Names like Petty, Gurney, and Sox come with certain expectations. So does AAR, the acronym Plymouth chose for its 1970 Trans Am spin-off model. It stood for the name of Dan Gurney's team, the All American Racers, which fielded Plymouth's new ponycar that year.
While Gurney and company duked it out on the Trans Am tracks, the street version broke its share of new ground, adding a trio of Holley carburetors to the already-hot 340 small-block, side-exit tailpipes, and oversized G60 Goodyear Polyglas GT tires—larger than its front E60s, and larger even than the Hemi 'Cuda's F60s. While the 'Cuda is known for its legendary big-blocks, the caffeinated small-block, and its handling suspension, gave the limited production AAR its own personality.
Detroiter Michael Kilano was in the market for a big-block 'Cuda when he spotted this AAR on a dealer's lot in 1997. Taking a closer look, Michael determined that the 340 Six Barrel engine and TorqueFlite transmission were original, numbers-matching. But despite having only 52,000 miles, it was what Michael calls a "20-20" car.
"It looked great from 20 feet, and ran good at 20 mph," he quips.
Michael haggled over price, but the dealer wouldn't budge. In the end he paid the full asking price.
Michael enjoyed it as a driver for a while, flaws and all. But eventually, as it always does, the time came to upgrade. In 2005, the engine was pulled, and full restoration was underway. A friend knew a painter, and a cousin knew a guy who was really good with Six Barrel Mopars. A few spot-rust repairs were made, and the paint job and fresh graphics did wonders for the body.
The engine was in good hands too. The engine guy turned out to be Bob "Mr. Six Pack" Karakashian, former IHRA record holder. Bob suggested getting rid of the big cam and headers, and going back very close to stock.
"Bob told me, 'I can get you more horsepower out of the motor stock than you're getting now,'" Michael remembers.
Basically stock, the numbers-matching 340 now pumps out around 320 horsepower.
Intrigued, Michael liked the idea, and the build was underway. With careful attention to machining, the engine was assembled in a stock configuration—stock heads, block, crankshaft, even the OEM exhaust manifolds. The few departures from stock are in keeping with the rules of the Pure Stock Drags, which make realistic allowances for service wear and a bit of tuning. The factory points-type Prestolite distributor was converted to a Chrysler electronic ignition, and low-restriction K&N air filter was installed. Bob also installed one of his proprietary Mr. Six Pack cams, which retains stock lift and duration, but have improved ramps for quicker valve movement.
The real key to making an AAR run is tuning of the Holleys. They're a lot of carburetion for a street engine turning the relatively slow rpm of a stock engine. But Bob has been tuning them for decades, and as a successful racer running some of the fastest Mopars out there, he has an indisputable "track" record.
The finished engine was tested and fine-tuned on a dyno where it made 363 hp. Installed, it made 319 hp at the rear wheels, that with modest, pump gas-compatible 9.9:1 compression.
With the car looking and running strong, Bob suggested that Michael attend the 2006 Pure Stock Drags.
"I had never been down the track. The only racing I had done was on the street as a kid," he confessed. A buddy's Corvette club rented Milan Dragway (near Detroit), and Michael got a taste of driving the AAR for e.t.'s.
"My first pass was 14.30. The next pass was 14.20, then I ran a 13.97 at 98 mph. I was hooked on drag racing!"
Three passes, and he was into the 13s. At Stanton, he continued to improve, qualifying at 13.83 at 100 mph, after some instruction on launching and shifting from Bob. Matched against a 1966 Tri-Power GTO, Michael red-lit in Round One, but won the next two to win his shootout.