It’s no secret that we love the month of March, and not just because it means the spring racing season is kicking off. We also love March because it means we get to travel to Las Vegas for the annual Mopars at the Strip event, which is one of our favorites. There is plenty to do for everyone, with a huge car show, drag racing, and even an autocross sponsored by Hotchkis for those of us who like to carve the curves with our Mopars. Of course our favorite part of the event is the Mopar Muscle True Street Challenge, which combines racing, showing, and street driving to determine who has the best all-around Mopar at the event. And while we can’t tell you everything that happened in Vegas this year (we don’t want to risk getting fired or divorced), we will tell you that we had seven awesome Mopars in this year’s challenge. It was also one of the closest contests we’ve ever hosted.
The Mopar Muscle True Street Challenge has always been a fun, friendly competition, allowing car owners to compete with their Mopars, and determine who has the best all-around performance and show car in the contest. Each year we choose eight cars from the entries we get, and try to pick a variety of Mopars representing different body styles with an assortment of engine and transmission combinations. This year we had A-Bodies, B-Bodies, and one E-Body in our contest, featuring small-blocks, big-blocks, and one Hemi engine. There were several cars with four-speed transmissions and automatic equipped cars as well.
To judge the cars, we first fill them with pump gas at the station across the street from The Strip at Las Vegas, and take them on a 20-mile drive, where they are judged on road manners, ride quality, exterior noise, and the functioning of all of the equipment in each car. Back at the track, we judge the cars as if they were in a car show, awarding points based on the paint, trim, interior, engine bay, and overall fit and finish. Once the driving and show judging portions are complete, each car owner gets to show off the performance of his or her vehicle on the dragstrip.
The dragstrip portion isn’t a race with eliminations, but rather judged time trials to show the performance of each vehicle. Each entrant in the contest gets two passes down the dragstrip, and we factor each car’s best elapsed time along with the show judging and street judging to develop a composite score for each vehicle. The car with the highest score is the official winner of the competition. Of course, our readers benefit from the competition as well, as they get to see firsthand how eight different Mopars (actually seven this year) perform during the Challenge.
We had great weather for this year’s contest, with plenty of sunshine and cool temperatures on Saturday when the cars made their passes down the dragstrip. We were impressed with each of the cars in the 2013 True Street Challenge, and the final judging proved this to be a very close contest. The top two cars in the competition were nearly too close to call, but when the scores were added up Tim Spangler won this year’s Challenge with his black on black ’68 Dodge Hemi Charger. We think you’ll like Tim’s car as well as the rest of this year’s True Street Mopars, and encourage you to submit an entry to be in next year’s event. Mopars at the Strip is a blast, and we hope to see you and your Mopar there in 2014.
’68 Dodge Charger
The ’68 Dodge Charger is likely the second most recognizable Mopar next to the ’69 version made famous by the The Dukes of Hazzard television show, and Tim Spangler readily admits that his ’68 was more than a little inspired by the Hollywood movie Bullitt. In fact, Tim’s teenage daughter is a fan of the movie, and knows exactly where to fast-forward the disc to get to the famous chase scene. Tim has owned his Charger for 11 years, but didn’t begin working on it until several years after purchasing the rust-free body. With some help from his friend Pat Derieg of Tamerlane Performance, Tim spent six years transforming the Charger into what it is today, a Hemi, four-speed, R/T clone car.
Leaving the body of this Charger stock, Tim decided to treat the suspension to a full rebuild with polyurethane bushings, Hemi rear springs, and Calvert Racing CalTrac bars. QA1 adjustable shocks were used on all four corners, and a Dana 60 differential was installed with a Sure Grip and 3.54 gears. The bodywork was performed by Chuck Rumschlag at The Cobra Works, and Chuck also applied the flawless black paint. Magnum 500 wheels all the way around completed the look, and the interior was refurbished to stock specs in black. Under the hood, Tim trusted Indy Cylinder Head to build a 572-inch Hemi for his Charger, and backed it up with an 833 four-speed transmission.
