JOHN PETRIE’S CANADIAN RACING TEAM
I knew that after my 1972 campaign Chrysler Canada was no longer going to sponsor my drag racing endeavors and Super Car Clinic Sponsorship programs. Chrysler US had made their decision in 1971 to cancel all drag racing performance car clinics including Sox & Martin, Don Grotheer of the Chrysler Plymouth Division and Dick Landy & Bill Tanner of the Chrysler Dodge Division. Once the decision had been made to cancel all performance clinics in the US, it was only a matter of time before Chrysler Canada would cancel my Super Car Clinic Program for funding my future campaigns.
Before the fuel crunch hit North America. I was confident that my new ideas incorporated into my 426 Hemi engines would start to pay off. With all the new innovations in head design, ignition systems, carburation and header designs along with suspension changes, I felt that the 1972 season would be a breakout year for me to make my challenge against the big US pro stock racing teams. My idea was to make my ’72 Duster and ’72 ‘Cuda launch off the line quicker from the 0 to 60 foot mark so that my ET would be lower than in the previous year. I was now producing more horsepower with some ideas of my own and some from Chrysler US engineers notably from the engineering developments and testing done by Ted Spehar in Detroit on the Motown Missile Pro Stock. The average racing fan was not aware that Chrysler US was spending a lot of time and money in helping to develop the ultimate Pro Stock. Ted Spehar’s 1971 Dodge Challenger was constantly being tested and documented on its performance. The development of the dual spark plug cylinder heads along with intake and compression upgrades, all contributed to the success of the Motown Missile. Along with a clutchflite automatic transmission that launched the car off the line quicker. 1972 marked the introduction of smaller more fuel efficient cars along with shorter wheel bases and smaller engines. Gone were the performance cars for the average middle class youth to drive on the street. It was hard for me to accept the end of the big block performance engines and long wheel base cars. I was not ready to rethink my approach to converting to new small block performance engines and down sized cars. I recall that Bill Jenkins and his early model Chevy Vega was the first recipient of the new era of pro stock racing. Bob Glidden also ran a very fast small block, small body race car at that time. The small block cars by comparison looked like they would be the new dominance in the pro stock class. However the big block cars did perform very well up to the time when the Duster, Demon, Challenger and Barracuda were no longer offered by Chrysler. Because of fuel shortages we all had to accept redirecting our approach to racing for the future. I might have continued racing by financing myself and relying on smaller associate sponsors to support my efforts, but I believed I would not be able to participate at the level that I was accustomed to without a major corporate sponsor to fund my future development.
LET’S GO RACING: MY FINAL YEAR
What a start after coming off a great season in 1971. I was looking forward to building my new 1972 Plymouth Duster. I liked the size and shape of this car. It was not one of the most popular cars used in the Pro Stock Class, but I knew I could make this car work. 1972 presented a new challenge for me in developing new ideas. I was certain that this car would be able to reach 9 20’s during the ’72 racing season with some minor changes.
I started my testing in Orange County California in January of 1972. My goal was to improve my launch off the line. I was also committed to upgrade my cylinder head design by enlarging my intake and exhaust ports. This would enable me to improve the air flow into each engine cylinder. I made major changes to my rear suspension design, I felt that these changes along with other ideas I had, would be contributing factors to my future success. During my testing time in the L.A. area I was able to try different combinations of tires and light weight mags along with some new head designs. When talking with Butch Leal (the California Flash) it seemed like we were both on the same page about compression ratios sometimes running as high as 15-1 compression on my 426 HEMIS. I worked out of Chittenden Enterprises shop in Santa Ana California a suburb of L.A. We worked Day and Night making all the necessary changes to go faster. Danny and I will always remember how cold it was at night working on the floor with no covered garage doors and no heat. My highlight at Chittenden’s Shop was the naming of their new Saint Bernard Pup PETRIE; I was honored. After Grace, Danny and I returned to Canada in late February I was contacted by Alban Gauthier of Action Performance in Montreal to have a meeting about the possible purchase of my new 72 Duster Pro Stock and new enclosed hauler. Alban introduced me to a gentleman by the name of Rick Hurst who was the one willing to put up the money towards the purchase of my vehicles for an early spring racing schedule in Montreal. Alban had already purchased my old Dodge T-Top Hauler and my ’71 winning Barracuda pro stocker from me during the fall of 1971 after my final points meet win at ATCO New Jersey in September. Once the 1972 Duster and Hauler were on the way to Action Performance in Montreal I had to come up with a new race car for my 1972 racing season. I made a quick decision to build a new 1972 Barracuda Pro Stock. The race was on for me and my team to find and build a new Barracuda pro stock in a hurry. This under taking created the Quick Build Special Barracuda. We found a street legal driven car and converted it into my fastest ‘Cuda ever (all work was completed including priming within 4 weeks). There was no time to test the new ‘Cuda, we “just had to go racing”. It was very difficult to get the car race ready but we did. The car was quick and showed signs of setting fast ET’s and high MPH passes. As the season wore on we had our problems competing against the new generation of smaller sized Pro Stocks. The season was a disappointment for our team, we competed hard with limited results. I had made my decision when I sold the 72 Duster to Rick Hurst that this would be my final year as a professional drag racer. I was in the middle of building a new home in Pickering Ontario with a shop for engine/car building. It was never my intention at that time of ending my career and not being involved in drag racing any longer. I was going to take a break at the end of the 72 season to look at my options.
