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Sat, April 20

'Orange Monster' gets win for Mopar fanatic Bill Campbell

Bill Campbell, center, poses with part of the crew that helped him restore a 1965 Dodge Coronet and take first place at Mopar’s At the Strip drag racing event in Las Vegas, Nev., this spring. From left are: Dave “Gnome,”  son JD Campbell, Bill,  Jon Zimmerman and John Howard.          <br>
Courtesy Photo

Bill Campbell, center, poses with part of the crew that helped him restore a 1965 Dodge Coronet and take first place at Mopar’s At the Strip drag racing event in Las Vegas, Nev., this spring. From left are: Dave “Gnome,” son JD Campbell, Bill, Jon Zimmerman and John Howard. <br> Courtesy Photo

Fanatic is not too strong a word for longtime Prescott Valley resident and Mopar enthusiast Bill Campbell. Mopar stands for motor parts, and as a teenager, Campbell started collecting parts to rebuild cars - but only Dodge and Chrysler products. He inveigled his son, JD, and many friends and family members into his obsession, and the group recently had cause to celebrate. "Their" 1965 Dodge Coronet - the Orange Monster - took first place in a 16-car field in the Nostalgic SuperStock/AFX category at Mopar's At the Strip racing event in Las Vegas, Nev.

"We ended up top dog on the quarter-mile drag strip," Bill Campbell said, adding, "It was the first time we took the car out to race."

The Monster crossed the finish line at 123 mph in 10.7 seconds, in the A/FX class.

Crew member John Howard, a 5-year Chino Valley resident, explained the race car's classification.

"A was the highest designation of A, B, or C for the fastest cars. F stands for factory and X is experimental," Howard, a freelance technical editor in the automotive repair field, said.

At the Prescott Valley Arby's, where the crew meets every Wednesday evening, Bill proudly showed the August 2013 issue of Chrysler Power magazine, featuring the Orange Monster on its cover and as its centerfold story.

Campbell said his first restoration project was a 1964 Dodge Polara 500. He missed his hobby while in the Air Force, including two tours in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. But he got right back into it.

He's been picking up parts for the Orange Monster since 1970, before he ever knew he'd have it. The cylinder block was 12 years old and the cylinder head eight when he bought them.

"I just bought them when I could afford them," he said, noting he purchased the car in 1998.

That was seven years after the Illinois native moved his family to Prescott Valley from Yuma.

Since 1991 he's been busy running Hi Country Rec-V-Center on Highway 69 in Prescott Valley, repairing automobiles, RVs and mobile homes.

But he spends every spare minute - and much of his pocket change - on auto restoration in a one-car garage at home. The two-car garage is too full of parts.

He said his wife, Susan, wants to know when she'll get her garage space back.

"She threatened to move out if I bought one more car. So I'll buy two," he joked, hoping to get by on a technicality.

The crew's current project is another 1965 Dodge Coronet, but a hard top, rather than a sedan like the Monster. It also will be orange, as are the crew's shirts, in hopes future sponsors might appreciate a signature color among their "fleet," JD said.

They don't get to race as often as they'd like, because many drag strips have closed. The only one left in Arizona is in Tucson, so they usually go to California.

They've been invited to the Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield.

Why Mopar racing?

"For the thrill of it," Bill said, grinning. "At the start when it pulls the wheels three feet off the ground - the only other thing that smells that good is when you spin the tires and burn rubber. It's an 'E-ticket' ride (former Disneyland designation for big thrill rides)."

"It's music to your ears," JD added.

Dave, known as "Gnome" at Chino Valley's Copper State Creations, did the Orange Monster's paint and body work. Also involved in the project were Geoff, Jon Zimmerman, George Collins and George's 10-year-old son, Jacob. George is like a second son and Jacob, a grandson, Bill said, so he feels he's steering yet another generation into Mopar.

Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor can call Bill at 928-499-0327.

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