During our contest, Tim’s car drove flawlessly, and turned heads wherever we went. The paint job on this car is incredible, and performance on the track was good considering this Charger tips the scales at nearly 4,000 pounds. After having to replace the clutch at the last minute before leaving Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Vegas, Tim was happy to make it to the event, let alone win the contest. Several of the True Street cars were in contention, but Tim’s best elapsed time of 11.85 seconds sealed the deal and landed him the win. We congratulate Tim for winning the 2013 Mopar Muscle True Street Challenge and look forward to seeing the car at future events. Maybe Tim will let his daughter drive the Charger, as she wants to race one of her friends in their dad’s cars!
Dave Mitton and Tom Feit
’70 Plymouth Superbird
We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw that one of the applications was for a Superbird, but hey, if the owner (or owners, in this case) is willing to enter it, we are willing to put it through its paces. This ’70 winged warrior is co-owned by business partners Tom Feit and Dave Mitton, from Lindon, Utah, who shared the expenses of the purchase and extensive restoration. This car has a cool story, and is number 1,000 on the NASCAR registry of Plymouth Superbirds. Tom and Dave purchased the car from Dick Dorsey of Dorsey Dodge in Prattville, Alabama, and Dave performed much of the three-year restoration himself.
Equipped with the numbers-matching engine, transmission, and rear end, Dave and Tom elected to restore this rare Superbird to a factory appearance, with subtle modifications made to the engine in the name of durability and performance. The body of the car was painted in PPG base/clear FY1 yellow by Kim Frederick, and the interior was restored with components from Legendary Auto Interiors. The chassis, automatic transmission, and 3.55 geared 83⁄4 differential are also all stock, to maintain the originality of the car, but a TCI 2,800 rpm stall converter was installed to help the car leave the line better. When it came to the engine, Dave and Tom entrusted Steve Flatt to install lightweight components in the numbers-matching block, which was bored .030-inch over. A custom ground Comp Cams camshaft was installed, and the factory heads were ported and polished by hand. A full tti exhaust was installed from the factory manifolds to the rear of the car.
As the photos show, this Superbird is superbly restored, and was the winner of the judged show portion of our contest. On the track, Dave Mitton drove the Superbird to a best elapsed time of 13.67 seconds, at over 100 mph, landing a second place finish in the True Street Challenge. We were impressed at how hard Dave was willing to drive this car, as he took a few laps around the Hotchkis autocross and bolted slicks on the Superbird on Sunday, running a 12-second elapsed time. We congratulate Dave on his finish, and look forward to seeing Dave and Tom on this year’s Hot Rod Power Tour.
’74 Dodge Dart Sport
The best finishing A-Body in this year’s contest was the bright orange ’74 Dart Sport owned by Ken Harrington of Pahrump, Nevada. As his first car, Ken has owned this Dart for 25 years, but kept the Dodge much as he remembered if from high school when he recently refreshed it. Ken uses his Dart Sport regularly, driving to car shows on weekends, and entering drag racing events, and even burnout contests. Ken even admits to street racing his car back in the day, but only races on the track now that he’s a little older.
Owning the Dart since he was 15 years old, Ken learned a lot about Mopars with this car, modifying the original 318 with parts from Super Shops, then installing a 340, and finally a 360, which is in the car today. The 360 is equipped with a cast crankshaft, forged pistons, and a Crane solid flat-tappet camshaft. Ken ported the factory X heads himself, and installed Harland Sharp 1.5 ratio rocker arms. The automatic transmission is equipped with a Turbo Action reverse-shift manual valvebody and GER 8-inch, 4,000-rpm converter. Out back, Ken installed 4.30 gears in the 83⁄4, with Competition Engineering 50/50 ratio shocks. After straightening the body and installing a fiberglass hood and scoops he made himself from a mold, Ken had the car painted in multiple coats of Hemi Orange base/clear paint.
