It was a relatively new concept for us-a chance to mingle with the readers of Mopar Muscle by getting them involved with their cars. We decided to pick 10 cars that were entered in the Mopars at the Strip show in Las Vegas, Nevada, in March of this year and see just how far some people would go with them. At the registration deadline, we had received 47 entries for the first (hopefully annual) Mopar Muscle True Street Challenge.
What we didn't want in this competition were gussied up, quote-unquote street cars that run mid-eight-second quarter-mile times. Let's face it, how many guys with blown, alcohol-ingesting 600ci engines actually use their cars to get groceries? We were looking for nice-looking, comfortable cars that could drive into town and run a respectable e.t.-an 11-second car would be fast. The drivers weren't competing against each other, but against the challenge we put before them. We were going to allow each car to stand on its own merits and let the points fall where they may.
A small miscommunication in directions made the driving portion about 45 miles long. We covered the gritty pavement and traffic of downtown Las Vegas, and our True Street crew was up to the task. They all handled it well, proving their rides to be true street cars, and we eventually got to the newly-paved open road. So, here they are-the 10 charter members of the Mopar Muscle True Street Challenge.
A resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Steve Alderete brought his '70 440-powered Six Pack 'Cuda to throw down with the rest. The factory-installed 440 in Steve's fish is filled with goodies like a .030 overbore, stock rods and replacement pistons, and a solid lifter MP camshaft. Edelbrock heads support the factory Six Pack induction, and the rebuilt 727 sends power to the Dana 60 with 4.10 gears.
When cornering, Steve was disappointed with the stiffness of his shocks in the rebuilt frontend. But the 'Cuda liked the high altitude, and in a straight line, the ride was smooth and quiet. The take-off from stop was quick but not extremely hard, which was good.
Steve had ET Street tires, so when it came time to test his 'Cuda, it was considered legal for the racing portion. With the drop of the green light, Steve's best time was a 12.82 e.t at 107.71 mph. Not bad at all!
In the looks department, Steve's 'Cuda was nicely-detailed, the fit and finish creating a good example of what a driver should look like. Mostly garage-kept before Steve got it, the 'Cuda had a lot of original pieces, including the headliner, dash gauges, glass, and door panels.
Truckin' With Style
Bob Gobble did the truckin' crowd proud with his '65 A-100 truck. The A-hauler sports a Mopar Performance 380-horse 360 crate engine with an 850 Holley carb on top. From there, a 727 with a reverse-shift valvebody and 10-inch torque converter sends the power to the 831/44 rear with 4.30 gears on a Sure Grip center.
The ride was enjoyable, but for a truck with a straight-axle frontend and front wheels almost behind the passengers, it was a little stiff. For a short jaunt to the store, it would be a cool ride. But anything over a 100-mile drive would surely be tough to handle.
Bob was one of our True Street challengers who opted to enter his truck in the Racing class instead of the Show class. Since he is not completely finished restoring the truck, there were a few small details that would cause some grief on a show field. However, all in all, it's a cool truck that Bob can finish and enjoy.
Like we said, Bob was hashing it out on the track all weekend. During the driving portion of our challenge, he ran his Hoosier Quick Time tires and made them legal for the racing portion. Bob's best time over the weekend was a 13.56 e.t. traveling at 95.86 mph.
First Big Fish
From the land where everything is done big-Beaumont, Texas-hails Jesse Fillingame and his 440-powered '69 Cuda. When these cars were new, they weren't marketed well, and as such not many were produced. That's a good thing for guys like Jesse. The original block was opened up .040 inch and filled with everything required to make it a stock rebuild. The 727 sends all that juice to an 831/44 Sure Grip with 3.55 gears.
As one of the shortest wheelbase cars in our challenge, Jesse's 'Cuda actually had a nice feel for the road. The 440 is more than enough power, but that can also be a problem if some punk kid in a Mustang were to pull alongside and laugh as your tires go up in smoke. The car has no rattles, and the resto is top-notch. It even won Best Appearing A-Body at the show!
When it came to the track, Jesse was a first-timer, so inexperience worked against him. Still, while short-shifting the car and trying to get it to launch, Jesse managed to run a 14.95 at 92.47 mph.
Quite possibly one of the nicest cars in our challenge was Jim Spetzman's '6911/42 Bee. Hailing from Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota, Jim participates in the Pure Stock races, which means the Bee's engine is bone stock. The tech sheet reads like a broken record-rods, crank, cam, heads, and so on-all stock. The only change is to TRW flat-top pistons. From there, the 727 sends the power to the Dana 60 with a Sure Grip and 4.10 gears.
You would never know by riding in Jim's car that these Bees were built for racing. The soft, comfortable ride with a full interior makes one think this is a loaded-for-comfort GTX. It is also evident this is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Underneath the plush ride, you could tell there was a beast growling. Since Jim has been racing the car in Pure Stock he knows how to make it work.
When it came time for the Bee to prove its heritage at the track, it was right at home. When the smoke cleared (what are we saying? This thing hooked like a banshee) the Bee mustered an impressive 12.95 e.t. at 106.59 mph.
The Rookie and Son
Henderson, Nevada, locals Ken Westcott and his 14-year-old son, Allen, brought Ken's '70 Barracuda out for their first-ever participation in a car show. Ken and Allen built this car themselves in their home garage. The 'Cuda is motivated by a .060-over 340 filled with flat-top pistons, a "super stock" cam, and topped with a pair of X heads supporting an Edelbrock RPM intake and a 750-cfm carb.
When introduced, E-Body Mopars were to compete with the lesser two of the Big Three in the pony wars. Ken's car rode smoothly, and the exhaust note coming from the stock mufflers was not overwhelming in the cockpit. Ken's car is representative of the majority of nice drivers that fill our hobby. It may not be the recipient of a concours resto, but we wouldn't be ashamed to own it.
