|Elton 'Al' Eckstrand|
phone call started like this:
How did the project start?
Well, I was a Chrysler guy, you know. I worked as a lawman for Chrysler, but in parallel I was into dragracing for more than 15 years. My cars were Chrylser products for obvious reasons. In the late 60ies the number of deadly injured traffic accident victims jumped to about 50.000 a year. This made me thinking as well about dragracing as many US army guys entered the muscle cars unprepared and brought negative headlines to the dragracing as well. Together with my friend Connie Kalitta and Roy Steffey we founded the American Command Team to train military staff on their bases in Asia and Europe. We were focussed on safety training and it was a more social project than just dragracing for the army staff. We started with Chrysler, but later Ford products were used.
The program was sponsored although the army did not like sponsoring in general. This project however received high-level acceptance.
How many Cobra Jet Mach1 were used besides the 2 SUPER BOSS 429? I've seen pics, where 5 could be seen, but some people say, it were 6?
Indeed it were 12! 6 for the asian tour and 6 for the european tour. The second SUPER BOSS was initially not ready for Vietnam in spring 1970. The first one did not make it there, though. It was destroyed by an 8 ton crane during the shipment. I bought the second SUPER BOSS back some years ago. A collector had bought it from that guy that I sold it in the early 7oies. It is almost in original condition.
Can you tell us sth. about these 2 SUPER BOSS?
Sure, that is an interesting story. For the Vietanm tour the cars were shipped through a private shipping agent. I flew later but was 3 days there before the cars arrived. General Barrow was excited and looking forward to see the SUPER BOSS, because he wanted to make a trial run. But his main idea of course was to do something good to his guys. While we were having dinner, I got a telegramm that a container with "application forms for wrecking" was fallen on one of the Mustangs. I was really upset - it was not clear at that time, on which Mustang the container had fallen. Later my thoughts were confirmed that it was the SUPER BOSS.
I pulled the general over and informed him about the bad news, but he took it like a true Marine. He offered me a military airplane to get the second SUPER BOSS over and no, he would not accept any 'NO,SIR'. When I told him, it would take another 5 weeks to finish the second SUPER BOSS, he shook his head and said: 'You have 72 hours to bring it here. Get your stuff and we'll gonna make it".
Well, I flew back and within short time we gathered everything that was needed. A military cargo airplane picked us up and back we were. A general - especially if he got the SILVER STAR in the Korea war - never accepts an 'impossible'. A true Marine makes it possible. My lesson back then.
Were there any differences between the 2 SUPER BOSS?
No, they were built identical. All parts were the same. Including the Hillborn fule injection, the 6-71 Hampton charger, the suspension parts, rear parachute, cooler in the trunk, methanol fuel cell in front of the engine - all was the same, even the colour. There was only difference, that nobody knows except for my team and me and now you. During an inspection of the transmission a .....
Well, sorry guys, we are not going to publish it here. It is a clear identification of the true car and we keep it secret.
Was the second Super Boss really destroyed?
The other SUPER BOSS 429 was indeed destroyed during sea transport. The car was gone beyond any trial to save it. It was definitely wrecked on the spot.
Pics of the destroyed Super Boss exclusively on my site thanks to the Collins family (previous owners before Bill Goldberg) Look here
What happened to the 12 Cobra Jet Mach1?
It did not make sense to ship them back from Asia due to the costs involved and a lot of checks they would have needed to pass. The total program was under close attention by the asian and other authorities.
The 6 cars used in Vietnam were destroyed and wrecked. We were really controlled by the asian guys. They filmed us and followed us on our heels. They thought we were going to smuggle anything.
So the 6 asian CJ and the one SUPER BOSS were destroyed. As for the 6 european cars, I took them apparently back to the U.S., 3 of them were sold, as it turnded out quite recently (Jan. 2002). The white one was sold to David McGorman, who is still today the owner. The only other survivor is one of the SUPER BOSS, that I had sold in 2001.
Note: As to Kevin Marti's (www.martiauto.com) research, the so far CJ Mach 1 called cars got indeed the SCJ package and 5 were built together. Elton insists on 6 cars. There might be still another car being built in advance.
David McGorman (current owner of the Lawman SCJ Mach1) further recalls: Another SCJ was wrecked later, as I heard (the brown one).
Exclusive on this site:
Pics of one of the Cobra Jet Mach 1 in Vietnam Look here:
What was exactly modified on the 11 (12) SCJ Mach1?
The McGorman's Lawman Super Cobra Jet still has the unique striping. Only the door graphics are missing.
The engine and body remained mostly unchanged except for some stickers. Of course we worked here and there with our tools and tuned them. The rear axles were modified by my buddy Dennis Beagan. We put emergency pushbuttons on all cars, after we had an unexpected incident at one of the bases. One guy left the bases with one of the cars to make a drag run outside. From then on, the co-driver, who was always one of our team guys, should be able to stop such a fellow. All CJ Mustangs received a kill switch.
Another modification was a so-called discharge nozzle, with which we could simulate a small noisy blow-up. In the same moment a colour mark was thrown on the tar. As soon as the guy hit the brake pedal, another mark was thrown. This was much better to show the driver his reaction time on the track. Much more realistic, then any time slip. This equipment was on all (S)CJ Mustangs.
What followed after the Mustangs?
Later until 72 we used Pintos and Mavericks. The Mavericks were really super. I remember them very well. There was one moment that made me really proud. We were the only ones allowed to stage our cars - with approval from the authorities - at the IWO JIMA memorial place for a promotion event. Those who know this place are pretty much aware that such things would be never allowed. However the approval showed what acceptance our program had. The main reason was to save lives!
What was your part in the team?
I was the coordinator of the tour and the contact person for the Marines on the spot. It was not so easy to get the necessary transport possibilities and approvals in a war area. It meant lots of work. When we started I had a contract with a steamship agency, that carried our cars. Later the Marine itself cared for it by themselves.
Beside from the asian tour, which countries did you visit in Europe back then?
In 1970 the asian part of the tour was extended for 2 months, so that our schedule was changed. But we were able to visit England and Sweden and showed up there on the military bases. It was planned to go to Rheindahlen near Mönchengladbach in Germany, but we could not make it. I have never been in Germany. But England was my favourite country, so I returned there in 1976. I got in contact with an english female architectural student and toegether we restored an ancient castle from 1560 in Scotland. We got the Heritage Home Year Award and were honoured by the scottish director of Historic Monuments. I lived in Scotland for 18 years and returned to the US then. Just some years ago I could buy my 66 HEMI CHARGER back and my SUPER BOSS 429.
I will for sure come to Germany one time to see your castles and maybe I can make it for a MOPAR meeting. Sorry guys, but I am a Chrysler Man. See you.'
Thanks to Pete Geissler from Orlando Mustang for making this interview possible and we hope to see Al on a Mustang Meeting as well.
Just started: Lawman's Mach 1 CJ Registry - only 10-11 VINs remaining to find out.
The McGorman's Lawman SCJ Mach 1 - rolled out of the garage in January 2002. Exclusively on this website.
In January 2002 one of the european SCJ Mach 1 was finally found. It was bought from Elton Al Eckstrand by the McGormans and kept in their garage with 4532 miles on the odometer.
I am looking any other remaining survivors of the european SCJ Mach 1, or any parts or VINs or chassis that have survived the wrecking. Please help us to locate any photo or person, that might point us into a direction. E-mail me .
How to contact Elton Al Eckstrand?
Elton died on 22nd. May 2008 in the age of 79 in Florida,
we are in deep sorrow about this loss..