Ted Heaton considers himself an innovator. He prefers to be different from the regular drag racer. While most competitors race a Fords or Chevrolets, Heaton selected a Mopar. And while most drivers buy their chassis from a manufacturer, the Mount Airy resident builds his own.
"I guess you can say I beg to be different," said Heaton. "I like to build them and make them go. I can make them all run, whether it's a Chevy or Chrysler product."
For the past seven years, Heaton has been racing in Class I with a 1973 Dodge Duster. Last year, after 11 months of work, he brought out his own tube-chassis car.
"I made my own jig, took 21 feet of moly-steel and bent it, welded it and built my own car," added the 35-year-old. "I can't afford spending $30,000 on a chassis. This way I can build the car to fit me. It is pretty much my own thing going down the track."
Building your own car is one thing, getting it to perform as well as a manufactured chassis is another. But Heaton always has been good with his hands, and his car has proved what he knew all along, that he knows what he is doing.
"The car goes straight and narrow," said Heaton proudly. "It is a consistent car. It turned out pretty good. It's nice to be able race something that you build. Not many can say that. The only thing I didn't do is paint it. A friend of mine, Bret Hafer at Century Ford in Mount Airy, did that for me."
Heaton's custom chassis has a Duster body mounted to it. It is powered by a Mopar 440-cubic inch engine with Torque-Flight transmission. The car runs the quarter-mile in the mid 9-second range. This year, to stay competitive, he went to the electronic delay box and transbrake.
"It took me a little bit to get used to," added Heaton. "With electronics, the car shoots off the line. It was a waker-upper, a shock at first. Then you get use to it. It makes the car more consistent."
Drag racing is a hobby for Heaton. He never has raced for points because he prefers to race at different tracks and meet different people.
"I like Capital Raceway in Crofton the most," said Heaton. "You can win more money there. Mason-Dixon Dragway in Hagerstown is a great place to test and tune your car. It is easier to dial your car in because the air remains stagnant, and they are always making improvements. It's a great place to take the family. 75-80 Dragway is close, but is harder to get hooked up to early in the season."
Heaton's wife, Cindy, is a big supporter of his racing. He is building a 1965 Ford Mustang for her to race in Class II later in the year, but most of his attention this spring will be focused on a new house they are building.
A mechanic at Mitch & Bill's Exxon in Potomac, Heaton has been into cars since he was 14.
"I just hung around people that raced. Everyone did it. My friends and I started street racing in the late '70s, when we were teen-agers," said Heaton. "When we got older, we gained respect for our driver's licenses and started racing at local tracks. I started in a 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle, then switched to Mopars to be different."
Heaton has been satisfied with his performance. Although he doesn't go to the track every week, he has won a few races and been to the finals several times. He would like go to the track more often, but working 60 hours a week curtails his racing activities.
Heaton is looking forward to taking his hand-crafted car back to the track this year. To win in a car you built from the ground up is especially gratifying -- and a feeling that only a few drivers, like Heaton, can ever achieve.
Pub Date: 2/02/97