Back in 2012, MCG made the commitment to celebrate the accomplishments of all those who dedicated their lives to making Mopars special by creating the Mopar Hall of Fame. It's hard to believe that it's been nine years since the MHOF began, and we haven't even come close to etching all of the deserved names into bricks salvaged from the Lynch Road and Hamtramck assembly plants, that we create to honor all hall of famers. When you think of all of the different types of accomplishments that went into making Mopar the iconic brand we know today, it's almost unfathomable how many hours of blood, sweat, and tears, it has taken to make "Mopar" a household word all around the world.
When the MHOF began, we envisioned it as a banquet, held once a year, where we could get the inductees and fans together for an incredible night of sharing memories and showing our appreciation. For seven years, MCG brought our heroes to the MHOF banquet, which was held in conjunction with Chryslers at Carlisle in Pennsylvania. We were acutely aware that time was not on our side, as many deserved individuals were advancing in age. At the end of 2018, it became more than obvious we were losing the battle, and many of those we were inducting into the MHOF were too old or sick to travel and attend the event. A crossroads, of sorts, had been reached, and we needed to figure out how to move forward.
There are several trains of thoughts here; Chryslers at Carlisle fully understands the importance of honoring Mopar's past, so of course, they would love to have the MHOF, in some form or fashion, going on during their event. The thinking here is that it's time to go out to Mopar Hall of Fame nominees and capture their stories on video before it's too late. Perhaps we can find a mix of both ideas in the future. Covid-19 made the decision of what to do for 2020 regrettably easy. This month, we continue the MHOF by honoring the inductees in the pages of MCG.
We'd love to hear your ideas of what you'd like the MHOF to look like going forward, so don't hesitate to give us your thoughts. In the meantime, here are the inductees for 2020.
Frank Wiley will forever remain one of the great figures from Dodge who forever shaped the future of the company and changed the landscape of the muscle car world. Frank joined Dodge Division as a junior league exec in 1948, and by the early sixties he'd worked his way up to being the Director of Public Relations; a position he would hold for more than a decade. According to Tom Hoover, it was Wiley who gave The Ramchargers the financial and factory backing they needed. After proposing the idea to Plymouth for a factory drag racing team and being told to get lost, Wiley asked them, "How much do you need?" Wiley is reportedly the guy who talked Dodge into reentering NASCAR racing in the early sixties, he was an integral part of the winged car program, and he worked to develop some of the most extraordinary advertising campaigns of the era. The Dodge Rebellion, the Dodge Boys, the Scat Pack, just to name a few, are all feathers in Frank Wiley's cap. He's also credited with being the man who came up with the name "R/T" for Dodge's performance models starting in 1967, which, of course, carries on to this day. We lost Frank in 2013, but his work in shaping Dodge will live forever.
Ron Householder is arguably one of the most important figures in the history of Chrysler's racing heritage. Ron himself was an incredible driver, and as such, he understood going fast from a driver's perspective. In the late 1930's, Householder was a highly successful Midget Sprint Car racer, setting numerous records, and he drove in the 1937 and 1938 Indianapolis 500. He set a new qualifying record for the 1938 race, 125.769 mph, which is a record that still stands today, because qualifying was ten laps back then! Householder went to work for Plymouth in 1955 and helped develop the original Fury. His major claim to eternal fame, however, came in 1964 when Ron Householder became Chrysler's "Staff Engineer of Special Events" – which meant he was in charge of Chrysler's factory-backed racing efforts. It was Householder who oversaw corporate sponsorship for all the NASCAR greats, who orchestrated the altered wheelbase wars and the golden age of Chrysler drag racing. He signed every iconic driver of the era to the corporation and funneled countless dollars towards racing programs and shoving parts deals out the door to get as many Mopars into competition everywhere. Another key player in the aero wars in NASCAR, Ron helped develop the cars, he worked hand-in-hand with every car builder in the nation, and he was the guy to talk to if you wanted in with Chrysler – and Ron wanted everybody in! Under Ron's leadership, Chrysler Corporation saw racing success across-the-board that we'll never see again, as he was not only a former driver, but a brilliant engineer, and he understood all aspects of racing. Chrysler withdrew from racing in 1971, which prompted Ron Householder to announce he would retire in January of 1973. Regrettably, he passed away on November 11, 1972, leaving behind an incredible legacy.
Bobby Isaac will forever be linked with the iconic #71 K&K Insurance Charger Daytona, and rightfully so, as the red-and-white winged Charger catapulted him into international motorsports fame. Bobby began racing in 1956, but didn't switch over to big-league NASCAR racing until 1961, when he had only one race driving the Holly Farms Pontiac. By 1963, he was driving for Bondy Long racing both Plymouths and Fords and managed to finish 20th in the points. In 1968, K&K's Harry Hyde talked Isaac into joining their team and it was an immediate match made in heaven. He won three races and had 27 top five finishes that year, finishing second in the points series. They won seventeen races in 1969 with their Chargers, and eleven in 1970, which gave Isaac the national championship. 1970 was also when Isaac became the first NASCAR driver to record a 201.104 mph lap at Talladega; a record which stood until 1983. When the winged cars were banned for 1971, as you well know, they took the famed red Daytona to the Bonneville Salt Flats and Isaac set 28 world speed records, several of which still stand today. He drove a reduced schedule in NASCAR for 1971 with a long-nosed Charger, but still won four events. Isaac's exit from NASCAR will forever remain cryptic and tragic. In 1973 he was driving a Charger and leading the Talladega 500. Halfway through the race, he got out of the car, and quit. Isaac said simply that a voice in his head told him to quit, so, he did; literally while leading the Talladega 500! He drove off-and-on for the next few years, but Isaac was suffering from an undiagnosed heart ailment, and on August 8, 1977, at Hickory Speedway, he again pitted without warning, having had a heart attack. To the shock of everyone, he died later that day. The sport lost one of the best drivers it's ever seen, and one of the most humble drivers that ever gained such notoriety. Isaac never wanted the limelight and wasn't comfortable in it, but as a book about him appropriately says, "Bobby Isaac is what speed looked like."
