A 1964 Dodge, considered by drag racing historians to be one of the sport¿s original Funny Cars, will make its first public appearance in nearly 40 years during the April 1-4 Food Lion AutoFair at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway.

The car, one of three originally commissioned by Dodge to showcase the company¿s performance capabilities, is owned by Frank Spittle of Cornelius who has spent six years meticulously restoring it.

During the winter of 1963, Jim Nelson¿s Dragmaster Co. in Carlsbad, Calif., transformed a trio of Dodge 330 sedans into the most radical street machines the world had ever seen. Nelson¿s modifications followed his successful formula for building Top Gas Dragsters and each car featured a 426-wedge engine that was increased to 480 cubic inches and fitted with a GMC supercharger. Horsepower was estimated to be between 850 and 900.

Exterior treatment by famed customizer Dean Jeffries included rolled front and rear pans to replace the discarded factory bumpers, altered rear-wheel openings, a built-in parachute compartment and a candy-apple red, white and blue paint job with ¿Dodge Chargers¿ lettered down the sides.

With dragster star Jimmy Nix and Super Stock record-holder Jim Johnson driving, the cars hit the drag racing circuit in March 1964, running consistent quarter-mile times of 11.4 seconds at 135 mph.

Since there was no National Hot Rod Association category for these radical automobiles, the Dodge Chargers competed only against each other in what became known as the Super Factory Experimental class. The cars took part in a series of exhibition races and appeared at Dodge dealerships across the country throughout the spring and summer of 1964.

But when crashes and mechanical failures began to take their toll on the traveling road show, Dodge pulled the plug on the program and the cars simply vanished.

Nearly 25 years later, after a story detailing their history was published in the December 1988 issue of ¿Drag Racing¿ magazine, one of the cars resurfaced, owned by Tom Jones of Madison, Wis.

¿I wasn¿t 100-percent sure what it was until I bought it and started removing paint,¿ Jones told ¿Drag Racing¿ magazine in March 1989 about uncovering the car¿s original candy-apple paint scheme.

¿When the car surfaced in 1989, several serious collectors got into a bidding war and C.K. Spurlock, a muscle car collector and father of former Funny Car star K.C. Spurlock, was the last man standing,¿ Spittle explained. ¿Right after Spurlock purchased the car, I asked him to give me a shot at buying it if he ever decided to sell it.

¿After owning the car for about 10 years and spending an additional $100,000 buying correct parts and starting the restoration, Spurlock called and offered to sell it to me in 1998,¿ Spittle added. ¿I jumped at the chance, but decided not to finish the car until 2004 and then take it on a 40th anniversary tour.¿

Spittle¿s car is the only one of the three known to have survived.

¿This car is almost sacred to the drag racing community and all Mopar fans,¿ Spittle said. ¿It is perhaps the most famous Mopar race car in existence.¿

The 1964 Dodge will be on display in the Food Lion Pavilion along with a fleet of historic race cars from Hendrick Motorsports, a bevy of Ford Mustangs celebrating the 40th birthday of America¿s original pony car and ¿Twentieth Century Dinosaurs,¿ the ultimate expression of automotive art.

Food Lion AutoFair is the nation¿s largest automotive extravaganza. The four-day event includes a car show featuring various makes and models from 52 clubs; thousands of vendor spaces that offer a plethora of automotive parts and memorabilia; and a two-day collector car auction conducted by Tom Mack. A car corral, which completely circles the 1.5-mile superspeedway, features nearly 2,000 vehicles of all makes and models that are available for sale or trade.

Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults with children under 12 admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5.

Contact the Lowe¿s Motor Speedway events department at (704) 455-3205.