What truly defines a street car? For us, it's a car you can hop in anytime, rain or shine, turn the key, and go nearly anywhere without any worries, on available pump petrol. The whole purpose of the Mopar Muscle True Street Challenge is to shine a light on the cars built by our readership-that is, the street cars built by our readership. While our sister publication Car Craft hosts a similar event, the featured cars are oftentimes purpose-built vehicles for the competition. We're not saying our readers' rides aren't purpose-built machines, but the scope of that other competition is a machine that can "do it all" and is often an overachiever-not necessarily the automotive direction taken by our average reader.
Cookie cutters, slicks, and rollcages that make ingress and egress difficult take away from the concept of streetability and, consequently, cars of this nature usually suffer during the ride-and-drive portion of the competition. Judging by the nature of the entrants we received, Mopar guys like to do the quarter-mile boogie more than carve corners . But we digress, as we've built plenty of cars that follow the path to least resistance in the quarter-mile, and sure, we've claimed they are street cars. After all, it has current license plates and insurance (Tech Ed. Radielovic is guilty of this one).
This year's event was judged in three categories: 1) show and shine, 2) ride and drive, and 3) quarter-mile performance. The show portion of the True Street Challenge (TSC) examined the craftsmanship of each vehicle. We looked at the paint, fit and finish, overall detail, and engineering. Each subcategory was worth up to 10 points, 10 being the highest, with a maximum of 40 points possible. We had two judges for this portion of the competition, each submitting their own judgment.
The ride-and-drive category was broken into three parts worth a possible 10 points, 30 being the maximum possible. When we drove in each competitor's car we looked at comfort, NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness), and ride quality. This is where a purpose-built drag car could get hurt, as truly fast cars often sacrifice ride and manners for speed.
Last, we looked at dragstrip performance. Low e.t. was granted 100 points, while each subsequent slower time was gigged 10 points from 100. In other words, second place received 90 points, third received 80, and so on, with the last one receiving 40 points. We gave each competitor two passes and threw out the slowest.
We've arranged this article in ascending order of placement, so last goes first. Keep in mind, there are no losers in this group. These are all dedicated readers and Mopar fanatics who dragged their individual rides from far and wide to compete in our lunacy. The event was held during the second annual Mopars at the Strip in Las Vegas. If you think your Mopar has what it takes to win the crown, send us some photos and specs. We're looking forward to hearing from you.
Number SevenMerrill CrosbieOgden, UT'72 Plymouth Road runnerMerrill Crosbie of Ogden, Utah, epitomized the True Street nature of this competition. On his tech sheet, he stated emphatically: "I don't own no stinkin' trailer queens!" Merrill has built his '72 Road runner to drive, and drive it he does with a Hot Rod Power Tour under his belt, and a 1,000-mile round trip from Utah to Vegas to make this show. When Merrill was just 16, his first car was a new (!) '72 340-powered Road runner. Having regretted the decision to sell it many years ago, Merrill set out to reproduce the vehicle that, to this day, has provided him the fondest of automotive memories. His search led him to Alabama where this bird was located. He limped it home and the rest, as they say, is history.
The previous owner installed the '76 police-car-sourced 440. Being the low-compression variant means that Merrill can drive his 'Runner virtually anywhere with the guarantee it can safely consume any grade of fuel available. The 440 is stock down to the exhaust manifolds, ensuring a quiet, comfortable cruise. Merrill's score was hurt mainly by its quarter-mile performance, but that really isn't the realm in which this B-body should be judged. Sporting an open diff with a 3.23 gear isn't the sort of formula for quick times at the drags, as is evidenced by the right rear tire burning nearly the length of the quarter. But with the A/C pumping cold air during that hot day in the desert of Nevada, the true spirit of Merrill's bird was clear, scoring hands-down the best numbers during the ride-and-drive portion of the TSC.
