When it came to building factory Super Stock machines, nobody did it like Chrysler. Sure, the early '60s had some stout Pontiacs and Chevy packages, but GM's racing ban in early 1963 ended all that. Ford and Mercury had released hot drag cars as well, but with only a few exceptions, they were never as visible as the Mopars. When you thought about Super Stock monsters grappling toward the stars, it was Belvederes, Barracudas, Darts, and Coronets.
The production packages released with Max Wedges ended in 1964 when the Hemi came on line, and the '65 machines continue to be legendary, even today. In 1967, the year before the ultimate S/S weapons were put together by Hurst and cloaked in A-body skin, the factory built a fairly sedate race package (indeed, some recently uncovered paperwork suggests that it may have even been veiled to be a Stock rather than a Super Stock vehicle). The reasoning was likely to keep the '65 cars as competitive as possible by moving the cars further down in the pecking order of the new Super Stock division NHRA had developed for the '67 season, and the cars ended up in SS/B. Somewhat saddled with weight and lacking in the hardware that helped put the '65 versions on the map, these Belvederes and Coronets were not particularly stellar in their careers, though they would win on occasion.
Fast forward into the 21st century, and the '67 drag packages coded WO23 (Dodge) and RO23 (Plymouth) have become hot properties. well-heeled collectors are now converting many of the remaining cars (estimated to have been done in batches of 55 each) back into standard as-delivered cars, painted in white, and showing little sign of their performance heritage beyond the broad steel scoop bolted to the hood.
The Coronet you see here might have suffered a similar fate with conformity had Mike and Rhonda Ricketts not decided they wanted a piece that would both show and go.
"I've had over 120 old Mopars since I was about 16," says Mike, who lives in the northeastern Detroit suburb of Chesterfield Township. "Some beauties, some rare, some average, some transportation, and some just plain junk."
The history of this particular Dodge is unknown, though Mike heard a rumor it was raced in the Chicago area. By the time he bought its remains in the late '90s from a Pennsylvania owner, it was, in his words, "completely used-up." Thus began a process of restoration and upgrades that would take five years and a substantial amount of cash to finish, but would reward the Ricketts with an award-winning combination. Two other '67 Coronets donors were needed to get it back to looking right; this is one of the reasons Mike chose to go racing rather then deal with the restoration issues of doing so much rebuilding.
After the shell was treated to nicer sheetmetal to replace panels that had been chopped in its bracket days, the rear wheel lips were stretched 5 inches over the center of the opening to make the big tires look right. Freeland, Michigan, chassis man Al Wisniewski (Racefab) got it after it had been acid-dipped, epoxy-coated, and baked, and began the work of bringing the car back from the dead. A modern chrome-moly cage went inside, along with a Grant wheel on a custom column, Kirkey aluminum seats, and Auto Meter gauges; the upholstery was accented with red paint on the exposed metal.
"The extra silver trim on the interior, all these N.O.S. trim parts-I got really stupid with this car," Mike says with a grin.
Since the hope was to actually race the car again, the suspension was rebuilt primarily for straight-line action. Strange supplied the double-adjustable front shocks and the brakes; Racefab custom-built the four-link and 60-inch wheelie bars; the rear shocks (also double adjustable) came from Afco; and lightweight Bogart wheels round out the package. With an Auto Body Specialties hood and Sled City scoop (not NHRA legal, unfortunately), the car runs over the scales at just under 3,300 pounds. Credit for the incredible silver paint (a custom mix using House of Kolor pigments) goes to Jack Pennington, who also did the angry elephant cartoon on the hoodscoop; Rudy the Striper handled the rest of the paint detail.
Under the hood is a full-tilt Super Stock engine that cranked out 900-plus ponies on the dyno at Chuck Millen's Best Machine in Warren, Michigan. Using a new Mopar block, Mike was able to get a brand-new engine to replace the long-gone original, with a blueprinted Callies crankshaft, GRP rods, and C/P pistons spinning safely to eight grand in the bottom end. Scott Brown at Straightline Performance spec'd out a roller cam that opens the valves in conjunction with Jesel, Smith Brothers, Comp, and Isky components. The top end was all customized: heads worked by Modern Cylinder Head, a Hogan intake, and twin Holleys modified by Pro Systems (an NHRA legal combo will need the AFB's back on it; this layout is for fun and testing), with an NRC offset distributor, and MSD parts sparking the fuel.
A TorqueFlite, worked over by JPT, handles the gear changes, along with an 8-inch PTC converter, Griner transbrake, and PPP air shifter. Racefab built a Dana 60 housing with moly tubing that uses 5.13 Richmond gears and Strange pieces. The car rides on Moroso and M/H rubber.
