During the mid-'90s, Mopar Performance was given the green light to begin production of their classic 426 Hemi line, beginning with reproduction engine blocks. Within months, due to the swarm of enthusiasts wanting to get their hands on the new Hemi plants, every available block was accounted for and hundreds were on back-order. The scarcity of original production Hemi-powered vehicles (a total of nearly 11,000 from 1966 to 1971) made availability of suitable blocks nearly impossible for any enthusiast who wanted to convert their wedge or six-cylinder-powered ride into a Hemi clone. by the time the Mopar Performance division unveiled the complete crate 426 at the turn of the 21st century, the venerable elephant engine was finding itself in more Mopars than the factory ever produced. the gearheads in Auburn Hills knew, if we build 'em, they will come. Chasing the tail of the repopped 426 Hemi's success, Mopar began releasing other engine combinations, such as the stroked 472, 528, and, most recently, the all-aluminum 540 monster available with a roots-style blower capable of over 900 hp. Enthusiasts didn't have to scour the want ads, internet web sites, or chase after crashed Hemi cars sitting in a farmer's field; they could just go to their local dealership and order a King Kong engine for their classic Mopar.
When Mike Ricketts picked up this '67 Coronet wagon from moparts.com, he knew what he was getting into. The wagon was used specifically for racing with a built 360 small-block with 904 heads, a standard 831/44 rear with 4.56 gears, and turned in respectable times in the mid-12s. Mike took possession of the Coronet and had it shipped to his home in Chesterfield, Michigan, in December 2004.
Here's proof of Mike's claims...
Here's proof of Mike's claims to solid 11-second passes and the possible future of a 10-second shot. Mike admits the Hemi needs a little more fine tuning before he'll see the 10-second mark, but he knows it's possible.
The wagon was in immaculate condition, sporting the faded factory white paint. Mike chose not to worry too much about the aesthetics of the B-Body, rather opting to focus on getting the wagon to haul ass as much as groceries. The drivetrain was yanked and sold off, and the money was used to help fund Mike's dreams for a better, faster sleeper wagon.
A wounded 528 crate engine was landed for an affordable price and quickly carted off to the engine savants at Best Machine Racing in Warren, Michigan. The block was align-bored and honed. Best Machine retained the Callies 411/44 stroker crank and fit 10.5:1 Wiseco pistons. Mike had a .576-lift hydraulic cam slid in to control the stock MP aluminum heads. He had the heads fashioned with Indy rockers and Isky springs to control the Manley stainless valves. A tall Indy single-plane intake is topped with a Holley Pro Systems three-circuit Dominator. Like any good racer, Mike had a MSD distributor put on to control the flame thrower's timing. Making well over 600 ponies, this elephant knows how to leave a mark. Unfortunately, the problem was fitting it under a stock hood. Mike had the K-frame spaced down, dropping the mounts and modifying the crossmember for the transmission. The 16-inch drop-base Straightline Performance air cleaner was also modified, as well as the large Hooker headers and radiator to accommodate the lowered engine. With all this custom fabrication, Mike knew he needed some special touches for his exhaust. For that, he turned to Diamond Fabrication to install the custom 3-inch cross-pipe exhaust system.
Mike needed a gearbox that could handle all the Hemi's power, so a 727 TorqueFlite automatic was built by Cope Racing Transmissions. It was fitted with a Turbo Action 9-inch 4,500-stall torque converter and a Griner manual valvebody. Marrying the automatic to the back wheels is a hefty Dana 60 by Moser with a Richmond spool and 4.10 gears. Stocked with stout Moser axles, the S/S Cragars boil the 15x7 slicks off without much cajoling. Super Stock leaf springs are out back, and the spartan engine compartment is free of power steering or brakes-everything is manual on this street/strip sleeper. Speaking of brakes, Mike had the original 10-inch drums yanked off and replaced with Wilwood discs. Considering a stock '68 GTX came in over 3,900 pounds, this entire package, surprisingly, weighs in at only 4,100 pounds with Mike sitting behind the wheel. Inside the Coronet, the interior is just as "bare as necessary" with a solid front bench facing Auto meter tachometer and gauges, a MSD shiftlight, and the Hurst Pistol Grip Quarter Stick shifter and line lock.
Wrapped up in a meager 12 weeks, the wagon runs on pump-friendly 93 octane. Mike wanted this B-Body wagon to look like a grocery getter, while eating the lunch of any who would second guess it. On more than one occasion, Mike has taken on the unknowing on-comer, which ended in their utter defeat. Mike jokes the wagon makes quick glue out of the neighborhood Mustangs and shines at the strip.