Number SixBlake EldridgeAlbuquerque, NM'67 Dodge Coronet 440Blake Eldridge acquired the "Root Beer Bomb" from his dad when the car, meant to be a gift for his older brother, was rejected for lack of appeal (we at Mopar Muscle have trouble stomaching the idea of rejection). The 14-year-old Blake was more than happy to commandeer the Coronet.
Though the paint was faded, the body was in pretty good shape and the interior, save for the dash, was missing in action. In place of the original 318 was a 360. But Blake is a big-block man at heart, and a B-Body simply should have a big-block between its fenders, so he put a low-deck stroker together consisting of a 400 block, a 440 crank, Ross pistons, and a Comp solid stick. A set of mildly ported 906 iron castings was perched on top along with a Torker intake and a 950-cfm Holley. An MP electronic ignition fires all eight holes.
As in Merrill's case, Blake's quarter-mile times hurt his composite score, but he scored well in the show portion of the Challenge. Had Blake been able to hook his B-body at the starting line, the end results would undoubtedly have been different, as he reports its run a best of 12.62 at a buck-seven. All the horsepower in the world and street radials just don't add up to starting-line prowess.
Number FiveDarryl KinnaneRiverside, CA'69 Plymouth Road runnerDarryl Kinnane's '69 Road runner represents a bygone era, when musclecars were plentiful and prowled the streets looking for action. Built entirely of secondhand parts, Darryl built this orange bomber mainly to drag and cruise. After harassing a friend nonstop to sell him the 'Runner, he finally relented.
An original 383 four-speed car, the exterior was less than stellar, featuring body panels in green, black, and white. But Darryl got the old bird running pretty well to the tune of 13.89 at 103 mph, but a spun main bearing sidelined the Plymouth. After pulling the wounded low-deck, his father suggested he paint the engine bay. One thing led to another, and the restoration began. It now sports Vitamin C orange paint and a 440 packing TRW forged slugs, six-pack rods, mildly ported 452 castings, a TM7 intake, and an 850 Double Pumper. Darryl's Road runner came off the assembly line with a four-speed and, by god, Darryl still rows his own, pistol-grip in hand.
The ride-and-drive score was hindered by the deep rear gears making the car a bit "buzzy" at highway speeds. The 3,700-pound combo has run a best of 12.83 at 108 mph, but was hampered in Vegas by Darryl's forgetfulness: He forgot to turn on the electric fuel pump prior to making his first pass. It was obviously making all of its ponies on the next pass when he sheared off his stock axles. That's racing.
Number FourDominic AgazioCommerce, CO'68 Dodge Dart17-year-old Dominic Agazio was the youngest competitor in the second annual Mopar Muscle True Street Challenge. All we can say is, Dominic is off to a stellar start. He chose as a platform to fulfill his Mopar fantasy an affordable A-body in the form of this '68 Dart. Bought for 500 bucks from a police auction in his native Commerce, Colorado, it took Dominic, his dad, and good friend Bill Righter a mere six months to get the A-body ready for Dominic's high school drags. In that six-month span, the Dart went through a complete makeover including a heart transplant in the form of a .030-over 440. The RB was treated to JE forged slugs, a Hughes hydraulic cam for maintenance-free performance, and Hughes ported iron heads. An Edelbrock Performer RPM found its way on top along with an 850 Holley carb.
Being from Colorado where the air is thin, Dominic ran his fastest times to date while in Vegas attending the Mopars at the Strip show, turning a 12.82 at nearly 106 mph. Some temperature issues during the ride-and-drive ultimately hurt Dominic's final score. But, no worries-Dominic was led down the right path, and we can only wish our first efforts at going fast were done this well. We'll bet Dominic has the fastest car in school.