This was Ken's first trip to the track as well. Although not experienced, his enthusiasm more than made up for that. He made quite a few trips down the quarter-mile, and the first 60 feet of them were hazing the tires. Still, he managed a best of 13.65 e.t. at 99.88 mph.
His and Hers
John Galambos of Orange, California, and Jennifer Sheley of Anaheim brought his '66 Charger and her '68 Charger to take on the challenge-as well as each other. John's ride boasts a 360 with TRW dished pistons on the stock rods and crank and a Crane "blower spec" camshaft. The heads are cast pieces with some port work, topped off by a small B&M blower supporting the Holley 800 carb. Jen's motorvational duties are handled by a '74 440 with forged pistons (sporting a bump on them) on the stock rods and crank. The cam is by Isky, and the heads are ported stock units. A Performer RPM intake and 750 carb feed the need.
The first thing you notice when you ride in either car is the exhaust note, or should we say bass drum! Both cars feature side-exit exhausts, and on John's car, a flick of a switch opens the headers via electric cutouts. If you have something to say (like "Cop!"), be sure to say it before he hits the switch. Jen hides her contemporary audio in the glovebox to keep the dash stock appearing. Overall, both cars rode nicely, and we'll give Jen until next year to get her gauges working correctly.
On Saturday, John came back to the event with Third gear broken in his tranny from a Friday-night time shot. That didn't stop him from racing, though. It just so happened he lined up against Jen, and when the dust settled, John ran a 13.61 e.t. at 101.5 mph, and Jen was a blink quicker at 13.60, traveling at 102.46 mph. Sorry John, but a win is a win-the lady has the lead.
A Challenging T/A
Camper repairman Jeff Delzer brought his '70 T/A Challenger out and spent the weekend showin' and racin'. Jeff's T/A was also restored to stock specs, with the 340 receiving everything needed-including correct date-coded plug wires, battery cables, and so on. Trust us, this thing is bone stock. Power goes through the factory four-speed, back to the 831/44 rear with a Sure Grip and 3.91 gears.
These cars were built to handle, and because of that, the ride can be a little stiff. You can feel the bumps in the road-not enough to be annoying, but enough to notice the feel of a sport suspension. Again, this car has side-exit exhaust, but they're tolerable due to its stock nature.
Although these cars were never meant to be quarter-pounders, Jeff gently took his down the track to the tune of 15.25 at 89.98 mph. He says he's looking to move on to something else, but we don't know if he received any offers during the show.
One of None
We know, they never made a Six Pack-inducted small-block with A/C. Firefighter Dennis Lowder of Albuquerque, New Mexico, also knows that, but he made it work. The short-block started life as a 360, but with the help of the aftermarket, it now displaces 408 ci. Even with added cubic inches and the help of Keith Black pistons, a .484 Mopar cam, and Edelbrock aluminum heads, the stock exhaust manifolds were definitely holding it back. The 727 is filled with a B&M shift kit and a Hughes torque converter. It all ends at the Sure Grip-filled 831/44 with 4.30 gears.
During our ride, we noticed a few small things Dennis plans to get fixed. First of all, the A/C needs charging. When he takes care of that and some detailing on the inside, this will be one nice A-Body. The noise level was barely noticeable, probably because of the stock manifolds, and the ride was comfortable. However, with the gearing, engine rpm was a little high, but hey, some guys like that.
Dennis was not afraid to put the wood to her on the track. He made several passes and even did some tuning between rounds. Still, with the constrictions of the manifolds, his best time was a 13.60 at 99.88 mph.
Bill and Mary Sue Pharr drove their Limelight '70 'Cuda from Rocklin, California, to our patch of asphalt in the Nevada desert called the Las Vegas Strip to be involved in our challenge. Not one of our original finalists chosen to compete, Bill stepped up and filled the void left by a no-show. The Pharr 'Cuda is powered by a .060-over 440 filled with mostly stock components. A TCI tranny with a Gear Vendors unit lets the 'Cuda stretch its legs on the open roads, especially when coupled with a 3.23-filled 831/44 rear (wonder what top speed would be in this thing).
The extensive modifications in and on the 'Cuda make it a pleasure to ride in, with minimal engine noise and one kickin' sound system. We have to admire a guy willing to put this kind of time and money in a car and then subject it to the road and track.
Although the overall combination lends itself to high-speed driving, Bill was willing to make a few passes down the track-with a best time for the weekend of 14.84 at 92 mph. Bill says the car has run better, but after he saw what happened to our next guy, he took it easy.
The "You Gotta Be Kidding Me" Hard Luck award goes to John Huff. During John's first timeshot on Saturday, something let loose in his 528 Hemi, and as you can see by the spark plug, it wasn't good. The Casper, Wyoming, entry still managed to keep a sense of humor about it, as John simply said, "It ain't the first time I broke something." John did, however, manage to travel the approximately 50 miles for the driving portion to prove its road-worthiness before the implosion. Behind the big ol' Hemi is an 833 four-speed spinning a 4.56 and a locker-filled 931/44 rear.
On the street cruise, before John's big break, he took the liberty of permanently pasting your green-horned associate editor into the racing bucket seats. He then astutely inquired, "First time in a Hemi?" Do the racing seats and rollcage take some of the "street" out of it? Yeah, probably-but wow! It may be the wrong choice for taking the mother-in-law to the hairdresser, but man is it a fun ride!
John did tell us that during his racing portion, he did a dry hop, and his first thought was, "That hooked good; something's gonna break." Halfway down the track-kaboom, he was right. He still mustered a 13.84 e.t. while coasting through the lights.