Motown Missile 70 Challenger One-of-a-kind Painting

Drag Racing Art by Liz Northrup

Liz Northrup is an artist and true hot rod and drag racing enthusiast. This article is written by her and features her newest hot rod art piece, the legendary “Motown Missile”. -pikesan

In the midst of looking for ideas on a project, I was referred to seek help from a fellow artist named Bill Stinson. Interestingly, I’ve learned that Bill has a unique past as a writer and cartoon artist for various hot rod magazines such as, ISCA’s ‘Show Stopper’, ‘CARtoons’, and the original ‘Hot Rod DeLuxe’. Bill currently writes for ‘Cruis’news magazine’.

original motown missle, 70 challenger motown missle

Bill was kind enough to send me a few pictures of some of the most legendary drag cars in history. Out of that collection,  one car in particular caught my interest: the Motown Missile, a ‘70 Dodge Challenger. Being a Mopar fan, I was intrigued to learn more of it’s story.

Bill is friends with Ted Spehar, who owned and built the Motown Missile. Teddy (as Bill likes to call him) is a master in building high performance engines and had extraordinary success with the Chrysler Hemi’s. Teddy was commissioned by Chrysler to build a Pro Stock Challenger. Arlen Vanke who tested the car came up with the name ‘Motown Missile’ which Teddy liked and decided to keep.

The car was first driven by Dick Oldfield then later the late Don Carlton was hired to race the Missile. The team had great success having the quickest Pro Stock car of it’s time! Documents show ET’s of 9.4 seconds at 145 mph!

With the fuel crunch of the early 70’s, Chrysler and Teddy decided not to race the Missile anymore for Chrysler had other plans for him to do. So Carlton moved on to another team and since he didn’t own the license to the name Motown, he went with ‘Mopar Missile’ which started with the ‘72 Plymouth ‘Cuda.

Bill interviewed Teddy back in ‘09 and I’ve had the greatest pleasure in reading his story! The Missile team made history in the sport of Pro Stock racing, which will be forever remembered. I only wish I could have been around at the time to witness their great success!

A huge ‘THANKS’ to Bill in providing me the reference photo, documents and the inspiration for this project! This has been a real joy for me in learning about your friend, Teddy and the limelight he had with the Motown Missile! Thank you Bill!

Now here’s the painting!

Referring to Bill’s photo, here’s how Liz Started and she’ll walk you through what she was thinking as the painting evolved:

motown missle, drag race artI took the reference photo into Adobe Photoshop and made one other copy, turning it into greyscale mode, then sharpened the contrast of the original. I overlapped the original over the B&W version, then deleted the background for the greyscale to show through. I wanted the cars to be the main focal point. They’ll be painted with 1-shot enamel giving it that vibrancy, demanding attention from the viewer.

The canvas is a 2X4 ft. sheet of dry erase board. After I sketched out the drawing, I first applied the lightest color of the background as a base coat, using acrylic paint.

Hot rod art, drag race art, motown missle challenger

I usually start my projects first using black paint, get the basics down and use as a guideline when I go back to make my final touch-ups. The Motown Missile lettering I used 1-shot metallic silver. Nothing too dark, yet easy to see through my layering of yellow, orange and red. The layering of colors took some time in between coats as I would dilute the paint with thinner and brush light strokes across the board, then giving it time to dry.

challenger race car, mowtown missle dogdge challenger, drag race art

Once I finished the layering of colors, I went back to do the Motown Missile lettering, mixing metallic silver and white enamel. The silver by itself was too dark. Then I applied the black with a toothbrush, giving that spotted look under the letters.

I saved the sponsor decals for last as I knew they would be more time consuming. It’s a habit of mine to save the hardest for last, just one more big hill to climb before I can rejoice and breath again. Lol

The Finished Painting (click for full size)

drag race art, hot rod art, motown missle challenger

I’ve had the greatest pleasure doing this project! I learned the cars’ history and about the people who were involved. I hope it serves its purpose… to bring a smile among those who love the drag racing and those who created and campaigned the Motown Missile!

by Liz Northrup

Contact Liz at her website: or by email here: moc.liamgnull@oidutssdnegelteerts

If nostalgia drag racing Mopar’s are your thing, check out this Silver Bullet Plymouth Belvedere GTX.

Opt In Image
My Ride is Me Newsletter
Our Newest and Best Delivered to You: