"As luck would have it, my next-door neighbor and good friend, Larry O'Neal, offered to rebuild, balance, and blueprint the engine-one that would be befitting the GTX," Darrell says. Larry runs Larry's Performance Engines, also in Lakeland. Before Larry could cook up a 440 for the GTX, he gave Darrell a shopping list, which included: Edelbrock 6092 aluminum heads; a Torker single-plane aluminum intake; a Holley 850 double-pumper; a Comp 23-741-8 roller cam; solid lifters; Crane Gold race rockers; TRW L2355 pistons; and March Performance serpentine pulleys. Also on the list was a Milodon 7-quart oil pan with pickup; a true roller timing gearset; a Mopar Performance electronic ignition and aluminum water-pump housing; Dynomax headers with Stage 8 lockers; a Fluidamper balancer; and a K&N filter. All this was built around the factory rotating assembly.
"When Larry pulled those brand-spanking-new heads out of the box and commenced to porting and polishing, I thought I'd die," Darrell says. While Larry built the engine, Darrell and his 9-year-old daughter, Danielle, attempted their first transmission rebuild with a B&M TransKit in hand. "The instructions from B&M were clear and concise, so we had no difficulty rebuilding the 727," he says. "And needless to say, the engine turned out beautiful. With the engine on the stand and all the sub-assemblies restored, I waited anxiously for the bodywork."
Finally, Jeff needed a color code. "I wasn't really enthused about the factory [GG1] Dark Forest Green because I wanted the stripes to show well," Darrell says. "I did want to keep the spirit of the green and white factory colors somehow; the car just needed more pizzazz." For that, Darrell turned to his wife, Theresa, who picked out the Jalapeno Green Metallic. Black stripes and Pearl White interior from Legendary would complement the emerald color. Jeff painted the car with PPG basecoat/clearcoat and then wet-sanded and buffed it.
Soon, Darrell had the car back home and sitting on the chassis. After about four months of putting all the subassemblies back on the car, it was time to install the engine. In July 2001, with the help of Larry and Jeff, the 440 went into the engine bay. After everything was hooked up and the fluids were checked, it was time for the moment of truth.
With Larry working the throttle from the outside and Jeff standing by with a fire extinguisher, Darrell turned the key. The instant roar of the 440 was the sound of success. "After a little tweaking here and there, it was on to Step Two," Darrell says. "I put the gearshift into Reverse and held my breath. It worked, much to my amazement, and I backed out into the light of day with my prize."
Although the car has not yet been on the dyno, Larry estimates it is about a 500hp engine. After the glass was installed and the frontend aligned, the GTX was ready to hit the road. In November 2002, Darrell drove the car 120 miles up to Don Garlits' 15th Annual Mopars With Big Daddy show, and it won First Place in the Participants' Choice category. Now, after taking advantage of some great examples of GTX restoration, Darrell finally has a jewel of his own.