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With respect to the 1960s-1970s Musclecar Era, certain names crop up in common use. Some are household names, like Carroll Shelby for his contributions to Ford’s racing programs. Some are well-known throughout the automotive community, like Don Yenko, the master of manipulating General Motors’ Central Office Production Order (COPO) system to create some of the gnarliest, nastiest Chevrolets to hit the streets, or Joel Rosen, who modified cars at Baldwin-Motion so well that he wound up attracting government attention. There are dealerships that stand out, like Royal Pontiac, ran by Ace Wilson, Jr. and Nickey Chevrolet, which fed the gearheads in Chicago who craved a hot Chevrolet like their “Purple People Eater” Corvettes.
Another Chicago-area dealer became the go-to for all things Chrysler in those days. On the corner of West Grand Avenue and North Spaulding Avenue in Humboldt Park stood Grand Spaulding Dodge, owned by a younger fella named Norman Kraus. From the get-go in 1962, Grand Spaulding didn’t go after the basic transportation buyer. Kraus, better known as “Mr. Norm”, wanted young buyers and young buyers wanted hot machines. Mr. Norm was what Yenko was to Chevrolet…if Dodge wouldn’t build it, he would. Mr. Norm figured out how to cram big-blocks into the A-body Dart with minimal modifications for street duty. He had an on-site dyno at the dealership and each car sold got the hot tune before it was delivered. And we aren’t talking a 20-horsepower gain here…a stock 383 might put out 180 or so horsepower, but after Kraus got his hands on it, you could see over 300 horsepower from the same engine. Mopar performance freaks took notice.
Kraus sold Grand Spaulding Dodge in 1977 and the dealership folded up in the later 1980s. But Kraus never gave up on his loyal Mopar fans. In addition to appearing at events, he would work up deals from sponsors, whip up special events, and even whipped up a special batch of 1968 GSS Hemi Darts. Wherever Chrysler fans were, Mr. Norm was happy to be there, supporting them. Which makes his absence from the 2021 Holley MoParty all that much more felt. After passing on in February 2021, there was no question that Mr. Norm had to be remembered at MoParty, but how?
Well, we gave his cars the floor. Among the machines present was one of the surviving GSS Dodge Demons, the 50th Anniversary Challenger and tribute 50th Anniversary ‘Cuda, the 50th Anniversary GSS Demon Challenger, and more. While we wish we had one more year with Mr. Norm, his cars and his memory will live on in the hearts and the minds of the Mopar faithful.