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.
John Melnyk's '68 Valiant initially wasn't supposed to be in the lineup. one of two available alternates, John waited on the sidelines the first day of the competition until two of the contestants failed to show up. John exclaimed to us, "How many small-block Valiants do you have that run in the 10s?" Good point. He quickly jumped into the open space, but then the lagging two arrived. We didn't have the heart to take him out, so we bumped the participating total to ten rather than the original eight.
John built this car by himself. Everything. Hailing from Leduc, Canada, he found the car in decent condition after it had sat in a garage for ten years. The car was quickly disassembled, put on a rotisserie, and mini-tubbed. The phenomenal six-month resto-modding left him with a reliable driver that gets 18.5 mpg (better than this author's new Hemi truck), and made the trip on its own wheels. The stroked and bored 408 small-block wields a 4-inch stroker crank, Ross pistons, Eagle rods, and an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake with ram-air snorkeling the cool air down the venturies of the Holley double pumper.
Unfortunately, after a formidable transmission-breaking run of 11.96, the transmission locked up, stationing the little A-Body in place. John had to be trailered off the strip. But even with only one pass under his belt, he showed us what a Valiant and a whole lot of guts could do.
Golden Third Gen
Larry Globbell's '73 Rally Charger is a sight to behold. Many take on a project and slave away at it for years, spending long weekends and nights alone in the garage. Larry brought in his whole family to help him in the restoration process. Found in a field by Larry's brother-in-law near their hometown of Snelling, California, the Charger became a daily driver until Larry was clipped in an accident. Larry pursued his would-be hit-and-runner, only to overshoot a turn and end up nose first in a turkey ranch.
Rather than putting the battered B-Body out to pasture, Larry and the whole Globbell family stripped the car down to bare bones, where it received a beautiful coat of the original gold-and-black paint scheme. Larry had his eyes set on one goal-the 2005 True Street Challenge-after seeing it in the pages of Mopar Muscle the previous year. Racing against the clock, Larry pieced the Charger back together as best as he could before rolling up to the judging booth. he showed up without a headliner since the original interior was still in the process of a restoration. But in perfect dad fashion, Larry stepped aside to let his son Chad take the hefty Charger down the strip.
Bill Bridges' '70 Hemi 'Cuda was one of the most photogenic cars we have ever seen. No matter what we did, we couldn't take a bad picture of his yellow E-Body. Bill bought this car from the original owner in 1975.
This 'Cuda has served as more than just a fun weekend ride. Bill has recorded an all-time best time of 11.80 at 118 in stock form. Getting the inevitable itch that we all get for faster times, Bill has since added several goodies to amp-up the 426 Hemi. A new camshaft, headers, and full exhaust have added to the boost in performance, but the car still retains its pleasurable streetability and road manners. The car has been repainted back to its original color because years and mileage can do their damage so easily. Aside from some other cosmetic and performance mods, such as rebuilding the 727 TorqueFlite, the car has retained its complete originality down to the functioning eight-track cassette tape player.
If Josh Campbell excels in anything, it's showmanship. One of the aforementioned alternates who later joined into the mix, Josh's faux-dual-plugged, tunnel-rammed, A/C-blowing, Hemi-powered, Pro-Street, hoodscoop-sporting '70 Barracuda Grand Coupe nearly stole the show. Josh's father, Bill, approached us the first day of judging wondering, "what's it take to get into the True Street Challenge?" Since we thought we were short a car, we told him to get his son and come join us. Little did we know that Josh's one-out-of-none Grand Coupe would be so personalized.
The Hemi itself is a work of art, starting out as a standard 426, bored .060 over with 10.25:1 pistons, MP aluminum heads, Norris roller rockers, a Milodon internal oiling system, a Weiand tunnel-ram with two 4150 Holleys, and a 150-horse shot of nitrous. The valve covers fool the unwary eye as the dual-plug system is only for show; the second set of wires lead off to nowhere. A high-flow Be Cool radiator and aluminum MP water pump helped Josh's E-Body survive the 22-mile loop out in the Nevada desert as a slight breeze of chilled air blew from the A/C vents. The A/C compressor really couldn't freeze the interior like we hoped, but he still gets accolades for having the only Hemi with air conditioning that we had ever been in.
Josh's Barracuda is layered in coats of Dodge's Amber Fire paint, the same color available on Dakota trucks a few years back. It's a gorgeous color and pleasantly unexpected on a classic clone Hemi car.
