While we are quick to heap praise upon top-shelf restorations and finely preserved Mopars that may never again thunder down the open road, our admiration and whole-hearted endorsements are always earned by daily drivers-the stately warriors of a more vicarious era which continue to haunt the modern roads and send the whiny Rice Boyz scattering in their awesome wake.
Lake View, New York, resident Brian Mastrangelo is a member of this elite street brawling Mopar brigade. Seven years ago, at the spunky age of 21, Brian rescued a '70 'Cuda 383 from imminent demise. And in spite of a few hard knocks along the way, Brian refuses to make this predator a museum piece.
The 'Cuda was purchased in September 1993, in what Brian calls "fair condition." Of course, being a body and paint man by trade, his idea of fair might be in conflict with those of us who do not possess these skills. "The factory seam on the driver's side was torn from the tunnel to the rocker," says Brian. "On the passenger side there was an 11-inch tear in the same area. Also, the trunk floor was rotten where the gas tank sits."
For the first year the 383-powered 'Cuda sat in limbo; then, in November of 1994, Brian set to work in earnest. The car was stripped to the shell, placed on a rotisserie and received a complete redo. In addition to grinding and filling all of the welds, Brian replaced the entire front floor, the trunk pan and extensions, and incorporated his own frame connectors running between the front and rear subframe. He also spent considerable time repairing damage other than body rot. "It looked like somebody hit it with a baseball bat," says Brian.
Next up was the suspension. Here Brian elected to stay with the stock setup, replacing the worn original equipment with factory-fresh components. He even retained the stock front and rear drum brakes, although upgrades were made in the form of stainless steel brake and fuel lines. The 8¾-inch rear axle was enhanced with 4.10 Richmond gears and an adjustable pinion snubber, and Competition Engineering adjustable drag shocks were added to the four corners.
It proved to be a fairly staid restoration thus far, but once Brian turned his attention to the power department, he handed the V8 to Jan-Cen Racing Engines and told them to let it all hang out. The 383 was stripped and treated to an 0.060 overbore. Then the stock rods were balanced, topped with TRW forged pistons, and secured with ARP bolts. A Comp Cams .495-inch lift camshaft went up top and was accented with Comp Cams solid lifers, springs, and stock adjustable rockers. Higher up, the stock heads received a porting job before being topped with an Edelbrock aluminum Six Pack intake and three Holley two-barrels. A Moroso chrome 7.5-quart oil pan seals the bottom. On the spark management front, Jan-Cen selected a Mallory Unilite distributor and Crane Cams Hi-6 rev limiter and coil to handle ignition duties. Headman ceramic-coated headers and Flowmaster mufflers sporting 2.5-inch pipes round out the drivetrain upgrades.
Following the build up, Jan-Cen placed the 383 (now 393ci) on an engine dyno. Here the V8 was able to deliver a healthy peak horsepower of 460.5 at 5,500 rpm, and peak torque of 502.8 at 4,000 rpm.To help send all of this raucous torque to the rear wheels, the stock flywheel was balanced, then a Centerforce clutch system was sandwiched in front of the 833 four-speed tranny. This Brian topped off with a chrome driveshaft loop and a Hurst Competition Plus pistol-grip shifter with Reverse lockout.
After reupholstering the black interior, Brian installed the necessary monitoring devices for his well-endowed street machine, including a 5.5-inch Autometer Monster tach with shift light, and Autometer oil pressure and temperature gauges. A Hurst line lock was also added to assist in future drag race efforts. And in keeping with his intent to drive the 'Cuda on a daily basis, a Sony CD player was mounted in the dash, with an MTX 400-watt amp, 10-inch Orion subwoofers, Kenwood 6x9 three-way speakers and Sony 5.25-inch three-way door speakers included in the mix.
In August of 1995 Brian's work on the 'Cuda came to a close. But not the fun. Ever since leaving the shop his street monster has been on active status. Brian says that from April to October he enjoys participating in cruise nights, car shows, and "beating the snot out of" the 'Cuda. And when we met up with Brian at the 2000 Carlisle All Chryslers Nationals, that's exactly what he was up to-whomping on his driver atop the Mopar Muscle magazine-sponsored Dynotec Motorsports mobile chassis dyno. With a barometric pressure of 29.33 inches and intake temperature at 67.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the 'Cuda pulled down a top horsepower run of 319.5 and a maximum torque of 339.6 lb-ft at the tires.
We mentioned at the beginning of our story that Brian's 'Cuda has seen its share of hard knocks. Brian says they are funny to recount now, but they weren't so amusing at the time they happened. The first mishap occurred when he was getting the car ready for its paint job. "A fellow worker moved a car without brakes and smashed the header panel, which I had to repair." The next incident happened a bit later, and this time he only had himself to blame. "I was backing the car into the driveway with the car cover half on and hit a '95 Ram truck. No damage to the truck, but the car was another matter. I had to replace the rear bumper and repair the deck lid in time for a car show."
But wait! There's more...
"I started the car up before going to work, and the emergency brake was not properly set. The car rolled out the driveway and into the ditch across the street. It was still running when I came out. I had to put the car on the frame machine and pull out and repair the lower core support, repair the fender where the bumper pushed into it, replace the front lower valance, replace the license plate, repair the right front door where the fender pushed into it, and repaint the car."
Like we said, Brian Mastrangelo's 'Cuda takes its punches and comes right back for more.
Owner: Brian Mastrangelo
Engine displacement: 393 ci (383 bored .060)
Power at the tires: 319.5 hp, 339.6 lb-ft
Interesting Features: Brian's a body man by trade, which is good considering therough life this 'Cuda has led!