Racing Engines continues to thrive under the stewardship of David and Bruce.
That these two remarkable cars and this extraordinary Pro Stock engine still exist is the result of good fortune, random acts of kindness, and benign neglect. Most old race cars die a slow and lingering death, chopped and diced by a succession of owners, as they slide into obscurity before finally being abandoned as worthless junk. These were spared that cruel fate by the convergence of Chevrolet collector Delmer McAfee, NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick, and driving school entrepreneur Roy Hill—with a little help from A/Dragster driver Steve Green and legendary Top Fuel/Funny Car owner Paul Candies. It is a tale that begins and ends in Texas, with stops in Michigan, Louisiana, New Jersey, and North Carolina along the way.
The championship-winning big-block had been preserved, unmodified and unmolested, since Re
"Race cars were just tools, and we really didn't care about old ones," said David Reher, as he surveyed the two immaculately restored Camaros. "Why would we keep an obsolete car? To us, it was just money sitting there that we could use to race with, use to work on a new set of heads, or to build something. We never envisioned any of that stuff gaining value. If somebody offered to buy it, you'd better sell it, because all it was going to do was go down."
Reher refers to the championship-winning, 500ci, big-block Chevy, now owned by auto mega-dealer Rick Hendrick, as simply the "Plate Motor." Indeed, the hallmarks of this thoroughbred motor are the aluminum plates bolted to the exhaust side of the cylinder heads. Port plates were commonplace on the Cleveland Fords campaigned by rivals, such as Bob Glidden and Don Nicholson, where they served to raise and streamline the Boss Ford's cavernous exhaust runners. But why port plates on a big-block Chevy?
And therein lies the closely guarded secret of Reher-Morrison's success. It's not the plates that are important, but rather what they conceal. These cylinder heads were cast in solid aluminum, without the water passages that compromised the critical intake and exhaust ports in conventional big-block heads. Lee Shepherd, who prepared the team's cylinder heads in addition to driving the race cars, had found the Holy Grail.
"Buddy, Lee, and I were driving home from the NHRA World Finals, just the three of us in the dualie, towing a Chaparral trailer," Reher remembered. "We spent long days together in that truck and we'd talk about all kinds of crazy ideas. Lee said, ‘We need to get some bigger ports in these things. I just can't do anything.' That's how it all started.
The early 1980s were the Reher-Morrison Era in Pro Stock, as the Texas team dominated NHRA
"Lee had been using an acetylene torch to heat up the port walls in big-block heads until they melted," Reher revealed. "Then, he'd tap the wall with a hammer, and it would just fall over—but there was still a limit on how much he could enlarge and straighten the runners. Those heads were the nastiest, softest aluminum; they were essentially street heads, because that's what you raced back then. They were so soft after we'd done all the heating and welding that you couldn't even torque the head bolts until they'd been heat-treated. I drove to Tulsa with those heads to have them heat-treated because I wasn't going to let them out of my sight. We didn't have Bow Tie heads or aftermarket castings back then. Everybody started with the same thing."
In 1980, Chevrolet issued a part number for solid big-block cylinder head castings, ostensibly for use in alcohol-burning engines. They were cataloged in the heavy-duty parts list as "14011004, Cylinder Head Asm., Aluminum Open Chamber Identical to 14011076 Except No Water Jackets (Solid)." The number of solid head castings that Chevrolet actually produced is unknown; almost certainly Reher-Morrison's solid heads were the only ones to race in Pro Stock.
"We got two pairs of solid heads," Reher said. "One set was so porous that they turned black on the outside when we ran them on the dyno, and we scrapped them. The other pair we raced for two straight years.
"We didn't start out with the plate idea; we hashed that out later," he revealed. "We knew we couldn't run the heads dry, so we had to figure out how to get water in them. I decided to cut off the exhaust side of the head and machine pockets between the ports. Then, we drilled holes from the deck, we drilled holes behind the exhaust ports, and we drilled holes around the spark plugs. We'd blow air through the holes and fish wire through them to make sure they all connected. Then, we bolted on the port plates and sealed them with silicone.
With cat-quick reflexes and an intensity that belied his quiet demeanor, Lee Shepherd was
"That was a very rewarding project," Reher reported. "We felt like we finally had something that was an advantage. We never let out that they were solid heads. And they fit the rules 100 percent, which just said we had to run a GM-produced head.
