The story of this historic car starts in late 1963, when Don Beebe of Automotive Productions proposed an unheard-of plan to Chrysler Corp. His plan involved creating the fastest three 1964 “doorslammers” in the world to run exhibitions at tracks near Dodge’s new car dealerships, so the cars could be displayed to the public before running on weekends. The National Hot Rod Association created a special class for them, known as S/FX, for Supercharged Factory Experimental.
Three stock 1964 Dodge 330 Max Wedge lightweight sedans were shipped from Detroit to Dragmaster in Carlsbad, CA, for race preparation. Dragmaster prepared three 480-ci stroker Max Wedge engines that basically duplicated their 1962 Winternationals-winning Top Gas efforts. Next, the Dodges traveled to Dean Jeffries’ shop in Los Angeles for rolled aluminum pans front and rear, radiused rear wheel openings, and paint.
Jim Johnson was the first driver hired, followed by Jimmy Nix. Almost immediately, Nix smashed the 10-second barrier and Johnson topped 130-plus mph. The March 1964 debut of the S/FX Chargers is widely recognized as the birth of the Funny Car — a term not generally heard until 1965, and a class not formally christened by the NHRA until 1967.
The Chargers became a huge draw, and track operators nationwide literally begged for appearances — the sound of those Top Gas dragster engines coming from new Dodges packed grandstands with excited spectators.
But the cost of running the operation started adding up, and a new challenge arose: Jack Chrisman’s nitro-burning Mercury Comet was blazingly fast, and he had a mandate from Ford to beat the Chargers to 150 mph. Nix was fired up by the challenge and wanted to put nitro in his car too — and move the motor back in the chassis. He began cutting up his Charger as the first step, but Dodge found out about the plans and asked that he bring the car to them. He didn’t see it again for more than 20 years.
One car (the spare) was crushed in a highway accident. Dodge sold the other two cars to Don Mattison and Bud Coons, who owned the Chicago “Guzler” Fuel Dragster team. One car was fitted with the 392 Fuel engine out of their dragster in 1965, but was then destroyed in a crash.
In 1980, collector Tom Jones found a ’64 Dodge 330 sedan in Wisconsin — a car he suspected was some type of former factory race car. Soon after his purchase, Jones realized that it was the car that Jimmy Nix began cutting in 1964 before Chrysler nixed his plans. Jones sold the car as a project to C.K. Spurlock, who spent seven years restoring it. He then sold it to Frank Spittle, who completed the job.
It’s rare that a race car survives, rarer that it survives basically intact, and even rarer that it can be 100% verified as the original vehicle that left the factory.