The beefy wagon launches hard, clicking off a 1.50-second 60-foot time and shoots the traps at an all-time best of 11.34 at 114 mph. Mike bemoans the Hemi's desperate need for a tune-up; he swears the wagon's got a solid 10-second ride in it. With all that power, we don't doubt it, and we can't wait to see the timeslip.
Mike asked the good people...
Mike asked the good people at Best Machine to rebuild a wounded 528 Mopar Performance crate engine for this wagon. With an aluminum top end and a tall single-plane intake from Indy, Mike had to do some pretty fancy footwork to fit this elephant underneath the flat stock hood. Mike lowered the K-frame and customized the transmission crossmember just to get the running gear to hang lower.
Here is the most common view...
Here is the most common view of Mike's Coronet.
It's function over form in...
It's function over form in this cabin. The bench seat works well for Mike's racing needs. The Pistol Grip and gauges are all this racer needs.
FAST FACTS: '67 Dodge Coronet Station Wagon
Mike Ricketts . Chesterfield, MI
It doesn't get much better than this-a Best Machine-built 528 Hemi. The Mopar Performance crate engine had been hurt by the previous owner and then sold. Mike knew what potential lay in the injured elephant, so he carted off his newest acquisition to the gearheads at Best Machine in Warren, Michigan. The crate was exhumed down to mere nuts and bolts, leaving the bare block to be bored and align-honed. The Kong engine received a Callies-crafted 411/44-inch stroker crank. Giant Wiseco 10.5:1 compression slugs filled up the eight freshly bored cylinders. A hydraulic .576-inch lift camshaft is the brain controlling the Mopar Performance aluminum cylinder heads, which were outfitted with Indy Cylinder Head rocker arms and taut Isky springs over Manley valves. The towering single-plane intake is a la Indy Cylinder Head as well. The Holley Pro Systems 3-Circuit Dominator is the open maw for this angry beast. An MSD distributor controls the spark and throws the flame at the right times. Large Hooker headers plumb the gas out the rear, and a modified Straightline Performance air cleaner filters enough of the intake air to keep the flow good and the air clean.
When it comes to automatic transmissions, there are many who would proclaim the Chrysler TorqueFlite 727 as the granddaddy of bulletproof slush boxes. Cope Racing Transmissions was called to build a gearbox that could handle all the Hemi had to dish out, so after a hearty rebuild using a Griner manual valvebody, a Turbo Action 9-inch 4,500-stall converter was slid on the input shaft. A Hurst Pistol Grip Quarter Stick shifter in the cabin dictates the shifts with the yank of the wrist.
If it's a Hemi, it needs a Dana. That's all there is to it. A Richmond spool is spun by Moser axles with a set of 4.10 gears that turn the big DOT street slicks into inky black goo.
Horsepower & Performance:
If a Hemi isn't making more than 500 horses, it doesn't deserve to wear the nameplate; trust us, Mike's is well over that number. On 93 octane, this grocery-getter-gone-berserk launches a 1.50 60-foot time and blows past the boards at 114 mph on an 11.34 quarter-mile.
Getting this wagon to get up and go is like trying to domesticate a grizzly bear, it can be done, but it takes some work. Big ol' Super Stock leafs in back plant that stout Dana 60 inplace. The front is a different story. The K-Frame needed some major modification to house the Hemi underneath the hood. It was dropped a couple of inches and modified to keep the powerplant planted. The transmission crossmember needed equal attention due to the change in positioning. The power options (brakes and steering) were also swapped out for manual since this wagon was reminiscent of the Super Stockers of yesteryear.
Modern Wilwood discs up front with factory drums out back.
Cragars all the way around. The S/Ss are 15x311/42 forward and 15x7s aft.
The pizza-cutters up front are wrapped in Moroso 7.10x29 discs, and big fat Goodyear cheater slicks measuring 30x9 are out back.
There's a lot of acreage here. Mike picked the wagon up from moparts.com. He knew the car was raced before, so when it came time to write checks for the B-Body (Big-Body) wagon, Mike didn't bother wasting too much on outside appearances. "It's a race car, not a show car," he says. The plain white paint was kept because it was there. The body was straight enough for Mike's needs, so it was left alone. Mike wanted to keep the wagon looking as stock as he could, so only the smallest of hints tell this sleeper is a killer.
Factory white. It doesn't get more sleeper than this.
When there's work to be done, you don't want a bunch of bells and whistles getting in the way. That is why Mike kept the interior accommodations at a bare minimum. The solid bench seats exemplify that. A Hurst Quarter Stick and Auto meter gauges (with the large amber shift light) are the only signs of any potential butt whooping that is about to take place. Everything is pretty much how a stripped-down Coronet wagon would come from the factory.