Heavy Hitter: Thurman Braxton’s Nitrous-Fed 1939 Dodge Truck

Race cars are made up of a measurable amount of hard parts and other items you can see from the outside, but they’re also made of something you can’t measure: character. Thurman Braxton hails from North Carolina and has a fleet of race cars, but his 1939 Dodge truck is the king of character in his garage. This Mopar might look rough around the edges, but the nitrous-huffing small-block provides plenty of smooth power for Braxton.

First impressions really are everything, and when you first lay eyes on Braxton’s truck it gives off the vibe of an old soul. This truck isn’t packed full of new technology or anything like that — it’s a classic build that Braxton used tried-and-true techniques on just like he learned when he dove into the automotive world.

“Mack Alligood took me into his home, gave me a job, and helped lead me down the right path. Mack and his wife Jean raised me; he absolutely loved cars and drag racing so it rubbed off on me. It is something that has never left me and never will,” Braxton explains.

The racing bug was also passed down to Braxton’s son David, who started his own shop, Braxton Performance. The Dodge actually came into Braxton’s life via David’s shop when it arrived to get some work done. Since Braxton likes cars and trucks that are totally different, he had to have the old ’39 pickup. To seal the deal Braxton traded the owner two engines for the truck and that set the stage for his build to begin.

Over the next year, Thurman and David began to build the truck from the ground up, doing almost all the work at the shop using their own ideas and designs. The final creation is a truck that can bracket race and heads-up race, and still be driven on the street.

Braxton has kept his truck Mopar-powered with a 360 cubic-inch small-block that was built by H&F Performance with a set of JE Pistons and Eagle connecting rods inside. On top of the engine resides a set of Edelbrock cylinder heads and intake manifold, along with a Holley carburetor. A full set of MSD ignition products keep fire in the pipes and assist with lighting off the healthy dose of nitrous Braxton pumps into the engine via a NOS wet kit. Behind the engine is a Chrysler 727 transmission that David built for the truck.

The 12-point roll cage was designed and built in-house at Braxton Performance and features a custom four-link rear suspension that uses Koni shocks, and a Chrysler rearend filled with parts from Moser Engineering. The front suspension also uses a four-link style setup with Strange Engineering struts taking care of the dampening duties. Weld Racing Ultra Wheels are wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber at each corner of the truck, while Strange brakes in the front and Wilwood brakes in the rear bring Braxton to a stop after his 9-second quarter mile passes.

The creation of this truck allowed Braxton to infuse all the lessons he learned from Mack growing up. Being able to have his son David help with the build makes every ride even more special for Braxton.

“Mack taught me so much and it was great to work with my son on this truck. His support along with the support of my wife, Debra, made this a lot of fun to build. Out of all my cars, this 1939 Dodge is the one I like to race and drive the most,” Braxton says,

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Thurman Braxton’s Dodge pays homage to everything he has learned over the decades of being involved with performance vehicles. Being able to bring his son David into the project brings everything full circle for him and adds a layer of sentimental value to his machine. The only way you can really measure what this truck means to Braxton is the smile on his face each time he’s driving it to the track, or when he’s leaving wheels-up on a pass.

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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