"We won two NHRA championships with these heads and one IHRA championship. We used the same heads on the 500ci NHRA motor and the 615ci IHRA engine. We'd be out on the road, I'd switch the heads between the two short-blocks, and then we'd go on to the next race."
In 1985, Bruce Allen was an engine builder and dyno operator at McLaren Engines in Livonia, Michigan, working on Buick's turbocharged V6 program for the Indianapolis 500. After Shepherd's tragic death, Allen answered the call to join Reher and Morrison as the team's new driver. Allen's life changed overnight as he became a professional drag racer.
Like his new teammates, Allen had paid his dues in sportsman racing. He'd constructed a very trick Corvette for Competition Eliminator, and later campaigned the 1981 Pro Stock Camaro that he'd purchased from RMS Racing on a shoestring budget. Allen's cool disposition and analytical approach were a good match for the team's personality. Reher and Morrison had found an intelligent, articulate, and level-headed driver who shared their passion for drag racing.
"We carried all of the parts to change over the Camaro in an old Chaparral trailer," Bruce recalled. "We'd come back to our shop in Arlington, if we could, or just stop somewhere and change the motor, the transmission, and the rearend to our IHRA setup. We had an IHRA transmission and an NHRA transmission with different ratios. We had a generic NHRA chassis setup, and for IHRA races, we would shorten the upper four-link bars to get more bite. We ran the same tires in both series. That was about it.
These are the cylinder heads that won NHRA and IHRA Pro Stock titles in 1982–’83. The alum
"Driving the different combinations was the biggest challenge at first," Allen continued. "All we had back then was a high-speed rpm limiter. One week, I'd leave the starting line at 8,500 with a 500ci engine, and the next week I'd leave at 4,000 rpm with a 615. The IHRA tracks at the time weren't quite as good as NHRA, so it took a little bit of skill to adjust to the conditions."
During his time at RMS Racing, Lee Shepherd became the most feared driver in Pro Stock. From 1980 to 1984, he drove RMRE Camaros to the final round in 44 of 56 NHRA national events, scoring 26 victories. He compiled a 173-47 win-loss record in NHRA competition and a 55-8 record in IHRA, where he added another 10 victories. He won every race on the NHRA tour at least once—and he won the respect of his rivals.
"Reher and Morrison just dial Shepherd into the starting line lights and punch the buttons," said 10-time NHRA Champion Bob Glidden. "He's not afraid of anything."
Allen revealed the secret of Shepherd's remarkable success: "Buddy and Dave explained to me how Lee drove the car," he said. "He always staged at the rpm that he was going to leave at. He would pre-stage, get the motor to 4,000 rpm, if it was a big motor, and then he would bump into the stage light with the clutch. Then, he'd just leave the motor there and never push the clutch all the way back down. The car would just be sitting there with the engine at a constant rpm, he'd let the clutch out on the green, and go. In NHRA competition he did the same thing, but obviously at much higher rpm.
Here's a closer look at the Heliarc welding.
"The clutches were centrifugal, and it took a while for me to get the hang of how to get a reaction time. After we'd agreed to get together, Buddy, Dave and I went out to Kennedale [Texas Raceway] for driver training. One of them ran the other side of the Christmas Tree with their foot, while I practiced launches and learned how to get good lights.
"There were no computers or data recorders back then, but David and Buddy were really good at observing the car and watching the tires. I would tell them what I felt in the car, whether it spun the tires down track or we needed a different Second gear, and we'd make the adjustments. You were really aware of those things, and driving was much more than getting a good reaction time.
The factory castings required hours of Heliarc welding to transform them into Pro Stock cy
"I was never under the illusion that I could replace Lee Shepherd," Allen said. "All I could hope to do was to help Buddy and Dave keep winning races and keep the legacy going."
Allen accomplished that. He added a third IHRA championship to the team's record in 1985 and won 16 NHRA national events in 39 final-round appearances. Allen finished Third in the NHRA standings three consecutive seasons (1985–87) and was runner-up in the 1989 NHRA championship. He walked away from driving after a harrowing high-speed crash at the Texas Motorplex on October 7, 2005.
Along with the top-secret cylinder heads, an arsenal of cast-iron Chevrolet blocks formed the foundation of Reher-Morrison's NHRA and IHRA engine programs. Chevrolet initially produced big-blocks with siamesed cylinder walls to accommodate the larger bore diameters that racers needed. The first castings were based on tall-deck marine blocks, but Reher and Morrison knew that a short-deck block with a lightweight rotating assembly was the answer for a 500ci Pro Stock engine.
