It's gone on since the first automobiles were built; run whatcha' brung and hope you brung enough. Of course, for those of us who still live in the musclecar mental age, those bragging rights become ever more important. For years, events like the Supercar Showdown and Buick vs. Hemi tests in the late, great Musclecar Review magazine kept some of the hottest fires in this verbal battle stoked. Now, with a new century upon us, we have another champion from the Mopar camp.
This story begins at the Mopar Nationals two years ago, when Dave Dudek of Shelby Township, Michigan, was looking for a car. Watching the action around the car corral, Dudek saw a Plum Crazy '70 Challenger R/T made up as a Hemi clone roll in, and took a closer look. The car was in nice shape, to be sure, but before he could even talk to the guy, another man said he would take it, but he had to ask his wife first. That fella left and the owner turned to Dudek and said, "The first one with the money gets it." Dave said, "Then I'll take it," gave the man a down payment (about half the price), and then admitted he did not have the rest with him there in Columbus and he would have to forward it. The seller looked him over, then said, "Go ahead and take the car; you can send me the rest of the money when you get home." So home it went!
It was a great base to start from. The R/T's paint was in nice condition. The interior of the Dodge needed some attention, however, so Dave installed a new set of white door panels and cleaned up the factory seats and rally dash. A factory Rim Blow steering wheel keeps this "guided missile" on the straight and narrow, and the factory Hurst pistol grip shifter remains in the console. It looks like a true high-demand E-Body package, but Dave decided that just being another show field jewel was not his desire for the Dodge.
Instead, the plan was to create a true Mopar giant killer without modifying the stock external appearance of the driveline or car. This meant cast iron exhaust manifolds, treaded restoration-type tires, no additional Fresh Air enhancements, and no serious rear suspension changes. Yet under those constraints, the car would need to reach the type of performance levels that were only dreamed of by the factory media reps in the '60s and '70s. Ironically, the title of this sort of creation is now called "Stock Appearing" (which is sort of like NHRA and IHRA door cars being "Stock").
The driving force behind the obsession was the fact that Dudek was watching some of the GM boys with their so-called factory machinery bolt slicks at the track and suddenly able to yank the front wheels off the ground. Hey, what was up with that!? You want to play, Mr. GM Weenieman? The Hemi is coming, boy!
Actually, the other Mopars racing were close, within two or three tenths of the quickest GM car, but the Hemi offered so much more potential as a scienced-out race package. Since Dave had unfortunately dropped a valve at his first Factory Stock race, the engine was going to need a little freshening up anyway.
Keeping the work in Michigan, the short block ended up at Automotive Machine in Frasier, where the reciprocating assembly was carefully balanced and the block prepped to close clearances. At the same time, the elephant heads went to Clinton Township's Modern Cylinder Head, where they got a bit of TLC as well. We could tell you what they did, if Dave would tell us...but he won't. This is war, and you know how us media people are about blabbing stuff around! Regardless, the big engine was in good hands (even has a camshaft with real bumps on it, Dave admits) and the attention now focused on the driveline.
A good friend by the name of Tom George tweaked the Hemi four-speed crash-box, though it was left with standard HD internals (no slick shift mods). Brewers' Performance in Ludlow falls, Ohio, gets the credit for those parts as well as the rest of the driveline pieces. The exhaust work and frame ties were done by Gary Cook at PF&E Race Shop, also in Clinton Township, and Jake's Automotive in Sterling Heights set up the suspension to help the car hook and go straight on those skinny F60-15 PolyGlas tires. Despite the horses and clutch abuse, the 4.10:1 Sure Grip and stock axles remain in the 831/44 rear under the car. You probably can't break it if the tires are smoking, and Dave uses uncanny finesse to let that clutch pedal up.
Now with the car back together and on equal footing with the other "Stock Appearing" cars, the Hemi has consistently been posting the quickest times at every race he has attended. Due to traction woes, most of the competitors are using automatics, yet Dudek is putting them down with a four-speed. As you can see, the car looks showroom stock and idles like a station wagon. With the loud pedal to the metal, Dave's best times on drag radials are unreal 11.40s at 119 mph, and on factory-type F60-15 Goodyear PolyGlas rubber, the car went as fast as 11.92 at 118 mph.
Now, looking for a few more angles, those factory exhaust manifolds have been extrude-honed, and other subtle mods that help the Hemi look stock but run like a screamin' banshee. At the Year One Bristol Bash in Tennessee, where we shot these photos, the Hemi clocked the aforementioned 11.92 (which was the fastest-ever et and mph for a stock-appearing car on OEM-type tires). In good air closer to sea level, Dave fully expects to hit 11.60s. And, by the way, them big-talking GM boys can't seem to be found now when Dudek gets ready to go to the line. King of the Hill? No, how about King of the Factory Stock-Appearing universe!
Secret AgentsLike we said, Dave is playing the game to win, and elected not to tell us everything about his earth-shattering Hemi car. He did, however, point out a few things that would be applicable to many restored/stock car owners who might decide to trip the quarter-mile lights fantastic. Read carefully and quickly, as the information will self-destruct in five seconds...four...three..