Don Carlton’s Mopar Missile Wins with ACCEL


The pairing of ACCEL and Don Carlton, of the Pro Stock Motown Missile and Mopar Missile fame, seemed like a match made in heaven. ACCEL was a pioneer in the performance ignition and fuel systems industry, and Carlton was known as an innovator and always had meticulously prepared, well-maintained Mopars.

Carlton, like many, started racing out of his pocket, but, unlike most, he eventually secured Chrysler backing and was able to begin testing components and ideas that he was previously unable to afford. A 1970 Challenger (later updated to a 1971) and a 1972 ‘Cuda, both raced under the Motown Missile name, and a 1972 (then upgraded to a 1973) Mopar Missile Duster became Chrysler’s testbeds (Carlton drove the latter two). The Missile program researched and developed cutting-edge technologies, methodologies, and components that Chrysler engineering would then share with its other factory teams.

The teams included Sox and Martin, Dick Landy, Don Grothier, Mike Fons, Butch Leal, and Bill Bagshaw. A few of the many accomplishments of the Missile program included aerodynamic testing, the ClutchFlite transmission, the leaf-link rear suspension (and later, a four-link rear suspension), a crank-triggered ignition, weight savings with the extensive use of titanium and magnesium, and the development of data acquisition equipment. Over the years of the Missile program, the team included Tom Hoover, Ted Spehar, Joe Pappas, Dick Oldfield, Tom Coddington, Clyde Hodges, Mike Koran, Al Adams, Ron Killen, Len Bartush, and Carlton, each a specialist in their field.

As the NHRA continued to heap on additional weight to slow down the successful Pro Stock Hemi cars (a formula of pounds/cubic inch), starting in 1974, Chrysler significantly reduced its drag racing budget. While Carlton continued to test for Chrysler, he match raced the Duster in the B/Gas class and later competed in a Dodge Colt in the Altered class. When testing components, such as ACCEL products, Carlton would make dozens of runs in a single day. On July 5, 1977, Carlton, weeks short of his 37th birthday and back in Pro Stock with backing from the Nationwise Rod Shop and Chrysler, perished in an accident during testing of his Hemi Colt.

Everyone that was into cars and grew up in the 1970s and 1980s knew about ACCEL products. The ACCEL oil-filled Super Coil was a popular add-on for the heavy hitters of that era. Over the years, ACCEL has expanded its line into the waste spark coil designs and the coil-on-plug (COP) ignition systems. ACCEL has the Mopar market covered from the single-coil 1950-80s distributor engines to today’s 2.7, 3.5, 4.0L Chryslers and Jeeps, the 3.6L Jeeps, all the Gen III single and dual plug Hemis, and even Neon engines. ACCEL’s track-tested products provide the spark that is needed for high-RPM competition, yet meet the needs of the daily driven engine.

After nearly fifty years, ACCEL continues to offer performance products, but now as part of the Holley/MSD performance group. Look to ACCEL for coils, digital fuel injection systems, hand-held tuners, fuel injectors, ignition boxes, distributors, caps, rotors, spark plug and coil near plug wire sets, and as depicted in this October 1973 Hot Rod ad, spark plugs.

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Chris Holley

Chris Holley

Technical Contributor Chris has been a college professor for 20 years; the last 15 spent at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA. During the day Chris instructs HVAC and electrical/electronic classes, and high-performance classes, which includes the usage of a chassis dyno, flow benches, and various machining equipment at night. Chris owns a '75 Dart, a '06 Charger, a '12 Cummins turbo diesel Ram, and he is a multi-time track champion (drag racing) with his '69 340 Dart, which he has owned almost 30 years.

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