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Giant Slayer: Pro Stock Racing Legend Wally Booth and AMC's 27-Month Miracle

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#1 Bob Riebe

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 18:17

fron Hot Rod:
AMC Goes Drag Racing

The NHRA responded to the success of the Hemi by allowing racers to build smaller cars with small-block engines. Breaks were established to determine weight requirements based on the displacement of the engines. Those rule changes prompted Wally to build a Vega. By October 1971, the car was under construction and the 331-inch bullet he'd built for it produced in excess of 500 horsepower. However, things were about to change. In mid-November, Bob Swaim, the head of the American Motors Corporation Racing Program, presented Wally the opportunity that would lead to his greatest accomplishments.

Swaim had worked as a photographer and Detroit correspondent for Petersen Publishing [publisher of Hot Rod, Car Craft, Motor Trend, and other mags] in the late 1960s. He was then hired by Ford in 1969 to head up its racing program, but soon afterward, Ford announced that it was pulling the racing plug. Swaim remained until October 1971 and was then hired to head up American Motors Corporation's racing program. "I was hooked on racing," Swaim said. "AMC's goal was to get involved in Pro Stock. They had had Hurst build Super Stock AMXs in 1968 and 1969. Those cars did well and gave AMC a good bit of exposure. When they hired me, I was given the task of making AMC a successful presence in Pro Stock racing. They had a taste of success with Mark Donohue in Trans-Am racing and wanted similar results in the drag racing world."...



...The 27-Month Miracle

All of the development work finally paid off. Wally's first NHRA national event win came just 27 months after joining forces with AMC. On March 17, 1974, his Hornet defeated Jack Roush's Mustang II in the Pro Stock final at the NHRA Gatornationals, 8.97 to 9.01. Though Bob Wheat had replaced Bob Swaim as AMC's Race Program Director, Swaim was elated; all the work that had been poured into Wally's cars had been validated. Wheat wisely used the win at the Gatornationals to secure continued AMC support of Wally Booth and his winning Hornet.




Those Heads Won Races



Edited by Bob Riebe, 29 July 2021 - 18:39.


#2 DCapps

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 19:04



I wonder if you and I are among the few to whom the names and events in the accompanying article actually mean something?


I haven't thought about Wally Booth in ages. I definitely remember the Gremlin on the track though...



#3 Bob Riebe

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 19:56

Probably, seems this site is now Euro or Aussie mostlly.

Herr Magoo has enlivened the Tech. site a bit recently.


I saw the cars at a AMC Anniversary meet in Kenosha, Damn probably over 10 years ago.


Even there, these were the only factory racing cars in attendance; when I read some of the rag "experts" making comments on AMC cars nowadays, I fully realize they have zero knowledge of the things they are speaking of and to a great degree just parrot some bs rhetoric they heard some where.


Truly sad part is what will die with us, or our age groups, is knowledge of what racing was before spec. cancer made it a farce.



At the AMC forum site approx. 10 years ago there was a gent who was at the sale where parts for these car, especially engines were sold.

He remarked there cylinder heads there that far, far beyond what an AMC street engine used.

Sadly I think that thread is long gone.

Edited by Bob Riebe, 28 July 2021 - 00:12.

#4 Tom Glowacki

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 21:46

My first new car was a 1974 Gremlin. Not to say that there were reliability problems, but to this day, I can still replace an AMC 6 cylinder alternator blindfolded. That said, I much enjoyed the spectacle of Gremlins dominating their class in IMSA racing. For our uninitiated cousins across the Atlantic, the secret to those heads was that he made them by slicing two heads horizontally so that there was a thin half and a thick half, welding the thick halves together to create some seriously big ports.

#5 Rupertlt1

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Posted 28 July 2021 - 13:59

Extract from an article I wrote in 1971:


International Hot Rod Association's championship drags at Bristol    

International Raceway, Bristol, Tennessee on August 27th - 29th, 1971

The pro-stockers reign supreme in this part of the country and

half the crowd do not wait for the fuel and funny finals.  Brand allegiance

is high and when a VW wins a handicap race against a Camaro the crowd goes

wild.  The entry is dominated numerically by such stock and super-stock

machines.  The pro-stock final finds local hero Ronnie Sox, from Burlington,

North Carolina, in the Sox and Martin '71 'L'il Boss' Barracuda against Wally

Booth in the Booth-Arons 'Detroit Rat Pack' Camaro.  Booth hole shots Sox but

it is the hemi at the traps, both cars are in the nines.  The roar from the

crowd is deafening, as the advert says 'Plymouth makes it'.


Booth had been a Chevy stalwart — so when did he make the switch and when were the 27 months?



#6 Bob Riebe

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Posted 28 July 2021 - 18:14

Click on the link, it gives the rundown.

#7 Rupertlt1

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Posted 29 July 2021 - 04:00

Click on the link, it gives the rundown.


Bob, I've read every word of it — the problem over time is that links and photographs get lost — and the thread loses meaning. So at least a summary of your appreciation of Wally Booth is best to appear here. As a TNF contributor who actually saw him in 1971, I think he deserves it!



#8 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 29 July 2021 - 13:01

Like most pics the link eventually disapear. I found the article interesting. Especially splitting the heads! And YES I suspect they would have leaked. But that sort of creative 'engineering' happens in Drag racing. Useless for any other motorsport though.

Does anyone know more about Penskes AMC  Transam effort. I believe there was some very special heads and valve train in those engines as well.

#9 Bob Riebe

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Posted 29 July 2021 - 18:43

Reading articles like this, take me back to the days when 700 hp from ANY naturally aspirated engine, was a HUGE amount of horsepower and 10 second quarter miles in true door slammer was as good as it got.


Fascinating how in 4 years they were down in the 8s but also that was when the Pro Stock cars were no long made from stock cars but at least still looked just like them.


I know they are running vintage rails in the 5s now, I wonder what a 1970 Pro Stock with todays tires and treated tracks would do if some one really put the pedal to the metal?

#10 JacnGille

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Posted 31 July 2021 - 18:11

 I wonder what a 1970 Pro Stock with todays tires and treated tracks would do if some one really put the pedal to the metal?

There is a Nostalgia Pro Stock group but I haven't looked into what times they are running.

#11 hlfuzzball

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Posted 02 August 2021 - 19:18

I interviewed for that job at AMC at the time.
The pay they were offering was peanuts, no, less than peanuts for a high-stress job.
It was less than what I was making at then at Kar-Kraft .