Mark Yates of Gilroy, California, sold this '70 Challenger for parts in 1984 to a friend who let the car sit as a shell for twelve years before Mark bought it back for a measly $2,500. Deciding that stock simply wasn't enough, Mark completely modernized this E-Body to the fullest extent. There is nearly nothing stock or untouched on this car. From the customized road handling suspension and sway bars, impressive Boyd Coddington 17-inch rims, super quiet tti and Magnaflow exhaust to the heavy-duty Richmond six-speed transmission, this car was bred to be as classic as its body lines and as modern as a Viper. The Indy top end matched to a full computer-controlled electronic ACCEL fuel-injection system and keeps the 400 Magnum engine fed and happy while either traveling 75 mph on the freeway or passing the traps in the 12s.
The unique paint job might look stock, but upon closer inspection one will notice that the hood decal is not exactly a decal. The blackout was painted on, masking off the "Dodge" lettering on the nose. Mark remarked that his wife oversaw the entire project, demanding that no detail be forgotten. The paint scheme, graphics, interior, and highlights were all double-checked by his wife, and his son pulled out the computer and tuned the EFI system.
Fortune Favors The Brave
Dr. Ralph Carnugi likes to race classic European speedsters and coupes, such as his Aston Martin DB4, Corvette, Porsche, and two Jaguars around his home in Phoenix, Arizona, so when a friend and car builder came to him with an idea for a Super Stock Mopar, Ralph needed some convincing. Ralph's friend, Greg Fernald, had an interest in the legendary Hemi cars that hit the scene in the mid-to-late '60s, building period-correct AF/X and S/S cars for customers. Ralph was quickly schooled on the short history of Mopar's venture into the A-Body S/S racing and ultimately introduced to Greg's potent '68 S/S Dart, and knew he had to have one.
Greg built him this factory identical S/S 426, cross-rammed Hemi Barracuda, a near flawless replica of the original Super Stockers to come out of the Hurst modification shops in the late '67 season. New to the unbridled power of the legendary elephant motor, Ralph jokes that the first time he took this beast down the 1320, he wasn't sure if he was having a heart attack or an adrenaline rush. Ralph's introduction to drag racing has been one monstrous learning curve, improving with each pass. Unfortunately, all of the go-fast DNA of the S/S chipped away at the actual streetability of the Barracuda. But regardless of it's appropriateness for pulling into the grocery store, it's sure a hell of a lot of fun to ride in.
There's only one adjective to use when describing Craig Hill's '73 Duster-clean. The stock 318 suited teenaged Craig fine until he discovered a built 340 with a spun bearing in the junkyard. Getting the appropriate repairs made, the stout 11:1 compression small-block propelled his A-Body into a whole new world. Other additions would follow, such as a 727 TorqueFlite automatic and an 831/44 rear. Unfortunately, the life of a teenager's car doesn't usually last too long. The car suffered too many accidents to be worth the labor of a restoration. So Craig found another '73 Duster and transferred the heart and soul of the battered original to the new donor body. Though not the exact same car, Craig still claims that this is his first car. It's sentimentality, we suppose. Regardless of the VIN number, the car is outstanding. Immaculately clean, precision craftsmanship, and near-luxury-car-style road manners, the car was an all-around pleaser. Regardless of its 14-second passes, this Duster's overall road worthiness brought its scores up high enough to be one of our top three contenders.
In the Running
Coming from Lawrence, Kansas, Mark Bastemeyer's earth-moving '69 Road Runner had everything to be the winner of the '05 True Street Challenge. Having mini-tubbed the back of the B-Body, Mark had customized 12-inch-deep Magnums made to maintain the original look, but with an edge. Those thick meats out back were burned to inky blue clouds several times during the competition. Stout 4.30 gears packed into the Dana 60 could launch the 3,900 Plymouth at a consistent 1.690 60-foot time, or cruise through the Gear Vendor's overdrive at a leisurely 75 mph on the highway. Sure the cage and subframe connectors made the car a little more rigid than a streetcar would like to feel, but Mark's arsenal of go-fast goodies makes it all worth it (e.g., with a simple flip of a switch, an electric motor cuts off the exhaust to two quick dump-offs).
The Road Runner came into Mark's life as a lazy 440 four-speed with acres of hidden Bondo and filler. Opting to build the engine first and worry about the paneling second, the Plymouth received its first manifestation of gnarly horsepower with a set of stock Indy 440 heads and a Six-Pack setup. the car's power source would be reborn several times over with a new MP Mega Block, a 4.15 stroker crank, professional porting and polishing for the top end, and a new reciprocating assembly that warranted the outstanding production of nearly 750 horses on pump gas-naturally aspirated!