This car has come a long way during the 25 years Ken has owned it, and during our contest it ran the quickest elapsed time of 11.76 seconds in the quarter mile. We love the fact that Ken kept his Dart true to the car he remembered in high school, and the look of this car’s interior brought back fond memories of how we modified our cars “back in the day.” We thank Ken entering our True Street Challenge and congratulate him on his third place finish.
’69 Plymouth Road Runner
The Road Runner was the Motor Trend Car of the Year in 1969, but we’ll bet none of the originals looked as good as Steve Morrison’s Plymouth. Coming to Las Vegas from Simi Valley, California, Steve was a late entry in the True Street Challenge, getting his Road Runner finished just in time for Mopars at the Strip. Steve’s Road Runner is an original black on black 383/four-speed, with only 68,000 original miles. Owning and driving the car for five years, Steve just completed the 10-month restoration, and plans to use the car to drive and cruise, though we did catch him racing in the four-speed class as well as competing in our contest.
Steve’s Road Runner is still wearing all of its original sheet metal, and painted in stunning PPG 9300 black paint. The suspension of this Road Runner is stock with the exception of QA1 shocks, and Steve installed a Dana 60 with 3.55 gears. The original interior was restored to stock specs, with the exception of aftermarket oil pressure and water temperature gauges. The 440 engine was rebuilt by Quarter Mile Performance in Chatsworth, California, and features a Milodon oil system, Scat rods, Ross pistons, and a factory forged crankshaft. A Comp Cams hydraulic-roller cam was installed, and the Edelbrock Performer RPM cylinder heads were treated to port matching. TTI headers and 3-inch exhaust expel the gasses, and a Chrysler 18-spline Hemi four-speed makes the car a blast to drive.
Steve’s ’69 is laser-straight, and the paint quality is top-notch. On the track, the Road Runner scored well, running a best elapsed time of 12.81 seconds in the quarter-mile at over 107 mph. Throughout the weekend, Steve consistently clicked off 12-second elapsed times, both in the True Street Challenge and in the four-speed drag racing class. As it turned out, Steve scrambled to make the show, and was still in the process of installing items like the glove box liner and windshield wipers during the event. Were it not for these details, this Road Runner would have placed higher than forth in the True Street Challenge.
Ken Posey Sr.
’69 Dodge Dart
We love big-block equipped A-Bodies, and Ken Posey of Fresno, California, brought a potent ’69 Dart to Vegas this year. When Ken wasn’t busy showing and racing his Dart at the track, we saw him driving it just about everywhere we went during the weekend. Ken has owned this Dodge for six years, originally picking it up at a swap meet with a blown Slant Six. He and his son Ken Jr. (along with numerous family and friends) spent the better part of five years transforming the car into a big-block equipped street and strip brawler.
Ken’s Dart started out as a clean original car, but isn’t what Ken and his son wanted. On the outside, a custom fabricated steel cowl induction hood was installed, and the Dart was treated to fresh T5 bronze metallic paint (the original color) from PPG. The interior of the Dart was in great original condition, so it remains that way today. The chassis of the Dart was modified with tubular upper control arms and Competition Engineering 90/10 shocks up front, and the rear was mini-tubbed to accommodate Hoosier 28x13.5-inch DOT drag tires. Ken built the big-block himself, using a 400 block, Ross pistons, a forged 440 crankshaft, and a Mopar Performance .509 cam. Unported 440Source cylinder heads were installed with stock rockers, and the engine is fed by an M1 intake and Holley carburetor. An auto tech himself, Ken, along with his son, performed all of the work on the Dodge, including building the automatic transmission and installing a 10-inch, 4,500-rpm stall converter.
This Dart drives and shows very well, but where it really shines is on the dragstrip. With a relatively mild, street-friendly combination, Ken managed to run 11.94 seconds in the quarter-mile, at more than 110 mph. Ken enjoyed the weekend, and says he needs to thank his brother Kevin for helping with the wiring, and Mike Owens who painted the car. As a budget build, Ken traded labor and did much of the work himself, and got to spend valuable time with his son during the process. We thank Ken for entering the True Street Challenge, and for exposing the next generation to the fun that can be had building, driving, and racing a Mopar.
