Video: Autocrossing a Mopar Among Miatas


Has anyone here ever shown up somewhere and thought, “I don’t think I am supposed to be here?” This past weekend I took my 1972 Dart to the Buckeye Miata Club (BMC) Autocross, and it was a little awkward. Earlier this year, I ran a couple autocrosses and wanted to start going regularly to improve my skills. A friend who belongs to BMC told me about this autocross they hold about once a month on a go-kart track about an hour from me. He said any make or model is allowed to participate, but to be part of the club you had to own a Miata. I had no problems signing up, but majority of the people there had no idea what a 1972 Dart was.

I was one of the first people to show up in the morning and watched as all the cars arrived. As you probably guessed, there were a lot of Miata’s, Subaru’s, Civics, a Lotus, newer Corvettes, couple Mustangs and more. As I guessed I was the only car there that still had a carburetor! It was surprising but nest to see a couple stripped-out Neons and a new Viper GTS with 3,000 miles on it!


After walking the field of about 50 cars, we had our mandatory drivers meeting. During which Darren, head of the BMC, called out to everyone that I failed tech. He said, “Who here has the Orange Dart? OK, well I didn’t know how to open your hood to check the battery so you failed tech inspection.” Everyone got a pretty good laugh out of that. Everything was OK with the car and we were off to race.

I rushed back to the car and fired up the 360 and let the engine warm up. As I was sitting there idling, I received some interesting looks. Everything from “turn that loud thing off” to a thumbs up. To most of us, there is nothing better than the sound of a cammed V8 burning high octane, but considering a car almost hit me because I could not hear it behind me, I guess a thumpy V8 isn’t for everyone.


As we pulled out on the track and lined up, the adrenaline hit me. Everything goes to the wayside and its just you, the car and a track. It’s a rush like nothing else. I pulled up to the start, heard the words, “Driver ready?” and threw down the flag, and I was off. My tires and the track were cold and it didn’t get as much grip as I anticipated but after my third run, I cut a few seconds off my first time. Our group broke for lunch while another group ran.

During lunch, I had a couple guys come up to me ask what kind of times I ran the first time and by the look on their face they were a little confused. I don’t think they were expecting me to be running very fast. One gentleman even said, “When I saw you drive out I thought to myself this isn’t a drag strip, but after I saw your time I knew there was more to the car.” I was still getting used to the track and knew I still had a more time to shave off.


After eating lunch we went back out for our last 4 laps of the day. As I got back in line and waited my turn, my first run was faster than any of my previous runs and still had 3 more to go. As I was sitting in line, I went to move the car forward and it died. I turned the key and motor barely turned over. We pushed it to the side, jumped it and got it going again. They were finishing up everyone’s last lap so I jumped back in line and was ready to try it again. The flagger asked, ”Are you going to run again?” and I nodded my head. He chuckled and flagged me on. I took off hard, hit the first corner and it died again. Luckily, it was a good spot and I was able to coast right off the course and let it cool down.

While looking over everything, I discovered that the 360 was vapor locking due to my heater hoses lying on top of the fuel line. I temporarily fixed the vapor lock issue, jumped the car and took off for the hour trip back home. The Dart ran great and was able to make it all the way home without any issues. Later that evening they posted the results and come to find out I was outran a new Focus ST, ’01 ZO6, S2000 and a Mustang and a few other cars. I ended up in the middle of the pack, and that was a win for me. I did notice by looking at the times there was Neon in the Top 10, which beat out a Lotus and Viper GTS! It goes to show you to have fun and even to go fast you don’t need to spend a ton of money.

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Gavin Wollenburg

Gavin grew up around Mopars in his lakeside home in Ohio, his father showing him nearly everything he needed to know about haulin' some serious rear in his '72 Dart Swinger. Since then, he's made his little A-Body a serious autocross contender and regularly shows the modern boys how an old Dart does it!

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