The car retains the stock appearance and paint scheme of the infamous mid-production year A-code Road Runner, but hides a very hungry wolf beneath its sheep's clothing.
Sixty-one-year-old Steve Hagberg of Berthoud, Colorado, can stomp you where you stand. Nothing about Steve or this plain-Jane-looking '66 Plymouth Belvedere is what it seems. This nice, kind-faced, silver-haired retired airline pilot was once an United States navy pilot in Vietnam, and this neighborly '66 two-door post coupe used to be raced exclusively before Steve garaged her when he was away making runs over the Viet Cong.
Steve is the only owner this car has ever had. Purchased new in June 1966 in Denver, Colorado, the Belvedere was driven on the street for only one week before he decided the 426 inches of semi-hemispherical terror belonged on the drag strip rather than the main drag in town. Returning back to civilian life, Steve swapped the Hemi for a 318 since the Plymouth served as a driver, while the Hemi continued on in another race car. By 1981, Steve had enough and put the elephant back in its rightful place. Since then, the car has been meticulously restored to its original condition. Steve claims that more than ninety percent of the car is original, and what isn't, is period correct like the original Doug's headers and Sun Tach mounted to the dashpad.
With a pedigree of racing history under its belt, such as rounds at Bristol at the Spingnationals, the U.S. Nationals at Indy, and the Winternationals, the Belvedere clocked an all time best of 11.29 at 120 mph at last year's Las Vegas Mopar show.
We were more than happy to announce that Steve stole the winner's trophy this year with his experienced hand at racing his Plymouth. The staff here at Mopar Muscle all agree that Steve Hagberg's Belvedere captures the complete spirit of the musclecar era for Mopar-minimum optioned, zero frills, hard pulling American muscle at its very best in the most unassuming vehicle imaginable.
We couldn't cover everything that happened on these pages, so for complete event coverage, go to our Web site, www.moparmusclemagazine.com.
Car: '69 Dodge Super Bee
Engine: 383, Edelbrock aluminum heads, Mopar
Performance hydraulic 484-lift cam, Weiand
Stealth intake, Holley 750 carb
Trans: 727 TorqueFlite automatic, B&M shifter, 10-inch 2,200-stall converter, Cheetah valvebodyRearend: Dana 60, 3.54 gearsExhaust: 131/44-inch Hedman Headers, Flowmaster mufflers, 211/42-inch pipesWheels/Tires: Front: American Racing Torq-Thrust 15x7, BFG 235; Rear: American Racing Torq-Thrust 15x8.5, BFG 255Quarter-Mile: 14.90 at 96 mph and 14.70 at 91 mph (best)
Car: '68 Plymouth Valiant
Engine: 408, Chrysler 4-inch stroker crank,
Eagle 6.123 rods, Ross 11.8:1 pistons, Comp Cams roller camshaft, Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake
Transmission: Chrysler A500 overdrive automatic, TCS 10-inch 3,500 stall converter
Rearend: Chrysler 831/44, Strange axles
Exhaust: Hooker headers 151/48-inch, Dynomax mufflers, 3-inch pipesWheels/Tires: Front: Weld 15x6, Hoosier front-runners; Rear: Weld 15x10, Hoosier 30x11.5Quarter-Mile: 11.96 at 110 mph
Car: '70 Plymouth 'Cuda
Engine: 426 Hemi, Clay Smith .530-lift flat-tappet cam, stock heads, stock iron intake, MP distributor, dual Carter AFB carbsTransmission: 727 TorqueFlite automatic transmission, SlapStick shifter, Art Carr 9-inch 3,500-stall torque converter, Turbo Action manual valvebody
Rearend: Dana 60, 4.10 gears Sure Grip
Exhaust: Hooker Headers, Dynomax mufflers, 3-inch pipes
