The theme is as old as cars themselves: "mine is bigger/better/ faster/cooler than yours." Of course, this attitude could be proved (or disproved) in a mechanical joust; like the knights of old, it's a contest for honor more than anything else. While sanctioned drag racing as a sport is certainly more commercial than a simple matching of competitors for bragging rights, such matches still exist. When Tom Leasure of the Port City Mopar Club told us there would be a special race during their Mopars At The Rock event at Rockingham Dragway last April, we became more and more interested.
Two of the members were going to compete in a single quarter-mile race. What's unique about this is both cars were '70 'Cudas-one equipped with a 440-6 four-speed driveline, the other a Hemi automatic. Assisted by track owner Steve Earwood, their match would be the first cars to go down the North Carolina surface when Sunday's final eliminations began.
'70 Hemi 'Cuda - Dave Blankenship
Let's face it, little equals the street-savvy attitude of a Hemi E-Body. Even when these cars were new, buyers understood. According to sources, more '70 'Cudas were built with a Hemi under the hood than any other body style the elephant was offered in during its six-year run. Led by Ronnie Sox, Arlen Vanke, and Don Grotheer, the cars quickly established a reputation in Pro Stock drag racing, while sportsman machines, such as Super Stock magazine's Project Hemi 'Cuda (which they gave away at the end of the season) romped on amateur competitors.
Dave Blankenship of Holden Beach, North Carolina, bought an example three years ago; it was the car he'd always wanted. Although Dave enjoyed it, he thought it needed to be fully restored. After all, it showed only 2,674 miles on the odometer. The car was originally purchased as a drag car, and the first owner had run it as a legal stocker, then parked it. It was owned by a couple of other people since then, but still had some minor upgrades, so it wasn't really "stock."
"I'll be happy if the car runs down in the 12s; I'll be very happy with that," said David before the race. "I plan to do a dry burnout to keep water out of the tire grooves and the fenderwells, then leave and shift it at about 5,500 rpm."
In terms of changes, the engine has a mild solid lifter cam in place of the stock hydraulic, Hooker Super Competition headers, a deep-sump oil pan, and a Mopar Performance electronic ignition. A stock stall converter and a mild TCI TorqueFlite, coupled to a 4:10 Dana 60 rear are behind the engine. A pair of BFGoodrich 275/60R15 drag radials top it off. Dave admitted that since he wanted to make just one last run, he wanted to know how good he could perform with minimal changes; the tires were an afterthought put on for this match.
'70 440-6 'Cuda - Sonny Hart
Since the car was ordered as a race machine, it has few frills. The Shaker hoodscoop, the red hockey stripe on the side, and the black vinyl roof, plus driving lights and lower rocker extensions are all that came on the car. The interior features the Rally-style dash, black vinyl-covered seats, and the console-mounted Slap Stick shifter; no power steering, no power brakes. This one was born to run in every sense of the word.
Sonny Hart from Bolton, North Carolina, is In the lane opposite David. Sonny purchased his '70 'Cuda a year-and-a-half ago. Originally bought in California, the 74,000-mile Plymouth had already been fully restored when it came up for sale in the newspaper. Its owner needed some cash due to family concerns, and Sonny says the price was right. Except for its color differences (EF8 Green Metallic with a black vinyl top and white interior), it looks very similar to Dave's car, with an Argent Gray Shaker scoop and rocker panel extensions.