We saw it on TV, and we listened anxiously to the news reports as the war in Iraq got underway. Our troops were heading toward Bahgdad, Mosul, Tikrit, and other places. For hardened Marines like Ron Polidora, street taking and nightly fire-fights were a fact of life.

Ron, now stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, has been in the United States Marine Corp for 17 years. He spent most of 2003 overseas defending freedom, apart from his wife Karen and 12-year-old son Dylan. One of the things that kept him going despite terrorist attacks, unexpected problems, and blowing sand was this '73 Duster street/strip beast. "Other than my family and the Marine Corps, that car is my life," he says with a laugh.

Painted in late-model yellow paint, the Plymouth has been a labor of love since 2002. It now sports a 1970 grille, which matches the Six Pack fiberglass hood and 'glass bumpers. A standard factory-appearing stripe down the body line ends with 440 instead of 340, and the wide Mickey Thompson tires on Weld Wheels Draglite rims give ample evidence that this one was born to run.

Under the bonnet is some serious horsepower right out of a modern era playbook. Ron's previous street cars-a '74 Duster and a '76 Volare-also sported variations of Mopar's most popular RB mill, but he went all out on this car. The idea was to build an engine that would work on Main Street or on 1320 feet of racetrack.

Starting with a .030-inch over factory block and steel crank, the bottom end gets a hand from 12.5:1 Ross pistons, Bill Miller aluminum rods, and a Cloyes timing outfit machined and balanced by R.C. Whitcomb that spins safely to 6,800 rpm. Indy Cylinder Heads got called on for the top end-a pair of big-port 440-1 heads equipped with Indy valves and Isky springs that take fuel from a big Indy 440-3 single plane intake. This is topped off by a Pro Systems-prepped Holley Dominator, with the air/fuel mix sparked by a combination of MSD and NGK pieces. An Optima battery shares space in the trunk with a 10-gallon fuel cell.

Ron admits the Max Wedge-size ports were an issue when the motor was first built because of the small displacement; he uses an 8-inch 4,800-stall PT converter to get the car moving, but the real secret is a special solid lifter camshaft carved by Scott Brown.