Collections at Kissimmee showcase ’60s muscle-car drag racing heyday

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Dick Landy’s altered-wheelbase ’65 Dodge with 426 Hemi power and fuel injection was one of the world’s first funny cars | Jim McCraw photos

The Sixties were the best decade in history for American muscle cars and drag racing. Every car company except Checker had multiple models in large- and medium-sized cars with big horsepower for small money, and that’s what we went looking for at the Mecum Auctions’ Kissimmee auction. We are not disappointed.

The original gang of muscle cars, starting in about 1961, were full-size cars with 400-plus cubic-inch engines and some had multiple carburetion. Even long-gone brands like AMC, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Plymouth and Mercury offered them.

The muscle car wars accelerated from there to include aluminum and fiberglass body parts, hood scoops, 4-speed transmissions, big rear ends and even bigger engines.

At Kissimmee 2018, there is an outstanding array of those great old cars, from 406 Fords and 409 Chevys to 413 and 426 Hemi Plymouths and Dodges to 427 Fords, all collected in one brightly lit hall, offered for sale from the Factory Lightweights collection of Florida’s Nick Smith, Chattanooga’s Kayo Erwin and the Chevy-heavy 1967-1971 group offered by Coloradan Wayne Schmeeckle.

Smith’s collection started at the beginning of the trend and moved all the way to the be-all and end-all, the 1965 altered-wheelbase Dodge Coronet of drag racing superstar Dick Landy, bolstered by not one but two of Gas Ronda’s altered-wheelbase Ford Mustangs restored to 100-point condition.

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The Erwin collection, mostly stock street cars, is equally impressive, with some very rare cars.

The Schmeeckle collection also offers some rare birds, like the 1-of-30 Ford Bronco V8 conversion built by racing legend Bill Stroppe.

We could stay in that one building all day, reminiscing about the history of muscle machinery and drag racing that came to a screeching halt in 1971.

The cars are scheduled to roar across the auction block Friday.

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Jim McCraw has been writing about cars, motorcycles, design, technology, car people and racing for 50 years, in such publications as Hot Rod Deluxe, Super Chevy, Muscle Mustangs, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Penthouse, Winding Road, The Mercedes-Benz Star, AutoWeek, The New York Times, and a number of European publications. He was executive editor of Motor Trend, editor of Hot Rod and Super Stock. He co-holds the record for the drive from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, 96:22, and has run in major events such as the Mille Miglia Storica in Italy, Goodwood, the California Mille, the Colorado Grand, the New England 1000, Forza Mille, and four One Lap Of America competitions He owns a pristine Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan.

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