Number ThreeTony CarbaughTurner, OR'69 Dodge ChargerTony Carbaugh's '69 Charger was the street fighter of the bunch. Overall detail was a bit on the rough side, but it was well engineered. Tony didn't build his Charger for show, he built it to go-to kick butt and take names, and kick butt it does with alacrity. Its very nature hurt it on the ride-and-drive, as it's loud, obnoxious, loud, fast-oh, and loud. Purchased from a local wrecking yard 10 years ago for the lowly sum of $850, replete with a blown 318 and a 904 trans, Tony immediately set out to make a statement.
Under the glass six-pack hood beats the heart of one very healthy .030-over 440. That it turned an 11.57 at 117 mph in the heat and elevation of Las Vegas with a compression ratio under 10:1 is testimony to Tony's engineering capabilities. Sporting SRP forged pistons, a Crower solid bumpstick, extensively ported 906 heads, Crane roller rockers, an M-1 single-plane manifold, and a tweaked Holley 750 that flows more than 900 cfm, Tony's 440 was built to run squeeze. Unfortunately, he hadn't installed the bottle for the TSC, but subsequent testing a few months after the Mopars at the Strip resulted in some low 10-second passes at 133 mph. But Tony brought enough motor to clench the second fastest times of the bunch.
Number TwoJohn HuffCasper, WY'70 Plymouth BarracudaJohn's Plymouth is nothing short of spectacular. Not only does it look great, it runs hard as well. We have to give John the hard-luck award for having endured a blown engine last year, and a broken output shaft on the trans this year. But it never fazed him as he kept smiling the entire weekend. In fact, we invited him back this year because he broke last year. John, for the sake of the well-being of your 'Cuda, leave it home next year!
Purchased in 1979 for a meager 125 bones, John doesn't even want to speculate what he has in it to date. Suffice it to say, John ditched the slant-six in short order for a slightly more potent powerplant. Four engines later, 25 years, four different women, five transmissions, one hernia (try unloading a Dana from the back of a truck solo), and John alas succumbed to the concept of the Hemi. Exactly 528 inches worth, all screwed together by Ken Lezzari of Indy Cylinder Head fame, featuring Wiseco pistons (for a final compression ratio of 10.75:1), Eagle rods, an MP stroker crank, MP aluminum heads, a Comp solid cam, and an Indy single-plane intake with a Holley 950 taking up residence up top.
All of this is channeled through a four-speed trans with the requisite pistol grip. Remarkably, the retina-burning red paint was applied in 1986 and is testimony to how well John takes care of his steed. The racy nature of the beast ultimately hurt its overall score in the ride-and-drive, but John more than made up for it in the show-and-strip portions of the competition. Had he not broken, we feel he would have gone even faster.
The WinnerPatrick ButlerNorth Glenn, CO'73 Dodge ChallengerPatrick Butler purchased the "Yellow Bird," as his late mother affectionately called it, as a junior in high school. The '73 Challenger was in pretty good shape when he bought it, and it sported the original 340/727 combo. Patrick partook in his fair share of late-night speed contest activities while toting a bottle of laughing gas in the trunk, and he reports a modicum of success against many Brand-X vehicles. Three years ago, he decided to get serious, so he pulled the small-block in favor of a low-deck stroker displacing 451 inches.
With the engine out of the way, he got busy on the appearance. Patrick's a bodyman by trade, and the sheetmetal was ironed to perfection, fiberglass fenders, hood, and bumpers were added, and he shot the whole mess in bright yellow paint. The 4.86 gears and spool, a rollcage, and a barely muffled 3.5-inch exhaust system somewhat compromised his Challenger's street manners. But it didn't really hurt Pat's score by much, as his beautiful yellow Challenger did so well in the showfield-not to mention that he set low e.t. and flat-out scorched the Tinsel Town quarter-mile. We think he may have even gone faster had he not backed out of it on the top end when his 'glass hood began to bow rather dangerously at the top of the track.
So there you have it. The 2nd Annual Mopar Muscle True Street Challenge winner. What's next for Pat? He's commissioned Ray Barton to screw together a very serious 14.5:1-compression 500-inch wedge. Streetable? It's doubtful, but it will haul the mail.