Call them restomods, restifications, or techno-modified street machines, the craze of incorporating newfangled technology into classic domestic iron sure is popular these days. trick hand-fabricated suspensions, fuel-injected engines, luxury interior accommodations-power seats, climate control, CD/DVD players, LCD screens, Sony Playstations, self-programming lumbar support-and exotic materials like carbon fiber, titanium alloys, and rich Corinthian leather, all of which takes the untamed musclecar and throws it out the window. The reverberation of uncorked exhaust mingled with the smell of aged black vinyl has been replaced with smooth, sound-deadened interiors with a bevy of surround-sound speakers and crisp air-conditioned air breezing through the factory vents. Rough and jittery suspensions, characteristic of these aged machines, have been updated with rigid supports, lighter materials, and firmer joints that eliminate yaw, body roll, and the all-too-familiar creaks and groans associated with these cars.
John Balow's shop, Muscle Car Restorations (MCR) in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, was responsible for turning Editor Bolig's drab army-green Valiant into the arrow-straight, eye-blindingly white A-Body it is today. They also have had many of their clients' Mopars featured in our pages, including a pair of Super Stock A-Body clones, outstanding street cruisers, and some of the most perfect concourse-grade restorations we've ever seen. So when John came up to us at the SEMA show in Las Vegas with this wild concept, he had our attention.
Hired by famed NHRA Funny Car driver Dean Skuza to build this wild car, John contacted some of the biggest players in the Mopar musclecar marketplace, including Year One, Mopar Performance, TCI, FAST, and Stainless Steel Brakes. Dean wanted his one-of-definitely-none Mopar to be a Challenger or 'Cuda, as their sleek styling and aggressive stance made for some of the most iconic musclecars to emerge over the years.
A donor Challenger was found, and MCR quickly skinned the E-Body of its quarters; the rest of the car was stripped of all paint, primer, and filler. The metal work was so extensive the Challenger ended up being nearly half new as much as it was original tin. Mounted to a rotisserie, the E-Body was hoisted up in the air and attended to by MCR's best bodymen. Straight and smooth, the musclecar-on-a-spit was wheeled into the paint booth where several layers of thick primer were coated onto every inch of the bare body. PPG answered the call and provided plenty of original EV2 Hemi Orange. MCR dedicated hours to painting every inch perfectly, including the undercarriage and wheelwells. Once cured and wet-sanded, the body was taken to their assembly wing where the front suspension was installed.
From the inception, John and Dean had conceptualized a modern 5.7-liter pounding out close to 400 hp. Dean also thought the antiquated K-member and torsion bar suspension wouldn't cut the mustard, so MagnumForce was contacted to provide a full tubular engine cradle. Married to a Flaming River manual rack-and-pinion, the new chrome-moly tubular K-frame utilized new lightweight upper-and-lower control arms, heavy-duty sway bars, and coilover springs and shocks provided by QA1. With a fully customized engine cradle in place, the next-generation Hemi fits in snuggly. Stainless Works custom fabricated a pair of polished stainless steel headers that run down to a T/A-style, side-exit exhaust system provided by Year One.
Yet, the new Hemi wasn't just pulled from the crate and plopped in under the fiberglass hood. FAST (Fuel Air Spark Technology) created a totally one-off fuel-management system utilizing their XFI technology. John says, "Installing a late-model, computer-controlled engine in an older car is nothing new. FAST came to our rescue with their first complete system for the 5.7 Hemi. This system uses all the factory sensors, while allowing this system to remain fully tunable to the point that Dean can even program up to four preset tuning levels that can each be optimized for different conditions (cruising, racing, mileage, and so on) and can be controlled from a switch on the dash. Maybe best of all, and unlike the factory computer, the FAST system does not impose any torque limitations on this engine so Dean will realize the full potential of his Hemi."
A custom wire loom was woven, and a special throttle body and computer controller was designed. With a monster air-filter element, the free-flowing Hemi now punches out near SRT-8, 6.1-liter numbers with little effort. Since the powerplant is only as good as its transmission, TCI pulled out the stops with their super-stout TorqueFlite. With a special bellhousing mated up to the new Hemi, the 727 sports a 2,500-stall torque converter that is controlled by a stock-style Slap Stick automatic shifter.
Full Auto Meter instrumentation rests in the carbon-fiber gauge bezel. Keeping tabs on eve
All that power needs to come to a stop at some point, so new brakes were required. John says, "Now there's no way that a speed lover like Dean would ever be content with the performance of the stock disc/drum brake setup, let alone what they would look like through the five-spoke Weld wheels, so high-performance disc brakes from Stainless Steel Brakes were bolted on all the way around. Both front and rear lightweight aluminum calipers are of a four-piston design with an extra mechanical parking brake added in the rear. All four vented rotors are 1111/44 inches. With the additional discs in back and the ability to tweak the proportioning valve, he should be able to stop nearly as fast as he can start."
The rearend is just as high-tech and state-of-the-art with a Dana 60 with an ARB air-locker system. Originally intended for use by extreme four-wheelers, Dean can simply flip a switch from the driver seat and, in a moment, convert his open differential, which is more suited for twisted back roads, into a spool that will ensure he leaves nothing at the line. A small air compressor in the trunk supplies pressure to move a locking ring inside the differential that stops the wheels from free-wheeling independently; turning the pump off returns the rearend back to an open configuration. As an added bonus, the pump can even be used to reinflate a tire.