My friends Joey, Barry and I would sit at the bus stop and watch the cars pass by. We lived in The Bronx, home to the busiest street in the country, and in the late seventies we saw every kind of muscle car and every car ever made for that matter. Dodges were always among our favorites and as ten year olds we already knew who Mr.Norm was!!!
I was so excited to have the chance to interview Norm Jr., aka Lee Kraus, and talk about his Tribute Challenger for his legendary dad Mr. Norm. We had a great conversation and he shared his perspective about what it was like being a kid at the Most Famous Dodge Dealership in the world. He shared a lot more than that! We really hit it off and spoke for over an hour about everything from classic muscle cars to the current state of affairs for the car industry. I was looking for a little background to drive this story and drove away with a great friend. Thank you very much Lee (aka Norm Jr) for taking that ride with me!!!
It is with great pleasure that I present Mr Norm’s son Lee Kraus, aka Norm Jr., and his Amazing Tribute Challenger!!!
1) Growing up with your dad, did you ever feel like a kid inside a candy store?
My childhood was as normal as anyone. I played all sports including hockey, tennis, baseball, etc., as well as body building. The sport I truly excelled in was tennis, playing it in junior high, high school, college, (PAC10) and after.
If anyone wonders if I grew up in a candy store (hanging out as a pre-teen & teenager at dads dealership) I guess everyone would think I did. However, it was like being at a candy store and not being able to bring any home - LOL. We had nice cars to drive, but not the kind of cars everyone assumes. I never drove around a muscle car. Even Dad, besides once in a while, just drove normal types of cars. He did bring home a white ’73 Charger with an airbrushed purple stripe down both sides for my mother and WOW that was fun. Dad brought some Awesome cars home himself, but Dad mostly drove normal cars.
We couldn’t go anywhere where Dad wasn’t asked for his autograph. So he pretty much didn’t want to draw more attention to himself. Remember, Mr Norm is Mr Norm to people around the World but to me he was “Dad". Typical Father-Son relationship : ups and downs, trials and tribulations, etc.
I wanted to drive so many cars, but I don’t think Dad wanted to spoil us . My favorite car was the Challenger and I finally was able to own one at 62 yrs old when I bought my Tribute car to Dad.
2) What do you think contributed to Spaulding Dodge's success as a Mopar dealer?
Dad, at a very young age, saw an interest in High Performance in the younger generation. The success started from Dad Dyno Tuning cars and Drag Racing (shattering All records in the Quarter mile). Dad wanted to keep the kids off the street and on the track. I would say he accomplished that in a huge way.
3) What were you favorite cars?
My favorite cars were for sure ‘71 - 73 Chargers and Challengers. My favorite Funny Car of Dad’s was the Blue 71 Super Challenger.
4) What is one of your fondest memories of your father?
When I was a teenager and my family and friends of mine went to US 30 Drag Strip for Mr Norm’s Day. My Dad raced a go cart of an Aspen R/T down the drag strip and the crowd went wild.
5) If you could go back in time, what car/build would you order and keep and why?
1968 Dart with a 383. Because dad did what Chrysler said “couldn’t be done”
6) What do you think spawned the recent resurgence of Muscle Cars in America?
Remembering “The good ol’ Days” : Speed , Looks, Horsepower, and Competition.
7) What do you think about the switch Chrysler is making from gas engines to electric engines and the end of another era of Muscle Cars as well as the effect on drag racing?
I Truly think it’s a bunch of BS and really don’t think the grid will support all that they think it will. They say the cars are faster but surely doesn’t mean they sound the same or will compare to what the Real “Gear Heads” had & still want.