Chuck Weck’s life revolves around cars, both as a profession and as a hobby, leading him to seek out ways to have fun at the drag strip that’s a bit different than most racers. Instead of racing a cookie-cutter Camaro, Chuck has gone down a different path entirely with his new car: a 1959 DeSoto with a wild paint job, known as the “Big Red Dog”.
When Chuck was just 13 years old he began working at a gas station to make money, and that’s when he first developed what he describes as a “love/hate” relationship with cars that’s lasted half a century. These days, Chuck makes his living as a partner and Chief Operating Officer of eight auto dealerships in the Chicago area, where he works alongside his family.
Chuck’s first racing experience actually came on two wheels back in the 1980s when he rode a 10-second turbocharged motorcycle at the drag strip. After his stint on two wheels, Chuck transitioned to four wheels and raced in the NMCA where he competed in the Modified Production and Pro Street classes in the 1990s. Chuck also spent time racing with the Chicago Wiseguys, where he helped win a championship as a tuner for Joe Bradtke, and won a title behind the wheel in 2008 himself.
While racing with the Wiseguys, Chuck commissioned a local chassis builder to create a wild and unique car that would eventually lead to the creation you see before you.
“I had Todd Shepherd from Wiz Bang Chassis build a 1953 Studebaker for me. I decided to finish the car myself by adding a HEMI with a screw blower and had Tom Evans lay down a wild paint job. We named the car Studezilla and raced it for a while before selling it to Scott Palmer, who stuffed a nitro engine in it. That car was a lot of fun and it’s cool to see what Scott has done with it,” Chuck says.
Chuck found himself inspired by the direction Scott Palmer took Studezilla, so he decided it was time to build a new Pro Mod. But it still had to have a high cool factor. The idea to build a ’59 DeSoto came to Chuck after he saw Larry Jeffers Race Cars offer the cartoonish body style to the public.
The chassis for the Big Red Dog came from Larry Jeffers Race Cars and was delivered to Chuck as a bare rolling chassis with parts from Strange Engineering and Penske. Powering the DeSoto is a Reechia Racing-built 522 cubic-inch Noonan HEMI based around a TFX block with a PSI C-rotor screw blower. A gaggle of Racepak sensors monitor the engine and provide telemetry to Chuck on each pass. Putting the power down to the pavement is a Bruno/Lenco three-speed unit matched to a Coan Engineering torque converter.
Having fun is what Chuck and his team are all about. To make that happen, Bob and Stephy Redfield, Tim Usalis, Terry Graff, Amir Buljina, Jeff Heisler, and Jon Busch as the team machinist will help keep the Big Red Dog racing this year. The plan is to debut the car to the public at the 2020 Chicago World of Wheels. When racing season rolls around, Chuck will unleash the Big Red Dog at the Cordova World Series of Drag Racing event, a few NMCA races, the Byron Top Dog event, and will mix in a few PDRA or Midwest Pro Mod Series events along the way. Chuck also plans on racing with the Chicago Wiseguys this season.
People will probably ask Chuck during his 2020 racing season why he went with the DeSoto body, and to him the answer is simple: why not?
“I have always had a love for weird and one-off ideas, and there’s no weirder body for a Pro Mod than this thing, in my opinion. I also wanted something that would make people smile when they saw it and be fun for kids to have a picture taken in at the track. We have mice, a bat, and bugs all painted on the body, thanks to Tom Evans. I think he enjoys this type of project a lot and it really shows in the final product,” Chuck says.
Just because everybody else is doing something doesn’t mean you need to, and Chuck Weck’s DeSoto Pro Mod proves that point. This car matches Chuck’s attitude about having fun at the track perfectly and should bring plenty of smiles to fans this season.