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C/FX Racing - Battle Of The Heavyweights

Obscure C/FX was Fertile Ground for the Small-Block and Dragstrip Drama in the Summer of 1965

By Geoff Stunkard, Photography by Vintage Accounts

Chrysler's Racing Division was pretty busy in 1965. With the Hemi outlawed in NASCAR, Chrysler had been fully devoted to its new A990 Super Stock cars and wheelbase-modified hardtops that are now considered the earliest Funny Cars. At Pomona, Chrysler made a game attempt with four A/FX-legal cars, but all those also got the full conversion soon afterward, sending them into the B/Altered class and leaving the A/FX category as basically a Ford-against-Mercury battle at NHRA races. The factory also helped a number of independents outside of the sponsored fold with the same radical conversion parts and support, particularly as the NASCAR drag-racing series grew that season.

Meanwhile, Fred Cutler, the son of a member of Chrysler management, had a de-stroked 383ci Hemi in a 1965 Coronet (that he called the Road Runner) in B/FX that year. Cutler found Droke and Harvey to be feared competitors in the class but managed to hold his own. Soon after Hoefer won Bristol, Maxwell contacted an Ohio metallurgist and factory-helped racer named Dave Koffel about a Pentastar-brand C/FX entry.

A veteran racer, Koffel had gotten a dealer-backed A990 Race Hemi Plymouth at the start of the year, but during those early months, had also begun building another match-bash 1965 Plymouth altered from a flipped A990 Hemi sedan, going so far as to welding a hardtop roof on it to save weight. The factory had gotten him all the special parts for this project, and the engine from the legal S/S car was now being used in that beast, so Koffel had a ready-to-go A990 drag package body without an engine. Noted for his Gasser wars background, particularly the small-block powered but super-heavy Packard run as The Flintstone Flyer, Maxwell also figured Koffel could competently build the thing.

The 273ci Mopar engine had arrived on the scene in the middle of the 1964 model run and was the opening shot in an engine family Chrysler called the LA (or Late A) and would eventually include the 340/360ci blocks to separate it from the heavy-wall cast A-series motors of the past. But even by 1965, a four-barrel version proved to be pretty stout in the sporty new Barracuda and Dart models. Race development by several people, notably the Golden Commandos team of Plymouth engineers, found ways to make power with it, and though small in displacement, the engine responded well to modification. Maxwell began to see that it might be a way to get that C/FX record a little closer to "reasonable."

"It was nothing really radical," Dave, the owner of Koffel's Place in Huron, Ohio, admits today. "When we first started out with it, nobody was sure how it'd work; it looked good on paper. We began with a Racer Brown cam and an Edelbrock intake with two inline Carter carbs on it, so it was pretty mild, and even like that, we set the record right out. Ultimately, we put Webers on it, using a hand-fabricated intake manifold built by a friend of mine named Joe Tribus, who was really good. We also put a Racer Brown roller cam into it, then Harvey built us a nice Crane roller setup that really worked well, and Jere Stahl built some real headers for it. It had the factory standard forged-steel crank and steel rods at first, but with our engine speed, we blacked a few crank journals and finally put aluminum rods in it.

"The heads were 273 heads with 392 Hemi valves, which had been homologated with the NHRA. The valves were way bigger than what the cylinder bore was, so we built a fixture and put these great big 'wart eyes' on the cylinder wall tops. We also milled the surfaces to get the compression back up. The funny thing was the rules allowed you to put these big valves in the heads, but you were not allowed to port them. So you had this basic five-angle valve job, and then you had to get away with whatever you could do on the dogleg angle in the port."

Koffel completed the car in time for the 1965 NHRA Gold Cup points event at Muncie, Indiana, in early July, the third record event in Division 3. After a couple of passes, the mark fell from 13.92 to 13.45/103 and then to 13.36 at the Division 1 points race at York, Pennsylvania, soon afterward under the team name Koffel-Engelhard-Mortimer. The Hoefers got it back in August by a small margin, 13.32, in the high desert at Palmdale. But at the Big Go over Labor Day, Koffel went unopposed for the C/FX class win, and nobody knows to this day if Ford told Hoefer not to attend the biggest race of the year for fear of fully showing its hand.

By Geoff Stunkard
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