"Our first 500ci Pro Stock engine was in a tall-deck block, because that's all that was available," Reher said. "The second was a short-deck, 9.800-inch block. It was basically a production block with siamesed bores, and the rear main bearing and bulkhead were weak. One day, we fired up the race engine and it was leaking oil badly. We found that the rear of the block had completely broken off—the only thing holding it in place was the oil pan. So we epoxied up a block where it needed more material to support the rear main bearing and sent it to Chevy. The company made that modification in the castings, and we got better blocks pretty quick."
The heat of welding softened the aluminum head castings, requiring frequent valve jobs as
The rear main bearing was a weak point in the early big-block castings. Before Chevrolet r
Roy Hill, the namesake of the Roy Hill Drag Racing School in North Carolina, raced against
As the pace of development accelerated in Pro Stock, newer parts and technology eventually eclipsed the championship-winning Plate Motor. Chevy's dedicated Bow Tie racing cylinder head castings made the heavily modified solid heads obsolete. By 1984, Reher-Morrison's record-setting engine had been relegated to tire-testing duty. Eventually, the partners sold it to Allen, who needed an engine to power the 1981 Camaro he'd purchased from RMS Racing. Making his Pro Stock debut at the 1985 NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, just days after Shepherd's death, Allen qualified the former Reher-Morrison Camaro Sixth with the Plate Motor providing the horsepower.
If you were a Chevy Pro Stock engine builder in the early ’80s, this is what you started w
"I never raced again with that engine," Allen said. "When Buddy, Dave, and I got together, I sold the car to Carlton Phillips, sold my transporter to Dick Moroso, and sold the Plate Motor to Steve Green to run in a dragster. All of that money went toward buying Lee's share of the race team."
Competition Eliminator racer Steve Green picked up the trail of the celebrated Plate Motor: "I owned an industrial lubricants company in Louisiana called Lubri-Chem. The economy went bad in the oil field, and I had to stop racing. Then, in late 1985, Mike Kilpatrick told my friend, Phil Cumberland, who had worked with Reher-Morrison and Shepherd, he was putting together an A/Dragster to run in Comp Eliminator. Phil was working for Kilpatrick at the time, and he asked if I could drive the car. We had a good relationship with Reher and Morrison, and they agreed to sell us the engine that had won the World Championship. We thought this would be a good engine to sort out the car until we could get a new engine with their latest technology.
"That engine held the Pro Stock National Record at 7.77/177 mph. The A/Dragster was 650 pounds lighter than the Camaro and good bit more aerodynamic…so we thought it should run pretty good," Green explained. "We put the dragster together with a Liberty clutchless four-speed transmission, which was a step ahead of everybody at the time. Our dragster was the first car to run in the 6s, unblown on gasoline. When I called Buddy and David, they thought I was kidding.
Reher-Morrison pioneered the use of sheetmetal manifolds in Pro Stock. Fabricated from alu
"Later I got a phone call from Kilpatrick," Green remembered. "He said the economy had really put a bite in his businesses, and we would have to park the car. He sold the chassis to someone in California and sold the engine to Paul Candies."
Candies and long-time partner Leonard Hughes were the namesakes of the fearsome Candies and Hughes Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters. A hardcore nitro racer, Candies had little need for a 500ci Pro Stock engine.
"I took that motor and three others from Kilpatrick in repayment of a loan," Candies noted. "Roy Hill knew that I had the motors and bought them from me to use in his drag racing school cars." From there, the trail leads to Hill's school in North Carolina. An accomplished Pro Stock and Pro Mod racer in his day, Hill didn't realize what he had until a routine teardown revealed the Plate Motor's secrets.
"When I started my drag racing school in 1989, Paul Candies said he had some Reher-Morrison engines that I could use," Hill said. "One was a 605ci big-block, another was a customer 500ci engine, and the third, well, I couldn't use it in the school cars because it had these special heads!
Reher-Morrison pioneered the use of sheetmetal manifolds in Pro Stock. Fabricated from alu
"When I found out it had solid heads, we decided to put it back together just like it was," Hill said. "The engine had so much history. How can you put a value on something that there's only one of?"
The motor sat in a corner of Hill's shop for years, until a chance encounter reunited it with the RMS Camaro that it had powered 30 years earlier. NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick had added the 1981 Reher-Morrison Camaro to his museum collection. The car was intact, but the original Pro Stock powertrain was missing.
"Rick Hendrick has been a kind and generous friend for many years," Hill said. "When he found that Reher-Morrison car, he called to tell me the news. I told Rick that I had a motor that was one of the last engines that Lee Shepherd ran. Well, you tell people something like that and sometimes they just don't think nothin' about it.
"A while later, Rick was having a birthday celebration, and all of his employees and his NASCAR drivers were there. I told him I had a present for him; I uncovered the engine and we rolled it out on the stage. But it still didn't hit home—nobody really knew what that engine was but Roy Hill.
It may look crude by current standards, but this was the absolute state of the cylinder he
"Months later, Rick calls me in the middle of the night and says, ‘Did you realize what you gave me?'" Hill laughed. "I said, ‘I sure do.' Well, he'd sent that motor out to Reher-Morrison, and David told him that it was the engine that had been missing for 25 years."
Hendrick remembers the chain of events, vividly. "One day, Roy Hill mentioned, ‘Hey, I've got a Reher-Morrison motor you can have if you want it.' It looked like some old big-block that someone had in the back of a pickup truck with gold Moroso valve covers, all bent up. I almost just put it in the corner because I couldn't believe it was one of theirs.
"I sent it to David, and he was really excited when he called me. You're not going to believe what this is!' he said. Well, sometimes things just happen.
"What are the odds of that happening?" Hendrick asked. "It's almost like a fairy tale. You're chasing a car, you find one of the real cars. Then, a guy just happens to ride up and give you a motor that won all of those races and championships. It's amazing."
Amazing, indeed—as unlikely as the tale of the Texas teenagers who became the dominant Pro Stock racers of the 1980s.
Acknowledgements: The author gratefully acknowledges the generous assistance of David Reher, Bruce Allen, Delmer McAfee, Buddy McAfee, Glenn Wright, Caprock Motorplex, Rick Hendrick, Roy Hill, Paul Candies, Steve Green, and Dave Densmore in the preparation of this article.
Venolia made the pistons for the 4.530-inch cylinder bores.
In an era before CNC-machining, every piston was painstakingly lightened and gas-ported by
The crankshaft in Reher-Morrison’s 500ci Pro Stock engine was machined from a Chevrolet 51
1981 Reher-Morrison Camaro: The First 500ci Champion
This 1981 Camaro was the successor to the all-conquering, second-generation Camaro that the RMS team unleashed in 1978. In the late 1970s, the NHRA rules specified a bewildering assortment of weight breaks for various engines and body styles. Reher and Morrison read the regulations like Wall Street lawyers, and they found a loophole big enough to drive a Camaro through.
They commissioned chassis builder Don Ness to construct a lightweight Camaro Z28. The Camaro's 108-inch wheelbase dramatically improved its high-speed handling, while the NHRA rule book generously granted the Camaro an 85-pound advantage over short-wheelbase Monzas and Vegas. Reher-Morrison and Shepherd were virtually unbeatable in 1980 with their innovative Camaro. They notched six wins and three runner-up finishes in 10 NHRA national events. Only a broken transmission in the final race of the season denied the team its first NHRA championship.
They came roaring back the following year with their next breakthrough: an arsenal of small-displacement big-blocks. Another careful reading of the NHRA regulations had revealed an overlooked combination. By adapting a short-stroke crankshaft from a 348ci "W" engine to the Mark IV big-block, Reher-Morrison created a new breed of 365ci Rat motors. The three Texans won six more NHRA national events in 1981 and claimed their first Pro Stock championship.
Although Reher-Morrison had benefited from NHRA's byzantine Pro Stock rules, they knew that the system was fundamentally flawed. In late 1981, a group of Pro Stock racers proposed, and NHRA accepted, a new formula: 500 cubic inches and 2,350 pounds, regardless of body style and engine type.
The new rules debuted at the 1982 Winternationals, where RMS unveiled the team's second Don Ness–built Camaro. Shepherd ran a 7.84-second elapsed time in the season-opener at Pomona, the first 7-second Pro Stock run in NHRA history. The Reher-Morrison Camaro won six races that season, appeared in 11 of 12 final rounds, and propelled Shepherd to his second straight championship.