Bob Lambeck is a household name with Mopar drag racing fanatics, and for good reason. Bob began drag racing with a 1962 Pontiac, and won the 1963 Winternationals. He then moved to a '57 Chevy he drove in G/Stock. He caught the eye of Chrysler's Jerry Gross, who talked the California driver into the Dick Landy camp, and Lambeck became the driver of Landy's 440-powered '68 SS/EA Dart. He won the Division 7 title with that car in 1968, then followed it up by winning the title again in 1969 with a Landy SS/EA Super Bee. In 1970, Lambeck became one of the pioneers of a new thing called Pro Stock. Driving his Dart Pro Stocker, he won the Division 6 title for 1970 and won the Division 7 Super Stock title driving a Hemi Challenger! He left the Landy camp for 1971 and, by 1972, had a state-of-the-art Pro Stock Duster built by Ron Butler. The Duster was one of the most feared Pro Stockers on the West Coast and one of the last to run a four-speed before Bob switched to a Lenco near the end of 1973. Shortly after that, he was involved in a horrific crash which badly broke his left leg and ended his driving career far too soon. However, by the late seventies, Lambeck teamed up with Randy Humphrey, and it was their 1979 Volare Pro Stocker that ended Bob Glidden's record winning streak in Pro Stock at the 1979 Mile High Nationals. That would be the last Hemi-powered Mopar Pro Stocker to win an NHRA national event! Bob continued to field teams in drag racing, and continues to do so today, with his son, Doug Lambeck, racking up wins, first in Super Stock and, lately, in Comp Eliminator. And, Bob's right there still building the engines and he helps build every single car.
Rod Hall was probably the greatest off-road driver that ever was or ever will be. He began his off-road racing career in 1964 with a rather modest Jeep, then gained international fame in the late sixties with a red, white, and blue Bronco that was virtually unbeatable, owned by Nevada native Bill Stroppe. In 1975, Stroppe inked a deal with Dodge to manage their off-road racing program and, in turn, Rod Hall switched to Dodge 4x4 pickups, and the combination quickly became the stuff of legend. From 1977 to 1987, Rod Hall put together a winning streak with his Dodge trucks that will likely stand for all eternity, winning thirty-seven consecutive SCORE and HDRA victories in his Dodges. In 1982, he won the 12,500 mile long Repco event in Australia, then returned in 1985 to win the Australian 4WD class championship. He and Bill Stroppe designed the famed "Rod Hall Edition" Power Wagons, which are highly sought-after today, and many of their innovations found their way into Dodge's production 4x4's throughout their association with the company. Finally, with Dodge changing directions, Rod Hall left to race Hummers, continuing to drive until 2017, just shy of his 80th birthday! Rod is the only man in history to have won the Baja 1000 seventeen times, and win the Baja 500 twelve times. Over the course of his career, Rod won the points championships at 150 major off-road events! If you want a picture of someone dominating their sport, Rod Hall was the man! Rod passed away in June 2019 at the age of eighty-two.
Walker Evans, aka "The Legend' is a name synonymous with Dodge truck racing and winning. Walker began, interestingly, in 1969, racing an AMC Rambler off-road with a team sponsored by actor James Garner! From there, his rise to fame was meteoric. While Walker drove a Ford through most of the seventies, in the late seventies he switched over to Dodge and, once again, it was the change that made all the difference in the world. For the next four decades, Walker Evans Racing has built the most incredible off-road trucks in the world, and in a variety of styles. While he's most famed for his 4x4 Dodge pickups, Walker's also built and driven a number of Ramcharger "Prerunners" to victories in major events, as well as Dodge Dakotas. Overall, it was good enough for 142 career wins and twenty-one championship titles, and he won the Baja 1000 five times! Walker also drove in mud-slinging stadium racing in Dodge pickups, and in 1995 and 1996 he owned and drove for his own NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team, again with Dodge, coming in 14th and 17th in the national points standings respectively. Walker retired from racing at the end of 1996, but Walker Racing continues to make performance parts for off-road racing of virtually all sorts and he remains closely affiliated with Jeep.
Gary Dyer is one of the accidental heroes of the Mopar world, and of the entire sport of drag racing for that matter. The Illinois native began racing when he was eighteen with a Cadillac-powered Ford coupe. He quickly graduated to a '56 Chevy, which he raced for a decade, then in 1964, he, John Farkonas, and Pat Minick joined forces to run a Dodge A/FX'er for a guy named Norm Krause who had a car dealership just outside of Chicago and Gary Dyer went to work full-time for Norm. That was when history was made. Dyer became famous overnight as the driver of Mr. Norm's S/FX Dodge, then all of Mr. Norm's funny cars that followed, until he retired from driving in 1973. Gary was also the man who came up with the brilliant tuning schemes and the "dyno-tuned" concept for turning all of Mr. Norm's Dodge's into nationally-prized machines – without Gary Dyer's genius, Mr. Norm's may never have been anything but high volume Dodge dealership. And, of course, while all that was going on, Gary designed his own superchargers and started his own company, Dyer's Blower Service, which he started in 1969. DBS quickly became the "go to" company for virtually every professional drag racer in the country, leading him to retire from drag racing and Mr. Norm's and concentrate on his own business full-time. DBS is now more than fifty-years on, and still going strong, and still among the most prolific manufacturers of superchargers on the planet.