Like most brothers, Martel and Tom Souter don't always see eye to eye. Older brother versus younger brother: It's always a battle. The brothers' take on cars is a case in point. While they agree the mid-year Corvettes are terrific, they don't always agree on how the perfect mid-year should be built.
These coupes are two of the most fun mid-years around. Each has been lightly "personalized," yet both utilize GM Performance ZZ4 crate engines. Despite the similar powerplants, each brother believed, until now, his car was quicker. It's a crisis of Texas-size proportions: a '64 versus a '67. Time to don the helmets and settle this argument once and for all, for the sake of family peace if nothing else.
The Players And Their CarsFor a man who has sold Corvettes for more than 30 years, Martel Souter gave us a non-purist philosophy. "I have American mags on my car and a '67 big-block hood, which I think is real attractive. But my '67 convertible is a small-block car and it's always been a small-block car. So, some of the purists will say, 'Well he's got the wrong wheels or he's got the wrong hood.' My mind-set is this: My numbers don't match and I don't care."
Martel and Tom Souter own and operate Classic Motor Cars, an upscale automobile business catering primarily to Corvette sales, as well as other "high line" cars, although you might see an occasional Mustang GT or Pontiac GTO on the lot.
Martel speaks West Texas common sense: "Ten years ago, we were researching facts on how to buy your first collector Corvette. Back then, if you paid the price for a numbers-matching Corvette, you might not have known if the numbers really matched. It was kinda like brushing your teeth with somebody else's toothbrush. You might be all right, but you wouldn't know 'til later."
The toothbrushes went back into the holder and the Corvettes have come out to play.
The Psych JobYou can't help but laugh at the barbed way Martel looks at life, and cars in particular, traits shared by Tom. But before taking to the track they negotiated the final handicapping for the race. "Here's the deal. Mine has air conditioning and I weigh a little more than he does," touted Tom. "So I need a handicap. This is not going to be fair. I mean, he's in pretty good shape . . . for an old man."
Howls of laughter rose from the small room and people outside clustered around the dragway. In reality, both cars had engines rated at about 340 hp. The final drive gearing was the same at 3.70:1, both had Posi-traction rear axles, both transmissions were Hurst-mixed, and both were red.
"This really isn't a grudge match, is it?" we asked the pair.
"Part time," Martel answered with the timing and delivery of a stand-up comedian.
Not wanting to be upstaged, Tom said, "I've outrun him every time we've ever raced. I don't want to break that record."
Martel accepted the straight line, "He's got Alzheimer's. He doesn't remember much."
The match was on before we ever hit the quarter-mile strip at Lubbock Dragway, 10 miles east of the city Buddy Holly made famous. As we headed out to the cars, the mood was lighthearted. They agreed to a best-of-three runs.
The 60-foot times told the tale. Martel got there in 2.419 seconds, and Tom in 2.641 seconds. Martel hit the halfway point about one quarter of a second sooner than Tom, finishing the quarter-mile with a 14.481 at 100.01-mph timing. Tom had a faster speed, 101.23, with an e.t. of 14.698.
Seven minutes later, Martel and Tom were back in the staging lanes ready to go at it again. Tom took the left lane and launched his '64 coupe hard this time. Martel clicked off a 14.54 at 99.70 mph, a mere six-hundredths of a second slower. However, Tom's ZZ4 came alive after the eighth mile (where Martel was slightly ahead), winning the round with a 14.288 at 101.95 mph.
The match became really interesting when Tom evened the score. Martel and Tom waited about 30 minutes for their final round, and after the run they checked their timeslips. Martel's e.t. was 14.727, his worst of the day. Tom's was 14.31. How did he win? His knowledge of drag racing was evident when he said, "I left early and got a holeshot on him. That's the only one I've done in 25 years." Martel agreed with a grin.
To settle the score (or maybe they wanted to try each other's cars), the brothers agreed to swap cars and go again. Regardless, Martel was the winner. Nobody retrieved the timeslip, and it was clear the desire was to have a fun run at the expense of the other brother.
Final WordIn the end, it was clear the Souters have nearly identical cars, with Tom's '64 having a slight edge in horsepower. Both brothers are exceptional drivers. "You know, when I started drag racing, they had flags," said Tom. His eyes got bigger as we looked for the revelation from the glory days. "And they'd point at you. This is true. You remember those? They would point at you, and if you were ready you nodded. Then they'd point at the next guy and he'd nod and they'd raise up the flags and away you went. That's the truth."
Sure it is, Tom. Does that make you the older brother?