"The first Camaro that we built in 1978 was pretty revolutionary," Reher explained. "Chevy racers were all running Monzas and Vegas with small-blocks; we took that car out and the next thing you know, Bill Jenkins had one, Frank Iaconio had one, everyone had Camaros.
"We ran that car in 1978, 1979, and the first three races of 1980 with small-blocks. We started working with the big-block stuff in the fall of 1979 because we felt it had more potential. Then, Glidden brought out his Fairmont at the Cajun Nationals. He qualified No. 1, six or seven hundredths faster than we ran. Fortunately, he was real late when Lee ran him, and we won anyway. But we knew we weren't going to win another race unless we got the small big-block done.
Don Ness was a relatively unknown chassis builder from Minnesota when he constructed the f
"We had a good couple of years with the little big-blocks. We broke a transmission at the World Finals, and if we had won that round, we would have locked up the NHRA championship. That was a terribly deflating loss.
"Our second Camaro was built over the winter of 1981–82. The first time it went down the track was at Orange County a few days before the Winternationals. It incorporated everything we'd learned with the first Camaro, with more tubing and support for the four-link and rear shocks. That was a very lightweight car, and it carried a load of ballast. Ness acid-dipped all of the body panels, used thin-wall tubing, and installed ultra-light Lexan windows. The attitude was perfect. It was an awesome race car."
With the introduction of the third-generation Camaro in 1982, the 1981 Camaro had a limited shelf life. Allen was eager to move from Competition Eliminator to Pro Stock, and the Camaro became the vehicle for that transition.
"Dave and I had become friends, and he asked if I was interested in buying the 1981 Camaro after they got their new car sorted out," Allen said. "I thought that was a cool deal, so I bought the car and an engine from Reher-Morrison." When Bruce became the third member of the team in 1985, the 1981 Camaro returned to its former home, but it was now surplus. The car was sold to IHRA Pro Stock racer Carlton Phillips. Eventually, it ended up in New Jersey, where it was converted to Super Gas with a big-block and an automatic transmission.
"Bruce and I were racing at Englishtown one day when a guy walked up and said that he was racing our old car," Reher said. "We took a look at it, and sure enough, it was our Camaro. There were several distinguishing characteristics that identified it."
Rick Hendrick picked up the story: "I really wanted a Reher-Morrison car for my museum but couldn't find one that was for sale. Then, one day one of my guys said, ‘Did you know that the 1981 Reher-Morrison car is for sale on eBay?' When I realized it was really the car, I called the guy, bought it, and we brought it home.
"Lee, Buddy, David, and Bruce are real special to me, and that car is real special to me," Hendrick said. "Things just kind of work out sometimes."
1982: Driver Lee Shepherd
Won NHRA Pro Stock championship
Won 6 of 12 NHRA national events
Runner-up in five NHRA national events
Won one IHRA event
No. 1 qualifier at eight NHRA events
No. 1 qualifier at one IHRA event
1982 Reher-Morrison Camaro: Five-Time Champion
The third-generation RMRE Camaro was a radical departure from its second-generation predecessors. Chassis developments and advances in Pro Stock engine technology complemented the new body design.
What didn't change was Reher-Morrison's dominance. Their 1982 Camaro won five championships in three years. In 1983, Lee Shepherd became the first driver to win both the IHRA and NHRA Pro Stock championships, a feat he repeated the following season. Bruce Allen added a third IHRA championship to the team's résumé in 1985 and finished third in the NHRA title race, despite a late start after Shepherd's accident in March.
The dawn of Pro Stock's big-block era opened a new world for RMS to conquer. The International Hot Rod Association, eager to upstage its archrival NHRA, placed no limits on engine displacement. It was "run what ya brung"—and Reher-Morrison brought their biggest guns to the IHRA shootout. They pursued parallel NHRA and IHRA engine programs, assembling 500ci engines for NHRA events and behemoth 615- and 638ci big-blocks for IHRA competition. Although the Mountain Motors were less efficient than their 500ci cousins, they had the brute force of a locomotive, and their irresistible power propelled the RMS Camaro to 7.40-second elapsed times.
"That was a great car," Reher declared. "We made a lot of changes in the chassis. Ness used heavier main rails and put more tubing in the back because we had learned that strength was critical there to deal with the four-link loads. He added another tube in the front because we felt the front end was flexing.
