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Parking Spot Car Feature – Lead Sled, A Stock-Class Drag Racing Icon Of The ’70s

This edition of Parking Spot Car Feature got started because the car in question happened to be parked where John Bunker, our interactive designer and photographer, usually parks. Little did we know the perfectly patina’d wagon was 2-1/4 tons of drag racing history.

Dubbed the “Weighty Wonder” in a Speed and Supercar magazine feature, this 1969 Chevy Kingswood nine-passenger station wagon has more than a groovy throw-back paint scheme going for it. The Lead Sled was originally owned and driven by Tom Akin with an engine built and tuned by John Day. It was raced out of Iowa but roamed the mid-west in search of unsuspecting prey.

The big wagon was special at birth because it is one of only 546 full-size Chevrolets from 1969 to be built with the L72 option. For added context, there were 1.1 million “full-size Chevrolets” produced in 1969. It is also 1 of 2 L72 wagons. The other is owned by GM and currently resides in the automaker’s Heritage Collection.

Checking the L72 box delivered a muscle-bound 425-horse 427-cubic-inch V8, a burnout-ready 12-bolt Posi rear end, and an upgraded F41 suspension set-up. Needless to say the 4,500-pound Kingswood raised eyebrows every time it pulled up to the Christmas tree.

The Dover White wagon has run 12.41 at 111.88 mph and was a solid mid-12-second performer throughout its career. While not a competitor in the mainstream NHRA drag racing series, Lead Sled did rack up some meaningful accolades, including the 1969 AHRA World Series championship, 1970 AHRA Top Stock points champion, and 1970 AHRA Top Stock Eliminator championship. Tom and the car were fortunate enough to be invited to join Dick Harrell’s race team. Harrell was a prominent stock-class racer before, during, and after Chevy’s factory involvement in the sport. His devotion to the Bow Tie earned Harrell the nickname “Mr. Chevrolet.” In true trickle down form, Harrell helped create custom dealer cars with the likes of Nickey Chevrolet, Yenko, and Fred Gibb Chevrolet, before building his own works of art that were for sale at select dealerships. So to be on his team was to be one of the best of the best.

Drag cars that make their legend a quarter mile at a time can also be the victim of time, succumbing to the march of technology, giving way to wear-and-tear, suffering catastrophic crash damage, or enduring the dreaded part-out. The Lead Sled survived and was retired in 1973. The built L72 was pulled and sold to a dirt track racer where it died a high-rpm death. The Lead Sled was re-engined but eventually faded into 35 years of storage. It was rediscovered in Iowa by Davenport collector Dave Belk who purchased it with two partners and eventually put up for sale at the 2007 St. Charles Mecum auction where it received a top bid of $80,000… it did not sell.

Belk bought out his partners. The trail goes cold here. We are not sure if Belk still owns the car, how it got to Washington, and whether it still makes appearances at the strip. We are glad we spotted it on July 2nd and if we can track down the current owner at a future Caffeine & Gasoline event we will get more details and revisit this wicked wagon.

Caffeine & Gasoline cruise-in car show are free to all and held the first Saturday of every month at the Griot’s Garage Flagship Retail Store in Tacoma, Washington.
Have fun in your garage!

 


7 Comments

  1. Tim Shidu says:

    Hello…This is my car.

    I purchased it a couple of years ago with the intent of restoring it…

    Once I got it in my possession I could not bring myself to do anything more than build a fresh matching date L72 and a fresh race engine with the help of local stock class racer Greg Denney and my lifelong friend Tim Wynne.

    The car is still in pretty amazing shape and has the most complete paper trail of it’s history of any car I have ever owned. Tim W, Greg and I have had a great time gathering up all the parts and pieces to make it run again.

    I fortunately been able talk and e-mail Tom Akins regularly…..amazing guy. Has some great stories and insight into cool cars in general. Very lucky to have gotten to know him.

    Feel free to ping me back and we can chat..would be glad to bring the car by again. Thanks Tim

  2. Wow, very kool piece of drag history. Car looks amazing, love the paint scheme!

  3. Dave Belk says:

    Hi Tim, can you email me concerning your car. Thanks. Dave Belk

  4. Thanks for the good writeup. It if truth be told was once a amusement account it.

    Glance complicated to more introduced agreeable
    from you! However, how can we keep up a correspondence?

  5. Gene Christopher says:

    I remember seeing this car parked at the new Ramada Inn in Frankfort Kentucky in 1969 or 1970. You cannot know what a profound effect that race car had on a young man at that period in time. To this day my favorite performance car is an L72 1969 Impala. Thank you sir for stirring up my most favorite memory concerning my favorite car !!!! ( Note: I must have driven past that car at least a dozen times that warm summer night !!!)

  6. Gene Christopher says:

    This is the first time I’ve ever sent an email. I hope it reaches you. It should warm your heart to know how much that car meant to me back then. I hope the entire message reaches you so this note will make more sense. Gene Christopher

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