During the late 1960s and 1970s, when a group of red, white, and blue Plymouths arrived at the track with the names Sox & Martin on the doors, there was a guarantee that those cars would be sporting Keystone Kustomag Klassic wheels. While not as famous as the Cragar S/S wheels, Keystone wheels garnered plenty of attention on the strip or cruising the boulevard.
Above: Sox & Martin relied upon the precision of Keystone Kustomag Klassic wheels on all their Plymouths during the team’s successful run in the late-60s and early-70s. Page 23 of the team’s 1969 Super Car Clinic brochure details the team’s belief in the quality of Keystone.
In 1947, Virgil Benton, an owner of a small chrome plating business, took advantage of a problem that plagued the underdeveloped regions of rural California. Many of these areas did not have paved roads, and frequent sandstorms wreaked havoc on the paint, windshields, and chrome of automobiles. So, Benton convinced collision shops and local insurers in Ontario, California, that his business could re-chrome all damaged bumpers and trim.
Benton’s quality work and ability to return products promptly did not go unnoticed, and as a result, his volume of insurance work and customer vehicle repairs increased. The business flourished, and Benton’s company expanded to include bumper straightening and repair. During the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, the business grew out of the California region, extending into the Midwest and Northeast.
Above: So popular and successful was the team of Sox & Martin; Keystone featured the team on the cover of its 1971 catalog. All the Keystone Catalog covers can be seen at Vintage Wheels Catalogs.
In the mid-60s, Keystone Bumper and Automotive ventured into the wheel market. With its vast background in polishing, plating, and finishing and the demand for aftermarket wheels, it was an excellent move for the company. By the late-60s and throughout the 1970s, Keystone Klassics became a mainstay in the wheel industry.
During the 1980s, Keystone Products, Inc. (Keystone Bumper and Automotive) was acquired by Intermark, Inc., which in 1985 changed its name to Dynmark. In 1991, Dynmark filed for bankruptcy, and by 1992, all operations were terminated, thus ending the run of Keystone Wheels. However, in a revival of sorts, Cragar Wheels, a business entity of The Carlstar Group, now offers Keystone Klassics under the Cragar Series 32 nameplate, and both Keystone and Cragar wheels are sold through Classic Industries.
Above: Many drag racers were cool cats in the early days of Pro Stock. However, were they cool enough to have their name in bold white letters on the front tires? (Photographer unknown)
So why did the team of Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin run Keystone Klassics? The answer could be found in the team’s 1969 Super Car Clinic handout. The booklet details the following:
“A drag strip is a demanding quarter mile of precision timing with immediate & constant acceleration. The car must perform, and the driver depends on this performance, right down to the wheels. Confidence is established through dependable service from every item of the car. If it doesn’t perform, it doesn’t stay for the next run.”
Among the racers lucky enough to experience the birth of Pro Stock eliminator, most believed that Ronnie Sox had no equal when shifting a four-speed. Sox and Martin would dominate the “Four-Speed Era” (1970-72) of Pro Stock. Anyone who witnessed one of his perfectly executed runs would agree: there was nothing more beautiful than the red, white, and blue streak traversing the quarter mile with glimmering Keystones sporting Firestone 500 tires.
Above: With the team’s domination of Pro Stock during the 4-speed era (1970-72), Keystone kept pumping out the ads that featured Sox & Martin.
Sox & Martin and mechanic Jake King (also Dave Christie in the ‘70s) ruled the Stock, Super Stock, and Modified Production eliminators. Then, after reigning over the Pro Stock classes for three years, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) added weight to the Chryslers, which slowed the Mopars, including Sox & Martin.
Nevertheless, the team fought a good fight until the team’s demise in 1974. By the time Sox & Martin disbanded, the team had moved to Cragar, which ended a great run with Keystone.
Above: Indeed, “the Hot Shoes did Hang Keystone Mags.” And no team had a Hot Shoe that could challenge Ronnie Sox.
Nostalgia is in, and a set of Keystone Klassics is the vintage look for your Mopar. So take a few minutes and check out Classic Industries‘ Keystone wheel offerings and all the components to update your Mopar.