"Strictly Stock"
The Champions of 1955 & 1956

by Dan Elliott



      From the perspective of this writer, an article written by Ray Doern in 1981 just after he visited Carl at his estate contains the best explanation of where the car began and ended its racing life. Ray, who is the founding member of the west coast Chrysler 300 Club, entitled his article "Kiekhaefer's Beautiful Brute". Although the article does not offer an opinion about VIN numbers, it does specify that the car first was raced by Speedy Thompson (#00) on April 22, 1956 at Langhorne. Much of the time thereafter during the season, Buck Baker used the car as #300. It was driven by Speedy at the last race of the season at Wilson, NC. After Wilson, it was trucked to Carl's home at Fond du Lac. Apparently the car was not driven at Darlington, although Frank Mundy drove it at the Road America race. Ray concluded his article with the following observation: "I have often wondered what I would do if I were able to obtain the car from Mr. Kiekhaefer: would I restore it to showroom condition, or leave it as is. After visiting with Carl, and seeing and driving the car the answer is easy. It should, and I hope will always remain as it is today---and was back in its days of glory in 1956 when it was blowing the doors off those Fords and Chevrolets!!"
      Finally, what has been the status of the remaining race car over the past several years? Ray Doern had the presence of mind to take many good photographs of the car while it was still in Carl's possession, just two years before his death. Carl maintained the car for 27 years until his death in the same condition as it was in 1956. Additionally, with the following exceptions in the opinion of this writer, it was just as it left the race track in 1956: (1) Carl didn't want to fool around with the dead-bolt locks on the driver's door, so he had the door replaced. The graphics painted on the new door appeared in Ray's pictures to be rather crude compared to door graphics from the racing years, the door graphics appear to copy the trunk graphics; in the plus column is that the number "300" in the pictures of the door is centered, whereas in 1956 it was offset because the car started it's life as #00, so when the "3" was added for "300", it was at the front edge of the door. Also, the 1956 centering of "300 would have allowed (without repainting the whole door) the addition of a "-B" or "-C" following "300" if the need had arisen. (2) Carl added the "Winner of 3 National Championships, etc" graphics to the rear quarters for obvious reasons. (3) The name of the principle driver of the car, Buck Baker, was added above the driver's door; deleted from the roof was the large "300" that existed in race trim per 1956 NASCAR regulations. (4) Graphics showing 355 HP replaced 340HP on the hood. The reason for suggesting this is that there is not a picture, at least known to this writer, of a 300B in actual competition displaying 355 HP hood graphics, even though NASCAR almost certainly had approved the addition of the 10 to 1 compression 355 HP heads. Even at Darlington, 340HP was used on the hoods.

      E.C. Kiekhaefer died in 1983, just two years after Ray's visit. A fellow named Jack Boxstrom with RM Auctions had seen Ray's article, and subsequently he kept an eye peeled for the car so as to acquire it from Carl's estate in the late 1980's-early 1990's. Between Jack and the next owner, Bob Valpy, the car was restored with all dents taken out, etc, so that it looks quite similar to Frank Mundy's 1956 Daytona 300B, #300-B. The car was shown all over the US by both men. (In the opinion of this writer, since the car has been restored it would be nice if the names of all three Championship drivers were be painted on the roof.) Following restoration, Jack reacquired the car from Bob a few years later and has loaned it to the Henry Ford museum where it was not being displayed as of late 2004. Apparently the Walter Chrysler museum did not want to store the car. It may be that E. C. Kiekhaefer, in the context of his long standing contest with Ford……would consider this to be the ultimate irony. But then again, Carl's spirit may find rest in the car's ghostly presence at the Ford museum. After all, it is a powerful reminder to the vintage Ford family of vehicles of what domination really meant in the "Strictly Stock" years of 1955 and 1956!

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