If a guy gets his kicks running into burning buildings, it makes you wonder what he does for fun in his spare time. If you're fireman Dale Gilmore, you build a red-hot Demon and burn up the streets. "I've always liked the A-Bodies--it's the tail lights," says Dale, owner of this month's cover car. "I looked for over a year to find a good body, and it ended up being right under my nose." What he found was the cream puff we all hope to score.
Originally owned by a little old lady, she was forced to sell it when she had to give up her driver's license. Garage-kept its entire life, the '71 was completely rust free. The interior was good, and with only 21,652 miles showing on the odometer, the Slant Six, 3-speed manual, column-shifted Demon drove like a new car--straight into Dale's garage, where it was completely disassembled and rebuilt from bumper-to-bumper.
Although the body was rust free, as were the floors and underside of the car, it had suffered the usual 25-plus years of Wal-Mart rash. "David Gaspar, the guy who did the body and paint, did a fantastic job!" says Dale. "He was so particular that even the floors under the carpet were painted." After seeing the Viper Red car up close, we have to agree on the quality of the work.
Dale removed the original Slant-Six K-frame and replaced it with a 340 piece, adding discs from a '73 and a Line-Loc(TM) kit while he had it all out. Everything mechanical under the car that could be removed was sent out for powdercoating before being re-installed. Employed as a full-time fireman, Dale runs a welding business in his off-hours, so welding in a set of Chassis Engineering subframe connectors was no problem. The whole underside was then coated with black POR-15, and new brake and fuel lines from Year One were installed. Out back, a B-Body 8-3/4 rear was fitted with 3.91 cogs and hung via Super Stock springs.
Inside, the original interior was cleaned up and deemed usable, with the exception of the cracked dash pad and full rubber floor mat. "If I could have found a new rubber mat I'd have put that back in. But I couldn't, so I went with a Legendary carpet kit," says Dale. We especially like the retention of the bench seat. A full compliment of gauges from Auto Meter, including a tach, were added, with Dale's brother-in-law Eddie Ruff handling the wiring chores, and Stephens Performance supplying a perfect used dash pad to cap things off. An automatic trans pedal assembly and shifterless-column were also installed since the 3-speed manual was being replace with a Cheetah-shifted 727 trans built by Turbo Action.
The theme of this issue celebrates Chrysler's Crate motor program, and if you paid any attention at all to the cover, you know what lurks at the heart of Dale's beast. The 380-horse 360 Magnum Crate was set in place on the stock 340/360 mounts. "Twenty minutes after the cover shoot, it was in place," says Dale. "Three hours after that the trans and driveshaft were installed, as was the full TTI exhaust system--and it was running!" Granted, Dale has the advantage of a lift, so trans and exhaust installation went a little quicker than it would for the rest of us, but this simply demonstrates that as people are demanding higher-quality parts that fit the way they should, the aftermarket is responding accordingly. "The TTI exhaust system is perfect," says Dale. "Nice big tubes with mandrel bends; nothing hits, and there are no clearance problems! The whole thing went in perfectly with no cutting or bending. I welded it up, but the kit doesn't require it--it comes with clamps so anybody can do it." The same holds true for the replacement 3/8-inch fuel lines from Year One. Because the Magnum motors are balanced differently than the older LA engines, Dale relied on assistance from Bouchillon Performance when it came time to order and balance the JW Transmissions 10-inch, 3,500-rpm stall torque converter.
Dale had the whole combination in the car once before our cover shoot to test it out on the track. With a smaller exhaust system consisting of 5/8-inch headers and 2-1/4-inch exhaust, and street tires, the Crate 360 ran 12.82 right out of the box! It nosed over a little on the top end due to fuel starvation, and that's when Dale decided on the larger Year One fuel lines, the larger TTI 1-3/4-inch primary-tube headers, and their Mandrel-bent 2-1/2-inch exhaust system. He hasn't run a quarter-mile time since the upgrades, but considering it ran high-12s with the restrictive fuel lines, small exhaust and street tires, we'd say low-12s or high-11s is a conservative estimate.