On the third anniversary of the Mopar Muscle True Street Challenge in Las Vegas, Nevada, we here at Mopar Muscle were inundated with applicants wanting to tough it out with their streetcars. Sifting through piles of applications, letters, photos, and bribes (we wish!), we ended up with what we felt was the best cross-section of representatives of the Mopar fan base-two small-blocks, a 340 and a stroked 408, one 383, one 400 that sported a masterfully polished fuel-injection system, two 440s, one Indy-headed Six-Pack, and four Hemis fitted into four B-Bodies, three A-Bodies, and three E-Bodies.
For those who are new to Mopar Muscle or have never heard of the True Street Challenge (TSC), let us fill you in. Other magazines present the enthusiast market with streetcar challenges every year. Unfortunately, their definition of streetcar usually is the headlights and turn signals work, the doors open and close, and, occasionally, the windshield wipers work (if there are any). The MM TSC demands these cars be driven, and not just anywhere, but on a grueling 22-mile loop around the scorching-hot Nevada desert on run-of-the-mill pump gas. We tag along for the ride and evaluate each car on its road manners.
Many quarter-mile gladiators require the necessary additional rigidity to survive the hard pulls that gobs of horsepower make. Thereby, their road behavior is usually insufferable to the layman. to score a perfect 10 in this category, you have to find the fine line between daily driver or cruiser and drag machine. After the road trip, the cars are corralled back at the judging grounds where the MM staff scours the car for signs of excellence in craftsmanship, overall detail, paint and body, fit and finish, and interior. Then comes the moment of truth-the 1320.
Obviously, we'd like to see these monsters obliterate the quarter-mile in record time, but because many of these cars have spent most of their years as daily drivers, that would be hoping for a little too much. What we do consider is consistency of times and speeds, which helps to indicate not only the potency of the vehicle, but also the driver's capacity and familiarity with the machine at hand. Sometimes, like an old violin in a master's hand, it can make beautiful music.
Rumbling BeeMike Bellis of San Ramon, California, is a little bit of a celebrity. This yellow '69 Super Bee was the featured B-Body on Dodge's Rumble Bee advertisements. Unfortunately, the ad execs wanted the Bee to be a Hemi car, so their art department simply glued a flashy Hemi tag onto the driver-side front fender. That's right, only on the right. Mike laughed when asked if he's going to take it off or at least put a matching tag on the other side. "It's a little piece of history. I'm not going to mess with it," he replied.
When Mike purchased the car on eBay, it arrived in less than stellar condition. Rust had begun to eat away at the quarters, the running gear spat and sputtered, and the electrical was a jumbled mess of Christmas lights. Mike untangled the electrical problems and installed trustworthy four-wheel disc brakes. Determined to make the Bee a daily driver, the Dana 60 was pulled and emptied of the 4.10 gears, and replaced with 3.54s. After the TSC, Mike intends on taking the Super Bee completely apart to do a full restomodification to it. Mike pointed out the visual rust damage to the car and said, "That's first to go." This Bee might have been a little more Beast than Beauty, but knowing this was his daily driver, we had to tip our hats to him. How often do you see '69 Super Bees sitting in the Starbucks parking lot? With a fresh engine and professionally rebuilt transmission, Mike's '69 ran a 14.90 at 96 mph, only to come back with an improved 14.70.