Mean, Lean, Green…Number 13

Mean, Lean, Green…Number 13

Growing up, there were two places in my hometown that my friends and I would go to look for old cars. The first was the parking lot across from Northville Downs, the local horse racing track. During the warm Michigan summers, people looking to sell their classics would park them out in the lot with homemade signs in the windshields asking for sums of money that seemed as if they were in the millions. Nonetheless, when we heard something old was there, we would hop on our bikes, pedal on over and check ’em out.

The second was Amerman Elementary, which was located just about a mile up the road. The school was built in the Atomic Age and featured a parking lot that nearly wrapped around the entire building. It was in that lot that I had my first real encounter with a sports car of the vintage variety.

Just like the machines at Northville Downs, this one was for sale. I remember staring at it, tracing the lines and reading every letter of every emblem. The grille was small. The wheels were small. The seats were small. To a kid, it all made sense. Then I glanced at the sign in the window. It was thousands—maybe even tens of thousands—to take this one home. If I did take it home, I thought, what would I do with it?

Being about 12 years old, there was only one option—cut out just about every stock piece (frame, running gear, interior) and build a sports car for the drags, preferably an AA/Modified Sports. Highlights would include a straight-axle to bring it way up high, long ladder bars, a beefy Olds rear, Spartan interior and a supercharged somethingorother underneath the fiberglass tilt front end. The single hoop rollbar, slicks, parachute and candy paint were no-brainers.

As I’m sure you can surmise, this car didn’t make it much further than the dreaming phase. I did build a 1/25th scale version and draw countless variations it in my spiral notebook during math classes, but that’s about it. I suppose I’ll add it to my “someday” project pile.

***

Then—and now—I was inspired by Norm Cowdrey’s smallblock-powered Austin-Healey. The color photo above has been floating around the Internet for years, but it wasn’t until I leafed through the August ’66 issue of Car Craft that I was able to full appreciate the craftsmanship on the hard-charging AA/MSP. From the tube frame (built by Sprint Car fabricator Rip Erickson) and coil-sprung front end to the 2/3rds fiberglass body (!), the car looks like an absolute handful. Best of all, it ran deep into the nines at close to 165mph. Mean, lean, green…number 13.

Joey Ukrop

 Photos from CC, August 1966

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