“As one door closes, another opens.”
That’s true when it comes to project cars, especially when a builder stops for one reason or another and someone else completes the project.
That’s what happened to this ’68 Dart. Actually, that should be “what was left” of the ’68 Dart. “There wasn’t much of it. It was just a little part of the body,” says Nelson Correa of how much original A-Body was left in the stack of parts in his friend’s garage -- not much more than a worn and rusted unibody and a custom round-tube frame.
“Originally, the car was supposed to be a race car,” says Nelson. “Then my friend ran out of funds and the car was set aside. The car was going to go to waste, period.”
It wasn’t until a couple of years after the project had stopped that Nelson saw the Dart’s body, and he asked his friend if he wanted to sell it. “We engaged in some negotiations, and then I purchased it,” he recalls. “That’s when I decided to Pro Street it. I wanted to be able to drive it and enjoy it out on the street and also race it on the track.”
That direction was one that Nelson had always wanted to go. “I always wanted to put a Pro Street Dart together,” he says. “My friends were telling me, ‘You’re crazy. You don’t know how much money you’re going to spend on it.'”
Though making it streetable might have cost additional time and money, Nelson figures that he saved a bunch by finishing the incomplete project his way.
No doubt some of what he saved went into the engine inside the AAR Fiberglass front end. “Indy Cylinder Head built it for me,” says Nelson. “It’s a Hemi -- 605 cubic inches. It’s a monster!”
That was reflected on the dyno sheets that Indy supplied with the engine: 836.8 horsepower and 752 lb-ft of torque. The Hemi was teamed with an equally stout J.W. Performance Transmission–built 727 with a 4,200-stall converter and a narrowed rear end equipped with Strange axles and a Detroit Locker that are up to the task of taming all that Hemi power.
Engine: Indy Cylinder Head–built Hemi displaces 605 inches and is good for well over 800
Interior: Leather and suede in this Pro Street cabin is thanks to Fernando Torres. AutoMe
Outside, what was left of the original Dart’s body structure was plenty enough to build from, once the rusted floors and quarters were replaced with new steel. AAR Fiberglass’ bolt-on hood, bumper, front fender, doors, and decklid reproductions -- plus a ’68 Super Stock–style hoodscoop -- were fitted and installed before the two-stage Sikkens Viper Red enamel went on.
Inside, it’s a combination of race-car safety hardware and high-end cruiser, with leather covering the SCAT racing seats, dash and door panels, and custom carpets on the floors. As for a sound system, Nelson counts on the Hemi’s custom-fabbed exhaust system for that purpose.
I wanted to be able to drive it and enjoy it on the street and also race it on the track. -- Nelson Correa
What’s it like to drive? “It’s wonderful!” says Nelson. “Driving a car with that much power on the street, it drives excellent. It’s amazing!” He adds, “The car was fabricated so well that you can go on the street and blend in with the rest of the cars and the rest of the traffic and it doesn’t overheat. You actually enjoy the ride.”
If the thought of turning someone’s stalled or abandoned project into a ride like Nelson’s Hemi-powered A-Body is your plan, take his advice. “You need to put all the pieces together before you assemble the puzzle. That’s because a lot of people think that in putting a project like that together, you can take a lot of short cuts. But those are a waste of money, and you’ll end up with something that people will not admire.”
He adds, “You’re trying to revive history here, and you always want to make sure that everything is put together in a way that everyone is going to appreciate. That’s my theory -- whenever you put a car together like that, people of all different ages appreciate it. They can really take a good look at it and say, ‘Wow, this is nice!’”
And they’ll appreciate the door that opened by building it the way that Nelson’s Dart was.
|FAST FACTS |
’68 Dodge Dart Hardtop
|Engine: There’s big, there’s huge—and then there’s this Indy Cylinder Head–built Street Legend Hemi. Displacing 605 inches, it features Indy’s aluminum 41⁄2-inch bore block, with a forged Callies crankshaft and Eagle H-beam rods, forged 10.75:1 compression Wiseco pistons, and a Comp Cams solid-roller camshaft. A pair of Indy’s 426-1RA heads, ported Indy intake with a 1050-cfm Holley Dominator, MSD ignition, and a custom-built exhaust system finalize the overgrown air pump.
|Transmission: J.W. Performance Transmission-built 727 with a reverse–manual valvebody, 9-inch/4,200 stall convertor with a trans brake, B&M shifter, and a Gear Vendors overdrive.
|Rear: Narrowed 9-inch is filled with a 4.56-geared Detroit Locker differential and Strange axles.
|Suspension: (Front) Art Morrison’s Super Strut, (Rear) X-link with Strange coilovers and ladder bars.
|Brakes: Four-wheel discs with Wilwoods in front and Strange Engineering rotors and calipers in the rear.
|Wheels/Tires: Welds and Mickey Thompsons (Front) 15x4½-inch wheels on 26x7.50x15 M/T Sportsman tires, (Rear) 15x14-inch Double Beadlock wheels on M/T’s 32x17.50x15 ET Streets.
|Paint/Body: Original unibody had its rusted floors and trunk replaced before it was fitted to the round-tube frame. AAR Fiberglass provided the hood, front fenders, trunk lid, and bumpers, and Rick Perry (aided by Don Reese and Ron Sheed) got it all ready for the Sikkens two-stage Viper Red enamel.
|Interior: Fernando Torres custom-stitched the SCAT Sportsman race bucket seats, door panels, and dashpad in tan leather with matching suede inserts. Steering wheel is a repro Tuff one on a Flaming River tilter, and tan/brown carpets cover the floors.