Crosstown Motor City
FAST LANE TO THE PRAIRIES
As cubic inches and horsepower numbers started going thru the roof in the mid '60's, Edmonton, Alberta's Crosstown Motor City was more than happy to take advantage of the trend. After moving from the Jasper Avenue location to the Argyle location in 1966 (104th ave - between 116th Street and 120th Street) and under the guidance of owner Zane Feldman, Crosstown grew into the largest volume dealership in the late '60's to the mid '70's. Now, if you're selling a lot of cars, you're also selling a lot of performance cars as well, and selling performance they did. It is said, more Hemi cars came out of Crosstown, per capita, in North America - this statement hasn't been substantiated, but everyone knew if you wanted a street or strip car, you went to Crosstown Motor City.
This brings us to the early '70's when Crosstown, along with Regina's Crestview Dodge for '71, and again Crosstown, along with Winnipeg's Pembina Dodge for '72 joined forces to convince Chrysler head office that they still needed a performance version of the hugely popular Dart Swinger. So, somehow they were able to pull it off and the world then had the only 'H' coded Dart Swingers for '71 and '72.
Pictured above are images that came/or could have been right out of the early '70's at the Crosstown Motor City dealership... the dealership emblem is from the era. The ad shown ran on June 11th of '71 and the J6 Swinger 340 Special is parked at Crosstown Motors' new location with a billboard advertising the dealership in the background.
Performance Cars and Sponsorship
Crosstown Motor City knew that the old adage of 'Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday' was so very true, so they got involved with sponsoring a number of local Drag Racers. But being known as performance dealership also made getting special performance vehicles easier as well. Cam Noseworthy, a popular local drag racer ordered 1 of the 2 Canadian LO23 Super Stock Hemi Darts in 1968 (it ran as the Demented Dart – the other LO23 car was from Chinook Chrysler in Calgary). Along with Cam, a good number of other racers bought their cars here, and many were then sponsored by the good folks at Crosstown, as the example of a '69 and-a-half 440+6 Super Bee shows below.
With that said, getting these '71 and '72 Swinger 340 Specials might have been easier because of their status and good standing with Chrysler Head Office.
Who Says You Don't Need Marketing?
I built my career as Creative Director in the world of Marketing so I might be a bit bias on this subject, but if you don't flaunt it, you won't get noticed. So, whether you sponsor cars, run ads daily or you bring in one of the biggest names in Canadian Drag Racing to your dealership to hold clinics – as they did with John Petrie on a number of occasions... That's how you get young gearheads to come in and learn about going fast – as they check-out the latest Mopar muscle cars in your showroom. Brilliant!
Another angle to marketing was purchasing and building a Top Fuel Funny Car and bring in one of Canada's top Drivers to pilot it down the 1/4 mile. They did that in the early '70's with Bob Papernick and the Crosstown Challenger. They campaigned it across Western Canada and the Western US for a number of years to relative success. Another big name they sponsored at the time was George Sitko and his Top Fuel Dragster from the day.
As well, match racing was a great way to put butts in seats, and Speedway in Edmonton did so when they brought in names like Don 'the snake' Prudhomme to race against Bob and the Crosstown Challenger (Edmonton was a hot bed for world-class racers and drag cars - see side bar).
Crosstown was a great local supporter for not only Drag Racing, but for local sports teams and events. They were one of the 1st major sponsors of the Oilers as they came into the WHL in '72. They also got behind the Edmonton Eskimo's, along with many others. Here's just a few of the ads that ran back in the day.
*I'd like thank Robin McQueen for the pics of the John Petrie Clinic cavalcade and Super Bee, along with some additional information and expertise.
EDMONTON'S RACING HISTORY
From the early '60's right up to today, Central Alberta and Edmonton was and is a hot bed of Drag Racing names and cars. I've listed just of few of the names that went on to national and international success:
Dale Armstrong hailing from Holden, Alberta – just east of Edmonton – who then migrated to Southern California in the early '60s and began campaigning a series of cars including an early Chevy II Funny Car, Canuck. He was a top competitor in the Pro Comp category, and a major technical innovator, before he quit driving in 1981. He then moved over to the crew chief side, most memorably with Kenny Bernstein. The pair won a slew of races and championships in both Funny Car and Top Fuel. Armstrong was the first tuner to wind-tunnel test a Funny Car body, one of the first to employ data acquisition, and guided Bernstein to the first 300 MPH run in history.
Gary Beck, originally from Seattle, he married an Edmonton area gal and in '72 exploded onto the international drag racing scene when he won the
NHRA Top Fuel dragster title at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana. He followed that up in 1974, when he drove to a record setting three NHRA and two AHRA titles and earned the first of his two World Championships. Beck was named driver of the year by Drag News and top fuel driver of the year by Car Craft. Among his 1975 victories, he took the Canadian Open Top Fuel Title.
In '83 he dominated the Top Fuel class, scoring 17 of the fastest 18 runs in Top Fuel history and capping off the multi-win season with his second World Championship. He retired from the NHRA tour in 1986, having won 19 Top Fuel titles plus multiple events on the IHRA & AHRA circuits. He was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1999.