The interior is Spartan, with minimal instrumentation, a quartet of Lenco shifter handles,
"In 1984, we qualified No. 1 at every IHRA race. We'd just go out there and make a run. We had seven or eight hundredths on the competition. We ran a 638ci big-block, and that was our best-ever IHRA combination." Chevrolet was paying more attention to the upstart Pro Stock racers from Texas and increasing its technical support for the team. The 1982 RMRE Camaro was the first Pro Stock to be tested in the GM wind tunnel in Warren, Michigan.
"That was a great experience," Reher remembered. "It was something we had never done, like going to your first race. Don Ness was working on the spoiler, working on the front end, and working on the wheelwell openings. If you give Ness some duct tape and a piece of aluminum, he can make just about anything.
"The GM engineers were surprised at how good our Camaro was in the wind tunnel," Reher recalled. "It had a Cd (coefficient of drag) that was below 0.30. They couldn't believe how much better it was than a NASCAR car, and they were really impressed."
The Reher-Morrison Camaro is a study in form and function, with every chassis tube and com
"Those Don Ness Camaros were awesome cars," Allen agreed. "Most IHRA Pro Stock racers couldn't get their cars light enough and still carry ballast because those big motors were heavy. We had 150 to 200 pounds of lead in that Camaro that we could move, and in IHRA trim, we used to run it all in the back."
Encouraged by Chevrolet to race a new IROC-Z Camaro in 1986, Reher-Morrison sold its five-time champion Camaro to Harold Whitmore in nearby Dallas. Whitmore subsequently updated the car with IROC-Z body panels and had a Funny Car–style rollcage installed to meet new safety standards. Under Whitmore's ownership, the car was raced sporadically by a number of drivers, highlighted by a semifinal round finish by chassis builder Jerry Haas in Englishtown, New Jersey.
"Harold owned the 1981 Camaro until 1988, and that's when Delmer McAfee contacted Buddy about finding the car," Reher said. "Whitmore sold the car to Delmer. We still had an original 500ci engine sitting under a shelf, and Kim Smith removed the Funny Car rollcage. Bruce put it back to the way it was when we had raced it."
Delmer McAfee (left) is the current owner and steward of the restored Reher-Morrison Camar
Today, the Reher-Morrison Camaro is the centerpiece of McAfee's impressive private collection of race cars, pace cars, and muscle cars in Odessa, Texas. It's housed in a subterranean vault alongside McAfee's most prized automobiles.
"The car had been updated with IROC skirting, a Funny Car cage, and it only had one seat in it when we got it," McAfee said. "We found out Whitmore still had all of the original parts stored in a warehouse—the right wheels and tires, the back bumper, the original seats, everything that they'd taken off the car. We took it to the Reher-Morrison shop, and they put it back together just the way it was when they raced it."
What was McAfee's motivation to restore this milestone Camaro?
"Those guys were our heroes," Delmer declared. "If you were a drag racer in Texas in the 1980s, you looked up to Reher-Morrison and Shepherd. I knew that I was never going to race the car, but something in me wants to preserve the history of drag racing. That's why I got the car, to save a piece of history."
1983: Driver Lee Shepherd
Won NHRA and IHRA Pro Stock championships
Won 4 of 12 NHRA national events
Runner-up in five NHRA national events
Won 3 of 7 IHRA events
Runner-up in three IHRA events
No. 1 qualifier at three NHRA events
No. 1 qualifier at two IHRA events
1984: Driver Lee Shepherd
Won NHRA and IHRA Pro Stock championships
Won 4 of 11 NHRA national events
Runner-up in three NHRA national events
Won 6 of 8 IHRA events
Runner-up in one IHRA event
No. 1 qualifier at one NHRA event
No. 1 qualifier at eight IHRA events
1985: Driver Bruce Allen
Won IHRA Pro Stock championship
Won 3 of 11 NHRA national events
Runner-up in three NHRA national events
Won 4 of 10 IHRA events
Runner-up in three IHRA national events
No. 1 qualifier at two NHRA events
No. 1 qualifier at four IHRA events
Third in NHRA championship
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."
Dyno testing was different in 1982 when Reher-Morrison first ran a 500ci Pro Stock engine
Today, a computerized SuperFlow dyno controls engine acceleration while logging thousands
Decades after its last race, the championship-winning Reher-Morrison 500ci Pro Stock Plate
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 Motorsports was Reher-Morrison’s first sponsor in Pro Stock. Hendrick later broug
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."