|The Forward Look Network|
| NORM THATCHER / 1960 Bonneville Dodge|
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|Forward Look NON-Technical Discussions -> 1955-1961 Forward Look MoPar General Discussion||Message format|
I thought you guys might appreciate this. In 1960 Norm raced a 1960 Dodge at El Mirage & Bonneville. It set the land speed record for several classes and swept everything it entered. Norm's 1960 Dodge set an all time record for the most trophies collected at Bonneville Speed Week... and went on to repeat the success again in 1961. It was the only car Norm ran for two years. The car was an absolute beast.
About 2 months ago one of Norm's grandaughters gave me an audio recording of the 1960 Dodge running Bonneville on my visit with her. She also gave me a 1961 Trophy the car won at ElMirage. Norm loved his trophies. He always kept them in his shop, up on the cabinets. After his death the trophies were given to all the kids. Unfortunately, the family members I've talked to all recall the trophies being slowly destroyed while moving from home to home over the years.
Well my trophy seemed pretty rare, but Norm's granddaughter also told me that her sister has the last of the trophies and said she'd ask if she was willing to let them go. A month later I got an email from the sister who told me she didn't want to haul them around anymore and wanted to sell them. I paid a premium, but I've got them all. She also gave me a framed publicity photo from the Dodge display for the Los Angeles Auto Show in 1964.
Now all we need to do is find the car...
Location: northern germany
|It should be pointed out that this was done with a low deck 383. I love this engine.|
Location: So. California
|Neat stuff worthy to be put into a museum. Unless you have a VIN or other indication for which car it was, you don't have much hope to find the original. Even with more info, it is pretty bleak. You might consider making a replica.|
Location: Pacific Northwest
|Now that is really cool! Thanks Josh!|
Location: christchurch New Zealand
|WOW. Not sure if i would be that keen being in a 60 dart at 180mph++ , how ever well done , a brave man with a lot of talent, common sense rule of thumb approach and probably with no computers or cell phone to boot. ???.. G|
|Geof -- |
You had better believe there were no computers or cell phones then! In fact, even car two-way radios were barely one step above the walkie-talkies of WWII as those were the days when there were phone booths on every corner.
In most respects, that Dart was easily capable of those speeds on a straight, level, and fairly smooth run in dry, calm weather. Its only weak points were the brakes (which shouldn't have been that much of an issue on a very long course), the suspension (although the basic torsion bar suspension was an excellent platform on which to build), and the tires. These latter of course, were the weakest links in the whole affair and the problems of adequate tire performance and safety have always been an issue, really manifesting themselves about the time the big Hemis and Ford high-riser engines debuted in the mid-60s.
What I think is most significant is that the body of car is basically unchanged with the only concession to speed being the rather primitive hood scoops over the injectors -- a necessity for those old Hilborn jobs. The sole aerodynamic modifications are the "moon" wheel covers. Andy Granatelli put a couple of Paxton blowers on a 300F Special and did 165.91 and Norm put that '60 mill in a '62 Dart to make it go over 200, both cars being basically stock bodied.
High speeds have always been an attraction to me, although the best I've ever been clocked was only 96.4 by a state policeman ("Officer, if I have to go all the way back there to pay the fine, why didn't you stop me sooner?" Son, I tried."). In my dragstrip days, I was never better than 95 in my old '60 Fury SonoRamic in the 1/4 mile, but I've pegged the 150 speedo in my 300C (an old speedometer, a slight downgrade, and a light following breeze) and in my 375 HP/440 CID '67 R/T (back in 1967). I was able to get the 160 speedometer in my '65 fuel-injected Vette (375 HP/327 CID) to indicate 150, but I don't think I was actually doing more than 145.
At speeds like that, telephone poles going by DO "look like a picket fence."
'57 Chrysler 300C, '60 Fury SonoRamic, '65 Fuelie Vette, '65 Sport Fury (426-S/4-speed)
Location: So. California
|I just read that he was from Van Nuys. Have you tried contacting Sean Machado on facebook? His father probably knew Mr Thatcher and might be able to tell you what happened to the car.|
Location: Parts Unknown
|What ever happened to the America where Dads on every street had some odd hobby ... |
the big model railroad layout in the basement, the 1910 Maxwell restoration/parade car ... ?
Norm must have been quite the character around his neighborhood. I mean that in a good
|That's amazing! I'd give anything to have the trophies from 1958 to go with the 300D. This is super cool!|
I can do you one better Powerflite. I've been very close to Doug Lovegrove for almost a decade now. Doug can be seen in the photos above. He managed Norm's shop from 1959-1971. It's funny, if I could find a lost Norm car, this would be it. I LOVE this car... but Doug told me he hated it. To him it was just a huge ugly car. Norm didn't like small cars and had a love for 2 door hardtops, which didn't really lend themselves to being racecars. He used brute force to make beautiful cars win.
This specific car was sold locally in Van Nuys. It was converted back into a regular street car. Of all the cars, this car probably had the most abuse so it's most likely gone. After 2 years of abuse on the salt and the rocky dirt at El Mirage I bet things were a little loosey goosey.
I did work with Daryl Davis to see if it was a factory racecar and the VIN couldn't be located. He thought that because of the rubber bumper guards (which are somewhat rare) the car was most likely a press car. That would make perfect sense because Norm was getting all his special order cars through his dedicated PR guy who also handles magazine and press cars. This is the only car I've seen that didn't appear to have been special ordered, so it kind of fits.
Mike, you've got a timing tag... and that's no small feat. From what I know that is the only surviving Thatcher timing tag.
I need to post one last thing for you guys, which is really the holly grail of Thatcher stuff in my opinion. I just don't have a photo on-hand. While visiting one of Thatcher's family members a while back they gave me a vintage wall-mount engraved plaque. It's a good sized gold plaque mounted to a beautiful piece of dark Walnut. The thing is amazing. It's inscribed from the Chrysler Corporation to Mr. Norm Thatcher, in recognition of his breaking 200MPH at Bonneville in 1964. 200MPH was Norm's obsession since the get go. Once he hit 205 MPH in his race car he was done. He did what he wanted and his mission was over.
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