While Al Corda can remember every line and every contour of his first car, a ’66 Dodge, it was the ’64 Plymouth station wagon he had that added fuel to his go-fast fire, and it wheeled him to a win and a Wally at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in 1971.
He continued cruising in A, B and C Stock Eliminator categories in various muscular Mopars and earned a second NHRA Wally in 1993, as well as NHRA championship in 1986 and 1997, but change was on the horizon.
“Fuel injection was getting popular, and I had an opportunity to get into a factory 2000 Firebird with an LS1 engine in 2000,” said Corda, who lives in Elk Mound, Wisconsin and was the very successful owner of Rock Falls Raceway in Eau Claire, Wisconsin until last year. “I entered IHRA Top Stock competition with the new car with a small-block engine even though the class was filled with old cars with big-block engines, and I won the inaugural Top Stock race, at what was then Norwalk Raceway Park and is now Summit Motorsports Park. It was quite fun and quite a big deal because it was old versus new technology.”
While the move from carburetors to fuel injection widened Corda’s scope, he didn’t abandon the former altogether, as he continued to motor a variety of Mopars at races across the country. Eventually, he began taking part in — and winning in — the Chevrolet Performance Challenge Series, where he joined ProForm Rumble and LME Street King categories in the 2000 Firebird, and in the NMCA series, where he joined ATI Nostalgia Super Stock, first in a 1964 Plymouth and then in the ’69 Dart featured here.
After purchasing the beautiful black car in 2010 from a seller in Detroit, Michigan, he hired fellow racer Kurt Anderson of AutoKraft Race Cars and Restoration in Eau Claire, Wisconsin to add more bars to the cage, and he outfitted the car with a Strange Dana rear-end. He then pulled the 440 cubic-inch Chrysler engine from his 1964 Plymouth and put it in the Dart.
“I was attracted to the car because it was a little lighter, and that would help me to go a little faster,” said Corda.
After racing the Dart in ATI Nostalgia Super Stock’s 10.00 index for a few years, and collecting wins and commanding attention event after event, he parked it to focus on the Firebird, in which he earned the LME Street King championship in 2015, but by 2016, he was ready to return the Dart to race action.
So he delivered its 440 cubic-inch Chrysler engine, which is topped with Indy Cylinder Heads EZ heads and two four-barrel Edelbrock carburetors, to Wheeler Racing Engines in Blaine, Minnesota, where it was freshened and finessed to take it to 500 cubic-inches. He also took the Dart back to AutoKraft Race Cars and Restoration, where Anderson installed new AFCO front shocks as well as wheelie bars to keep the car’s launch in check, and outfitted it with a fresh set of Mickey Thompson 10.5 slicks.
With some more cubic-inches and some more horsepower, Corda entered ATI Nostalgia Super Stock’s 9.75 index at the 15th Annual Quick Fuel Technology NMCA Bluegrass Nationals featuring the Dave Duell Nostalgia Super Stock Classic in May of 2016 at Beech Bend Raceway, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He was on a roll and won first round, but a hurt transmission and converter ended his weekend in the second round.
He was quick to have them repaired and head to a test session to dial in the car before the 15th Annual NMCA All-American Nationals in June of 2016 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he was ready to make up for lost time. He proved that — and his prowess — by entering and winning ATI Nostalgia Super Stock in the Dart as well as Chevrolet Performance Challenge Series Street King in the 2000 Firebird, which runs 10.00s.
“People often say they had one lucky round on their way to an event win, and for me, that was the fourth round in Nostalgia Super Stock,” said Corda. “Brian Merrick was -.005 red and I was -.027 red, but because he was the slower car, left first and red-lit first, I won. It was the first time I had won in two different cars and in two different classes at the same event in 40 or 50 years. I was quite proud of that. I don’t know if people appreciate the complexity of racing two different cars on two different trees.”
Ready for the 11th Annual Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing in July of 2016, at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois, Corda loaded his Dart — the twentieth race car he has owned — into his trailer, but upon arriving at the track, he discovered that he had lost a harmonic balancer and wouldn’t be able to compete.
“That’s when I decided I should just head home and focus on my new 2015 COPO Camaro,” said Corda.
He debuted the stunning red and gold 2015 Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center COPO Camaro, which is powered by a Wegner Motorsports-built 350 cubic-inch COPO engine, in the 10.00 index of LME Street King at the 15th Annual NMCA World Street Finals featuring the Chevrolet Performance Challenge Series in August at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
He wasted no time acclimating himself to his new surroundings, as he qualified seventh with a 10.05 on his 10.00 index, and then wrangled up a runner-up finish in his new ride.
“While I didn’t make it all the way in the COPO in Street King, the car ran exceptionally well and was consistent and easy to drive,” said Corda. “So I was more than a little pleased with the runner-up deal.”
Now, Corda plants to continue to run the COPO Camaro in LME Street King as well as in NHRA Stock Eliminator, while also continuing to run the Dart in ATI Nostalgia Super Stock.
“I enjoy drag racing, and double-entering, even though it can be very hectic,” said Corda. “And when you can win on top of that, it’s really a great day.”
Owner and driver: Al Corda of Elk Mound, Wisconsin
Occupation: Former owner of Rock Falls Raceway in Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Class: ATI Nostalgia Super Stock, LME Street King, ProForm Rumble and Factory Stock Showdown
Crew: Kurt Anderson, Les Lienerth and Russ Berens
Engine builder: Wheeler Racing Engines in Blaine, Minnesota
Displacement: 500 cubic-inches
Block: Dodge 440 cast iron block
Cylinder heads: Indy Cylinder Heads EZ
Valvetrain: Harland Sharp rockers
Carburetor or EFI system: Two four-barrel 800 CFM Edelbrock carburetors on an Indy intake
Fuel brand and type: VP Racing Fuels C-12 gas
Headers and exhaust: Two-inch headers
Transmission: 727 TorqueFlite
Clutch/shifter/torque converter: Dynamic converter
Rearend: Strange S60
Body and/or chassis builder: Chrome moly cage by AutoKraft Race Cars and Restoration
Suspension (Front): Stock
Suspension (Rear): Ladderbar
Brakes (Front) Brand: Strange
Brakes (Rear) Brand: Strange
Wheels (front) Brand: Billet Specialties
Wheels (Rear) Brand: Billet Specialties
Tires (Front) Brand: Mickey Thompson
Tires (Rear) Brand: Mickey Thompson 10.5 radial slicks
Vehicle weight: 3100 pounds with driver
Quickest ET: 9.63
Best 60-foot: 1.35
Fastest mph: 138 mph
Feature from Nov. 2016 issue of Fastest Street Car (Photos by Dr. Rudy Rouweyha)