Wheels/Tires: Front: Ralley 15x7, BFG 235/60R/15Rear: Ralley 15x7, BFG 275/60R/15Quarter-Mile: 12.93 at 106 mph and 12.85 at 106 mph (best)
Car: '73 Dodge Rally Charger 400
Engine: 440, MP hydraulic 484-lift camshaft, Six-Pack rods, 10:1 pistons, MP M-1 intake, Holley 850 carb
Transmission: Keisler five-speed manual, Pistol-Grip shifter
Rearend: 831/44, 323 gears
Exhaust: Dodge Magnum manifolds, Flowmaster mufflers, 211/42-inch pipesWheels/Tires: Front: Super Coupe 15x8, T/A 275-50-15; Rear: Super Coupe 15x8, T/A 295-50-15Quarter-Mile: 13.40 at 98 mph and 13.38 at 99 mph (best)
Car: '70 Plymouth Barracuda Grand Coupe
Engine: 426 Hemi, MP Aluminum heads, Weiand tunnel-ram, dual 450 Holleys, MP 495-lift cam, Ross 10.25:1 pistons
Transmission: 727 TorqueFlite, Turbo Action manual valvebody, TCI pan, and 2,400-stall B&M converter
Rearend: 831/44 with 4.10 Sure Grip
Exhaust: Hooker Headers, Super 40 mufflers, 3-inch pipes
Wheels/Tires: Front: Convo Pro 15x4, BFG 267-50-15; Rear: Convo Pro 15x10, BFG 325-50-15Quarter-Mile: 11.39 at 114 mph and 11.36 at 114 mph (best)
Car: '70 Dodge Challenger
Engine: Magnum 400, MP 474-lift camshaft, Indy SR aluminum cylinder heads, ACCEL fuel injection
Transmission: six-speed Richmond manual, Pistol-Grip shifter
Rearend: 831/44 with 3.23 Sure Grip
Exhaust: tti headers, Magnaflow mufflers, 3-inch pipes
Wheels/Tires: Front: Boyd Coddington 17x8, Bridgestone Potenza 245-45-17; Rear: Boyd Coddington 17x911/42, Bridgestone Potenza 285-40-17Quarter-Mile: 13.40 at 107 mph and 12.93 at 106 mph (best)
Car: '68 S/S Hemi Plymouth Barracuda
Engine: 472 Hemi, cross-ram intake, Ray Barton rods, JE pistons, solid Comp Cams camshaft, MP aluminum heads, dual Holleys
Transmission: 727 TorqueFlite automatic, Hurst shifter, 3,500-stall 10-inch converter.
Rearend: Dana 60, 4.10 gears Sure Grip
Exhaust: Hedman headers, Flowmaster mufflers, 3-inch pipes
Wheels/Tires: Front: Cragar 15x4, BFG 15x6; Rear: Cragar 15x10, BFG 15x13.5
Quarter-Mile: 11.58 at 118 mph and 11.37 at 118 mph (best)
Car: '73 Plymouth Duster
Engine: 340, Crane hydraulic 467-lift cam,
Direct Connection Bracket Race heads,
Edelbrock Air-Gap intake, Edelbrock 750 carb
Transmission: 727 TorqueFlite auto, Mopar Performance valvebody
Rearend: 831/44 Sure Grip
Exhaust: Stock manifolds, Dynomax mufflers, 211/42-inch pipes
Wheels/Tires: Front: American Racing 15x7, Cooper Cobra 215/60/15; Rear: American Racing 15x8, Cooper Cobra 265/50/15
Quarter-Mile: 14.54 at 94 mph and 14.45 at 95 mph (best)
Car: '69 Plymouth Road Runner
Engine: 513ci Six-Barrel, Indy cylinder heads, cross-drilled main-capped MP Mega Block, stroker 4.15 MP crank, Comp Cams hydraulic roller cam
Transmission: AMP-built 727 TorqueFlite automatic transmission, Hughes 3,000-stall torque converter, Gear Vendors overdrive
Rearend: Dana 60, 4.30 Sure Grip
Exhaust: Hedman headers, Dynomax mufflers, 3-inch pipes
Wheels/Tires: Magnum 500 15-inch, Hoosier front runners; Rear: Magnum 500 15-inch custom width, Hoosier 15-inch 31x12.50
Quarter-Mile: 11.83 at 113 mph and 11.72 at 114 mph (best)
Car: '66 Plymouth Belvedere
Engine: 439 Hemi, Manley 6.86-inch rods, JE 10.8:1 pistons, Racer Brown .527-lift camshaft, iron heads, stock intake, stock AFB carbs
Transmission: self-built 727 TorqueFlite auto, 3,000-stall 10-inch Turbo Action Torque Converter
Rearend: 831/44 with stock 4.10 gears
Exhaust: Doug's Headers, Dynomax mufflers, 3-inch pipes
Wheels/Tires: Front: Bogart 15x3.5, Firestone M/T 205/75/15; Rear: Bogart 15x8, Firestone M/T 28/11.50/15 ET Street
Quarter-Mile: 11.36 at 118 mph and 11.32 at 119 mph (best)