"Strictly Stock"
The Champions of 1955 & 1956


by Dan Elliott

  


   



flat sheet metal to improve aerodynamics, remove the tail light assemblies, remove side stainless trim and fasteners for safety, bolt the passenger side door shut, rig a dead-bolt assembly to the driver's side door with an actuating lever on the outside of the driver's door just below the belt line to allow the driver to dead-bolt lock the door from inside the car and others to unlock it if necessary, add Purolator air filters and housings designed by Mercury Marine in 1955, re-jet the stock WCFB carbs or use 1956 Holley carbs if necessary, change 300B rear-end gears to one of twelve available ratios appropriate for the particular track, install a manual transmission case specially forged by Chrysler for Carl and bolt it with long high grade bolts running from the rear of the transmission to the engine block so as to create a girdle assembly snugging the transmission to the engine, install specially manufactured and reinforced 9 " steel wheels and pre-tested tires, and, finally if necessary, straighten or replace any body panels that needed work. Carl told True Magazine that just the engine work to prepare three race engines took 500 man-hours at the Osh Kosh facilities.
      After the above mentioned work was done, Carl would have the car painted with one of many graphics schemes used in the two years that ran the gamut from just cloud white or platinum with the NASCAR number and a few Purolator/Champion Spark Plug decals, for example car #57 at the 1956 Darlington, to cloud white or platinum and fancy with the NASCAR number and much advertising for Mercury Marine and its "full jeweled" outboard engines, for example cars #300-A and #300-B at the 1956 Daytona. These last mentioned graphics were colorful and elaborate for the times; they harkened back in spirit to the fancy graphics that had been used on several of the factory-backed "hot rod" Lincolns raced in the Carrara Panamericana races. However, due to fan discontent in July, 1956, Carl had the fancy Kiekhaefer graphics removed from his cars before the race at Chicago on July 21. From that point until the end of the season, perhaps the most highly decorated car entered in any race was 300B #300, the car Carl kept at his estate after the season ended.


     If necessary, one or all of the steps listed above would be taken at the Oshkosh and Fond du Lac facilities (mainly Oshkosh where the engine facilities were located) in advance of each race for every Kiekhaefer race car. As a matter of routine, all of the engine and suspension related steps were performed between every race. After the 1956 Daytona race, facilities were added at Charlotte, NC to perform some of the above-mentioned functions. In 1956 when the largest number of cars were being raced, 24 engines were available just for 300B cars, according to Kiekhaefer team folks; these engines would have been prepared in advance at Oshkosh for possible delivery to Charlotte or elsewhere as the need arose. It is interesting to note that the Kiekhaefer stock cars after preparation, were nearly as fast as Indy cars: Buck Baker's qualifying lap in his 300B at Darlington at 120 MPH was only 13 MPH slower than the fastest Indy car run at the same track.
      Of the graphics on the race cars, NASCAR dictated a few items with the rest of the graphics applied at the discretion of the racers and owners. In both years, NASCAR dictated what car numbers/identifying letters were to appear on each side of the car door. Also required in 1956 was the engine horsepower number: "Numerals indicating the horsepower of the FACTORY MANUFACTURED ENGINE ASSEMBLY must be painted on both sides of the hood in numerals at least eight inches high." Since apparently 300B's were not produced at the factory with the dealer-installed optional higher compression 355 HP heads, the hood horsepower was always 340 HP, even if a 300B engine had the higher compression heads. Dodge D-500's displayed 260 with one 4-barrel carburetor, even though the NASCAR specification chart showed this HP with twin 4-barrels as well. Later in the 1956 season, this must have changed for the D-500-1 option to 275 HP per NASCAR approval bulletin since -1 optional parts must have been considered to be factory installed. NASCAR also required the car number to be painted on the roof so that it appeared right-side up from outside of the track.
     Perhaps a word is in order about HP ratings for the 1956 engines. The 300 engines in 1955 were straightforward: 300HP for the whole season. Ratings in 1956 are a different story. Everyone was jocking for position within the confines of the "factory option mandate". Although the 300B came with 340 HP with or without the large exhaust option, by April 17 the AMA had released its bulletin showing the high compression 10 to 1 milled heads and 355 HP. Strangely, dealers were notified of this "option" on June 13, about 2 weeks after production of 300B's had been completed by Chrysler. Although Kiekhaefer undoubtedly used these heads upon approval by NASCAR, he seems always to have painted 340 HP on the car hoods. The high compression 10 to 1 milled heads for Dodge were approved by NASCAR "Late Model Bulletin" on April 10th . Before this date it appears that Kiekhaefer painted 260 HP on D-500-1 hoods; after this date he painted 275 HP on the hoods, the implication being that the Dodge high compression heads were a factory-installed option. Apparently the 10 to 1 heads were worth 15 HP for both 300B and D-500-1. Strangely, the NASCAR Specifications Charts published during the year seem to mix various of these factors; therefore, they can not be relied upon as definitive without consulting the "Late Model Bulletins".
      Preparation of the transport vans/traveling workshops was another important step in getting each of the cars/backup cars to the appropriate race venue, many times over 1,000 miles from Oshkosh. As important as the functional purpose of the vans was their


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