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Back In The Day - November 2013

The World’s Foremost Crazy 409 Guy

By Doug Marion, Photography by Doug Marion

A life-long Missourian from the Class of 1962, Donnie Shaffer's first new car was a 1963, four-speed, 327 Impala SS. our subject's nickname originated back in the day by many original 409ers who flat out gave him or sold cheap anything and everything W-motor and 1962-'63 related.

Donnie truly lived and breathed Chevy performance and drag racing— and does to this very day. Together with his wife, Karen, they bought a home out of the city limits, then built a barn out back to put their Chevy cars, trucks, and parts in. For over a quarter-century (27 years to be exact) Donnie earned a living as a GM truck painter in the Kansas City Assembly Plant. Over time, their relatives built homes on adjacent properties and guess what? More storage barns and buildings popped up.

Back in the day, Donnie was known all over the Kansas City area as "The Crazy 409 Guy." For the record, he also bought lots of other Chevy goodies, and we're sure he re-sold much of it to afford some of the neat old Chevy trucks he collected, as well as other 1962-1963 goodies.

The "Crazy 409 Guy" has owned 95 409 W-motors, 33 1963 Chevy two-door sport coupes, seven 1962 bubbletop Bel Airs, 11 1963 Z-11 aluminum front ends, and seven 1962-63 Z-11 two-piece aluminum induction systems.

We might also add in 1964, he got so many speeding tickets in Odessa, Missouri, that Odessa's traffic judge set up a "weekly payment plan" for him. Every payday, he'd visit the Odessa Court House and pay down his speeding ticket debt. (This was before the "point system" was enacted in motor vehicle ticketing).

Over the last 30 years, our "Crazy 409 Guy" has been much better known for his unbelievable 1963 Nostalgia Super Stock, a 444 cubic-inch, W-powered Impala drag car. Using an original 409 iron block and production 409 heads, he's run so many 9.95 elapsed-times that few keep count anymore. This sensational performance comes at 3,500 lbs. That's 500 lbs over the legal minimum requirement. If his '63 weighed the minimum, it'd run 9.50s, Donnie believes. The 409 engine's power production credit goes to his brother, Tony, at Day Automotive Engine Shop in Independence, Missouri. Besides being an engine pro, he too is a very accomplished drag racer with an '80s Malibu.

In ending, you should know that at Fat Block Productions' 348-409 Nationals in Kansas City in 2004, Donnie hauled his three flat bed trailers to the midway, displaying 19 different 348 and 409 engines. What a sight! Donnie Shaffer is, indeed, the world's foremost "Crazy 409 Guy."

By Doug Marion
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