Pete Tritak and Bill Morgan, better known as Tritak and Morgan, were a force to be reckoned with in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Northeast Division (NED). With Morgan handling the driving chores, the pair ran a series of Stock and Super Stock eliminator Plymouths in the ‘60s and ‘70s out of Tritak Performance, located in Clifton, New Jersey. Countless times during their heyday, the team held several Stock and Super Stock elapsed time and speed records, many acquired with their famous ’63 Plymouth “War Wagon.”
Above: Pete Tritak and Bill Morgan teamed up with Super Stock and Drag Illustrated Magazine and Chrysler to prepare and race a ’70 Hemi Cuda. After some fine-tuning, Tritak and Morgan had a successful season.
In 1970, the representatives at Super Stock and Drag Illustrated (SS&DI) magazine worked with Chrysler to supply an all-new 1970 Hemi Cuda to Tritak and Morgan (T&M). The plan was to have the team prepare the Cuda for the Super Stock D/Automatic class (SS/DA) for various national, divisional, and All-Star circuits in the Northeast and, in some cases, throughout the United States. In addition, the Cuda would eventually be a giveaway sweepstakes car through SS&DI magazine.
Upon receiving the Cuda, T&M weighed the car and found it was 90 pounds over the shipping weight, so an extreme weight loss program was unnecessary. The first modifications to the Cuda were replacing the front drums with factory disc brakes and swapping the power brakes and the power steering with manual systems. The center console and shifter were replaced with a Hurst dual gate shifter.
Above: Super Stock and Drag Illustrated Magazine followed Tritak and Morgan across the country for a 28-month series in the magazine. The team finished 1st in the NHRA NED and the All-Star Super Stock Circuit in 1970.
The Hemi, Torqueflite, and the 9 ¾-inch Dana 60 were removed and rebuilt to Chrysler and NHRA specifications. Tritak fitted the Hemi with a Racer Brown camshaft, but he did not install any trick parts in the engine as factory parts were deemed acceptable. However, a deep sump Milodon pan was fitted to the bottom of the Hemi. The transmission was converted to a manual shift with modifications to the valve body. A B&M 4000-rpm stall converter was installed. Tritak filled the differential with 5.13:1 gears (although 4.56, 4.88, and 5.38:1 gears would also be used). He located the Dana on aftermarket springs.
After some local track testing, T&M took the Cuda to Pomona, California, for the 10th annual NHRA Winternationals. Plagued with traction problems, T&M did not successfully debut the Cuda. After many suspension changes and tests, the traction problems continued at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida. Upon returning to N.J., the team switched from Goodyear to M&H slicks and reinstalled the factory leaf springs, which seemed to resolve the traction problems.
Above: For 1971, Tritak and Morgan again campaigned the Cuda in SS/DA, but with less success. Toward the end of the year, the team installed a 4-speed and ran in SS/D. This photo is the Cuda in SS/DA trim.
T&M found its stride during the late spring, summer, and early fall. The team won a few races, was a runner-up at a few more, but there were still some first-round losses and parts breakage. A high-dollar Hemi expired after only two runs, transmission and torque converter problems persisted, and traction woes occasionally hurt the team’s performance even after switching to the preferred Firestone slicks.
Toward the end of the season, the team held slim leads in Super Stock NHRA NED and the All-Star Super Stock Circuit. So, with the original Hemi between the fenders, a new 4500-rpm B&M torque converter, and a freshened-up transmission, the team acquired enough points at the end of the season to win both championships. By winning the NHRA Division One Super Stock Championship, the team was invited to the World Finals in Dallas, Texas. The team could have earned a $5000 paycheck if they won the event, but it was not in the cards. However, the season was a success.
Above: How would you like to own this race car? Well, you could if you followed the long list of requirements laid out by the magazine. Then, all you needed was to sell the most subscriptions, and the Hemi Cuda was yours.
For ‘71, the Cuda was rebuilt and set up for another season of SS/DA. Because many competitors had moved to Pro Stock eliminator, the All-Star Super Stock Circuit was disbanded. Therefore, Tritak and Morgan planned on a less aggressive schedule. Unfortunately, the season was plagued with plenty of transmission problems. The transmission cost the team several races, and that, along with so many competitive SS/DA cars, caused T&M to decide to install a 4-speed and run SS/D eliminator. At the end of the ’71 season, T&M finished fourth in the NHRA NED points.
After two years of racing, in early ’72, Tritak returned the Cuda to the SS/DA trim to prepare for the giveaway. To be eligible to win the Cuda, entrants had to sign up to sell SS&DI subscriptions. Many stipulations limited companies and their employees from participating; however, over 3100 people applied to sell subscriptions. The winner was local drag racer John C. Zibor, a 33-year-old police officer for the City of Passaic, N.J. Zibor was able to sell 1563 subscriptions, which greatly outdistanced 2nd place.
Above Left: The back cover of the January ’71 magazine had a list of sponsors that the magazine and Tritak and Morgan wished to thank. The list was extensive. Above Center: On the cover of the January ’71 magazine, there was a huge #1 with the Cuda overlaid on it. Above Right: Tritak and Morgan had such a successful year in ’70 that they earned additional press outside the magazine.
In the words of Paul Harvey, “Now, the rest of the story.” Tritak had wanted to keep the car, so he devised a plan before the giveaway sweepstakes. He would sell subscriptions for SS&DI, but he would have Zibor be the frontman for the contest. Every employee and customer that came to Tritak Performance received a subscription, even though Tritak paid for them. Then, all the subscriptions were listed as being sold by Zibor.
It is unknown how much money Zibor received for being the frontman, but the Cuda never left the Tritak Performance shop even though SS&DI printed the Cuda and the trailer had been taken home by Zibor. The rumor for years was Tritak purchased the Cuda back from Zibor, but now you know the real story.
Above: In ’71, the SS/DA pool of quality cars (Hemis and big-block Camaros) grew significantly. It was more challenging to be the best car in the class, and although the team did well, they could not repeat as NED champs. It looks like Dave Conners in the Rod Shop SS/DA Cuda took the finish line stripe.
The list of parts suppliers for the Tritak and Morgan SS&DI Hemi Cuda was a “who’s who” of the day. Interestingly, many sponsor companies are now housed under the Holley umbrella.
Tritak and Morgan had great success with ACCEL Ignition products that only needed periodic timing advance adjustments and upkeep. The team used plenty of different B&M torque converters to help pass the Hemi’s torque to the rear end. In addition, Mr. Gasket gaskets kept the Hemi sealed and leak-free.
Above Left: Before the Hemi Cuda, Tritak and Morgan had great success with a series of Plymouths in Stock and Super Stock eliminator. While campaigning the Cuda, the team continued to run the ’63 “War Wagon” in Stock. Above Right: Tritak and Morgan put the wagon into many winner’s circles, including the 1969 Indy Nationals.
Chrysler provided information about the optimum header lengths for the automatic and the stick-shift Hemis, and Hooker Headers worked with T&M and Chrysler to refine the exhaust scavenging. A Torqueflite provided the shifting for almost two years, and the Hurst Performance dual-gate shifter worked flawlessly. Lastly, T&M utilized Lakewood Industries’ suspension products and roll bar to aid in vehicle rigidity and weight transfer, which reduced tire slippage.
While none of us will be competing with a Hemi Cuda Super Stocker, we can benefit from the vast parts inventory from all the Holley companies. So, whether aftermarket components are needed for a vintage Detroit muscle car era Mopar or a late-model Charger or Challenger, Holley is merely a click away.