’66 Plymouth Barracuda
Evan Graham brought his ’66 Barracuda all the way from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, to enjoy the Mopars at the Strip event. Evan found the Barracuda back in 1988, sitting in a bank parking lot with a “for sale” sign on the rear floorboard. Asking the owner if the car was still for sale, Evan purchased the 273 powered Plymouth on the spot and began planning the car’s transformation into what it is today.
With the help of his brother Darren, and friends Mike Rose and Wayne Harvey, Evan performed a “driving” restoration of the car, painting the ’Cuda in its gold hue with acrylic enamel paint, and highly modifying the suspension with tubular components up front, Hotchkis springs and sway bars, and Bilstein front and rear shocks. An 833 four-speed was installed, along with the appropriate Hurst shifter and factory manual transmission console, Next came a 340 engine, modified with a Hughes camshaft, TRW forged pistons, and ported Edelbrock aluminum heads to replace the original 273. Comp Cams Pro Magnum roller rocker arms were utilized, and an Air-Gap intake and Holley carburetor were bolted on top of the 340. Doug’s headers and Borla XR1 exhaust get rid of the spent gasses, and sound great as well.
As a car that gets driven regularly and has an older paint job, this Barracuda still looks great sitting some two inches lower than stock on factory Rally wheels. On the dragstrip, Evan’s best elapsed time was 13.71 seconds at over 101 mph, but where this car really performs is on the street and around the curves. As a bonus this year, we arranged for our True Street Challenge cars to get some laps on the Hotchkis autocross course, and Evan’s Barracuda easily clicked off quicker laps than any of the cars in our competition. We’re considering adding the autocross as a judged portion of our contest next year, and car’s like Evan Graham’s ’66 ’Cuda will definitely have an advantage. It was a pleasure to meet Evan and his family, and we thank him for sharing his Barracuda with our readers.
’71 Dodge Challenger
Ed Wogulis of Madera, California, brought a beautiful ’71 Challenger T/A clone to Vegas this year. Ed owns a Mopar parts and restoration service, and found this Challenger while looking for a donor car for one of his customers. Too clean to use as a donor car, Ed purchased the Dodge for a case of beer...yes, a case of beer (why can’t we get this lucky?) Having owned the car for 15 years, Ed finally decided to concentrate on the project, and performed three months of restoration and modifications.
Ed added a fiberglass T/A hood, rear spoiler, and front spoilers, before straightening the amazingly clean body, and spraying the car with Citron Yellow PPG base/clear paint. Subframe connectors were installed, and the stock suspension was rebuilt with Mopar Performance components. A new dashpad, seat covers, headliner, and carpet, were installed in the interior, but the factory door panels were cleaned up and retained. The engine in this Challenger is a Mopar Performance 360 crate short-block, with a Comp Cams hydraulic camshaft, and out of the box Edelbrock Performer RPM aluminum heads. Power is transferred to the 3.91 geared 83⁄4 through a Chrysler 833 four-speed transmission.
Ed wasn’t afraid to drive his Challenger hard, competing in our contest and racing in the drag program, where he went three rounds on Sunday. During the True Street Challenge, Ed’s Challenger ran a best elapsed time of 14.34 seconds, but during Sunday’s eliminations he got the Dodge into the 13s. Ed also had fun on the Hotchkis autocross course, turning the second best lap times of the True Street cars. We thank Ed for entering the True Street Challenge, and look forward to seeing him at future Mopars at the Strip events.
The Mopar Muscle True Street Challenge is one of our favorite contests, as it judges each car based on looks, drivability, and performance. If you’re in Vegas for the Mopars at the Strip event, we encourage you to enter the contest, as it is a fun way to see your car in the pages of Mopar Muscle. We’re considering adding the autocross to the event as a judged part of the contest, so let us know what you think.