A pair of Auto Meter gauges keeps a close watch on the engine.
Paul loaded up the Dart again and sent it back to Ray's shop for another go. This time, the bodywork would be perfected, and the paint would be sprayed. Under their skillful hands, the Dart would also be mini-tubbed to swallow up the large rubber that Paul had in mind. Coated in factory FC7 Plum Crazy Purple DuPont acrylic enamel, the body looked better than it had when it rolled off the assembly line. The white tail stripe was added, but the original white vinyl top was omitted. They opted to paint the roof pearl white, while retaining the factory vinyl top trim to make a faux top.
After the Dart came home, the reassembly process commenced. Its suspension was rebuilt using stock-style '73 single-piston caliper disc brakes with larger diameter torsion bars. The rear brakes employed are large 11-inch drums from an E-Body, and Super Stock springs hang the axle in place. Since the wheeltubs were spread, a spring relocation kit was needed to set the shortened Chrysler 831/44 rear. The rearend uses a 4.10-geared Sure Grip and custom Moser big-bolt patterned axles.
With aggressive-looking twin hoodscoops and a hungry 440 underneath, it would make little
With the Dodge able to roll around on its Weld Pro Star wheels, Paul sent the A-Body to Seang's Aut Upholstery in South Hadley, Massachusetts, but not before father and son had laid the new Legendary black carpet down. Seang's recovered the bench seats in black vinyl, and a Pistol Grip shifter replaced the ball shifter. An Alpine head unit was tucked underneath the seat so the factory thumb-wheel radio could stay in place.
Paul had decided early on that he was going to return an 833 manual transmission to the Dart. Once the project was nearing completion, a transmission was located, rebuilt, and mated to a scatter shield, a Hurst shifter, and stronger clutch assembly.
For the first time in the build, things were going along smoothly. Paul bolted the four-speed to the refurbished 340 and fired the engine for the first time . . . and that was when their luck ran out.
The small-block suffered from a variety of internal problems, eating up parts, and becoming far more troublesome than it was worth. Frustrated, Paul yanked the 340 and shelved it, replacing the LA block with a fresh RB 440. Accurate Automotive in Bloomfield, Connecticut, handled the machining process and, finally, shipped the plant to Paul's doorstep as a complete, turnkey powerhouse. The block was deburred, cleaned, and clearanced; street-friendly TRW pistons were mated to stock rods and a balanced factory crankshaft. Topped with an Edelbrock TM7 intake and an 850 Holley double pumper, the engine looks stock but reveals itself as a street thumper with a flash of the throttle. With a stout 440 at his disposal, Paul decided to have a little fun and create a would-be Mr. Norm's clone had the infamous performance-geared dealership continued their A-Body modifications through 1970.
It's nearly 100-percent stock because it doesn't need to be anything else. The Pistol Grip
Finished with tti ceramic-coated headers, 3-inch exhaust tubing, and Walker Turbo mufflers, the little A-Body is a meaner manifestation than it ever was with the warmed-over 340. All the work, patience, sweat, money, and frustration paid off in June 2004 when Paul pulled it out of the garage, pointed the front wheels down the street, and mashed the gas pedal-nearly 15 years after the day his son Joe brought it home.
It was shortly thereafter the Dart took home Second Place in its class at the '05 Chryslers at Carlisle event, where Mr. Norm, the celebrated auto-tuner, pulled out his pen and gave the 440 Swinger his stamp of approval on the Hemi orange air cleaner.