Another drag racing great is gone.

Arlen Vanke, one of the pioneers from the early Super Stock and Pro Stock era, passed away on Thursday in Deming, NM. Vanke was a top racer who competed in the Stock, Super Stock, and Pro Stock classes during his career and set records on the dragstrip with his Pontiac and Plymouth machines.

Originally from Akron, OH, Vanke began racing almost immediately after getting his license. He eventually obtained sponsorship deals from Pontiac and Chrysler, even receiving full cars from the companies to race. After General Motors pulled the plug on all official racing following 1963, Vanke turned his attention to Chrysler’s 426 Max Wedge and HEMI engines and became successful behind the wheels of Mopars—even against better-funded drivers! He campaigned Belvederes, Barracudas, Dusters, and other Plymouths, many of which he built in his garage on Akron’s near West side. He became known nationwide as “Akron Arlen” and the moniker even adorned the sides of his increasingly feared Mopars. Vanke’s handy work with HEMI engines also allowed him to develop a more efficient HEMI intake manifold, which helped the engine achieve higher rpm and aided in Chrysler’s Super Stock program.

Although “Akron Arlen” Vanke isn’t a household name to some, he was influential during the early days of drag racing and a true working man’s drag racer. Check out this Hemmings article on Arlen Vanke for more information on this drag racing pioneer.

Arlen Vanke was 80 years old.