1972 Duster Pro 13 Built Nov/Dec 1971 (Body in White Build)
I chose the Plymouth Duster body for my last year because it was the design and feel I was most comfortable with. The Duster body was narrow in width but had a balanced front to rear weight ratio. The look of the car when it was finished was like a sleek projectile. This car incorporated all my new ideas for what should prove to be a very competitive racing season (My Favorite Racer).
1972 presented some interesting challenges:
1) I needed to create a quicker launch off the line (0 to 60 foot mark).
2) Being a good driver was not going to win many races regardless of my reflexes and reading the tree (I just had to be smarter).
The horsepower output of my engines were great through all 4 gears, top end power was not a concern and the car traveled through the eyes like my old John Petrie’s Canadian Highlander AFX Coronet on Nitro. It was hard for me to slow this car down with the small Fiat brakes I had installed once I got going, but I managed.
My List of Upgrades for the 1972 Duster (Raced January-March ’72):
– Improved Porting of Heads
– Improved Manifold design
– Improved Carburation
– Improved Hood scoop design for better air intake
– Improved Camshafts (roller Cam design)
– Improved Header flow design
– Strengthened rear axles to eliminate fatigue
– Worked on different piston designs
– Switched to Stock Car rear leaf spring adjusting towers
– Used rectangle tubing on the rear under body for rigidity over rear end and back deck
– Changed weight ratios from front to rear (movable ballast)
– Changed transmission gear ratios and rear end gear size
– Changed tire supplier
This seemed like a lot of changes but was really just tweaking to meet the new demands for Pro Stock Racing back in the day.
1972 Plymouth Barracuda Pro/13 Built March-April 1972 (Raced May-October ’72)
After racing my ’71 ‘Cuda with winning results it was easier for me to build the ’72 ‘Cuda just the way I wanted. The wider stance footprint was a proven winner for me in the past. The ‘Cuda always gave me positive results. When I recall my acid dipping fiasco that took place on my 71′ ‘Cuda, I was passed the point of wanting to dip another ‘Cuda for my 72′ Campaign. It was hard stripping down a street driven car and making it as light as air in such a short period of time. The ‘Cudas I drove were always easy to dial in at any track. The configuration of the ‘Cudas unit body and panel design were contributing factors as to why ‘Cudas and Challengers were so fast. I was now starting to run my new ‘Cuda at some very impressive high mile per hour passes. I remember running at ATCO and Englishtown were the tracks were fast and the air was rich making passes of 148 MPH and better.
– Increased engine compression
– Changed Piston Design Configuration
– Changed Clutch configuration
– Changed Leaf Springs
– Changed Braking System
– Changed Hood scoop Design
– Changed spark plug manufacturer
– Changed oil supply system
I hope you have enjoyed reading some of my drag racing history. There is a lot more to talk about in the future about my past from 1961-1972. Keep checking back on my website. I will be expanding my website to include 2 new additional segments titled “My Racing Friends” and “The Story Tellers.” Please join me in recalling the history and stories of legendary Canadian Racers back in the day. Lets take a moment in time to remember the Golden Years of Drag Racing.
Photo’s Provide by:
Bill & Stacee, Grace, McClurg And Associates, Rob Potter, Robin McQueen, Ron Rombough