The engine in Mike's monster...
The engine in Mike's monster is a "little more legal" than NHRA will allow. Race-prepped carbs, an independent runner intake, exotic valvegear, and lots of goodies make this one a touch on the stock questionable side.
We at Mopar Muscle don't cover a lot of race iron, but this one is special. It won first place in Super Stock (race car division) at the '06 Detroit Autorama, Best Race car at the '06 CEMA show at DaimlerChrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, and took second place at the '06 Engelhart Performance Customer Appreciation Day, where it was up against over 40 other race Hemi entries from around the country.
Mike's nephew Joel Ricketts and pal John Terenzi worked with him on the project from day one, putting in a lot of time and sweat to make it complete.
To date, testing has yielded times in the 9-second range at 138 mph without trying hard; Mike plans to dial the car down into the 9.0s closer to 150 mph. Still debating a shot at NHRA Super Stock, he and Rhonda hope to get some laps in running at Mopar-oriented and nostalgia drag racing events once they finish showing the car this year.
Mike says, "I will probably never do a car detailed to this extent again. a lot of people thought I was nuts to put this kind of money into a race car, but I'd like to meet the guy who said a race car can't be nice. with mufflers and plates, it could probably be street driven."
FAST FACTS: '67 WO23 Dodge Coronet race carMike and Rhonda Ricketts . Chesterfield Township, MI
Engine: With help from Chuck Millen at Best Machine in Warren, Michigan, Mike's ride is ready for wheels-up battle, with 915 horses on tap in its current configuration. Heads with titanium valves came from Modern Cylinder Heads, while the .800-plus cam was a design by Scott Brown at Straightline Performance. The intake, hosting a pair of Pro Systems-massaged Holley 4150s, was custom-built by Hogan, while Hookers handle the exhaust; a Jesel belt keeps it all in time. Jesel rockers, Smith Brothers pushrods, and Jesel lifters are housed beneath the custom Moroso valve covers.
The block came from Mopar and got the full treatment-stress relieved, align-bored crank and cam journals, deck clean-up-before getting treated to hard parts from Callies (crank), GRP rods, ARP bolts, and C/P pistons with a static compression ratio of 13.5 (thanks to Shelby Township, Michigan's Ed "'the balancing guy"). An MSD Digital 7 box, offset NRC distributor (due to the manifold), NGK plugs, MagnaCore wires, and two trunk-mounted 16-volt Power Master batteries round out the go package.
Transmission: This one has a 727 'Flite under the tunnel, which was built by JPT and works in conjunction with a 6,000-plus-rpm stall 8-inch PTC converter. A Griner brake and CSI shield round this part out, and Mike grabs gears with a PPP floor-mounted air shifter. Differential: Racefab (that also did the chassis) built a custom Dana 60 housing for the car; 5.13 gears make it impractical for grocery runs (that's why Mike has his Hemi wagon).
Horsepower and Performance: 915 at 8,000 or so; 9.7s at 138 best to date, but there's still more in it.
Suspension: During its time at Racefab, artisan Al Wisniewski took care of the heavy lifting, which included a complete rear subframe, four-link layout, 20-point cage, and custom 60-inch moly wheelie bars. Shocks are adjustable Strange units up front and Afco biggies in the back. the stock front suspension and steering layout were not re-engineered, though a custom steering column was added.
Brakes: Strange on all four corners.
This big Dodge isn't street...
This big Dodge isn't street legal, but Mike got away without a ticket as he rumbled through Elkton, Minnesota, during the Engelhart Customer Appreciation show last July. Yep, it rattled the windows.
Wheels and Rubber: Bogart 15X311/42 with Moroso DS2 rubber in the front; Bogart 15X10 with M/T 10.5-33x15W in the back.
Body: when purchased, the shell was spent, so two pedestrian Coronets shed parts to make it right. After prep, the whole shell was acid-stripped and epoxy-coated to keep the metal mites away forever. Real acid dipping was done on some of the replacement pieces for weight reduction. Tricks include the fiberglass, big scoop/hood combination, smoothed cowl, welder wiper pivot holes, and a 5-inch widening of the rear wheel openings for better tire clearance and great aesthetics. The car is straight as an arrow now, loaded with N.O.S. trim and complete detail. Purists would say it's a rebody; the machine will hold court on the racetrack for its real approval.
Paint: Jack Pennington gets the credit for House of Kolors' silver in a custom mix.
Interior: No radio or heater in here, but comfort and class are another story as Mike combined mild customizing with race-bred equipment. The door upholstery and trim inside is appealing to the eye. Mike Browne at Wires and Pliers did the masterpiece job of wiring the car.