In February 2001 I finally got around to pulling the heads. When I had the heads off, I could see that the tops of the pistons were so eroded around the perimeter that I could see the rings (probably from detonation due to the old distributor). I called Chuck Lofgren of Lofgren Auto Specialties in Cedar, Minnesota, to see if he was interested in fooling around with a Hemi. We did a basic rebuild, with Glenn Knowlton porting and rebuilding the heads, Chuck machining the block, and myself assembling it. I put in a slightly hotter cam and a few other miscellaneous improvements. While the motor was out, I painted and detailed the engine compartment.
I decided to rebuild the tranny and sent some of the gears to Liberty Transmissions to have new teeth put on them because they were rounded off. Six weeks later I had it all back together and made it to the strip for practice. I went to the Pure Stock Musclecar Drag race in Stanton, Michigan, in September 2001 and qualified Sixth with a 12.62 at 114 mph.
I raced a few more times before winter and got it to run a 12.45 in the fall air. Remember that little crack in the block? Over the summer it grew to about five inches long. In December 2001 I stumbled across a '66 Hemi block, so I pulled the motor out of the car and decided to switch to that block. I put the original block on the shelf for future repair when the car enters the full restoration phase. About that time, the factory-appearing drags idea started, and Dave Dudek and Mike Wowk were looking for possible contestants. I said I would run and changed my plans for the motor. I built the short-block to 484 cubes, put in a roller cam, and put on my original heads and manifolds. Chuck Lofgren did the machine work, and I put it together . . . again. I also built my own custom stock-appearing oil pan that holds 8 quarts and added a Dr. Gas X pipe to the exhaust.
I have done almost all work on the car myself, and that's how I like it. It just goes to show, when you're looking for a car you think you'll never find, when you least expect it, expect it.