Occasionally, life deals us some tough hands. The result of these events may force us to part ways with personal items like homes and/or cars. For Claus Williams, this meant he would acquire this '68 Dodge Dart from one of his employees going through just such a case of hard times.
The Dart was in relatively good shape when his employee originally gained possession. Unfortunately, this A-Body's luck soon ran out as his ex-wife backed into the driver's door, breaking the glass and destroying the door. Later, he backed into a pole. Claus, a self-employed cabinet builder, took the car off this bad-luck-ridden guy's hands in 1998. He wanted to build a nice driver out of the Dart but knew his wife wouldn't like that one bit. For this reason, the car was hidden at his friend Tom Feluer's house, which also happens to be where the body shop, Wizard Auto Body, is located.
As the years passed, he focused on other projects to distract himself from the car he shouldn't have. He eventually ran out of things to work on and decided it was time to start on the old Dart. "It had been sitting underneath a pine tree and collected about 4 inches of pine needles all over it," Claus says. Pine needles weren't the only thing the Dart collected as the trunk floor and quarter panels were now badly rusted and needed to be replaced. Claus brought the A-Body home and began the work on it himself by starting with the trunk. He took the opportunity to add a little more room in the rear wheelwells to fit more rubber underneath. Under the hood, he started to clean up the firewall, but this quickly overwhelmed him and he took the car back to the body shop.
When the car came back to Claus in primer, he planned to install the engine and transmission to make sure everything fit. Claus soon discovered his 440 block that he planned to use wasn't any good, so while a new engine was being assembled down at Witcher Racing Engines in Middleburg, Florida, he sent the car back to the body shop for a third time. Inside the new aluminum Indy Maxx block are Wiseco pistons, Eagle connecting rods, and an Eagle 4.150-inch stroke. The short-block was mated to a pair of Indy 440-SR aluminum heads and is good for 9.5:1 compression. An Isky .578/.578-inch lift, 244-degree duration camshaft sits inside and controls the massive 2.19-inch intake and 1.81-inch exhaust valves.
At the body shop, PPG Hemi Orange paint was being sprayed onto the freshly primed Dart. A fiberglass AAR hood was added for a more menacing appearance, as well as its cooling benefits. After many hours of block sanding and painting, Tom was finished with the Dodge and it was sent back to Claus. "Finally, I was able to dig into the boxes of goodies I had sitting around," he says.
Inside those nearly 10-year-old boxes were his interior pieces. The black vinyl seat covers were replaced along with the carpet. A Billet Specialties half-wrap steering wheel was fitted, and the dash was modified to accept the Auto Meter gauges and Flaming River steering column. Claus didn't want to get bored or uncomfortable while cruising around in his A-Body so he installed an Alpine CD player, Pioneer front and rear speakers, and a Vintage Air air conditioning system.
Suspending the 111-inch wheelbase is a modernized suspension. The front uses an RMS K-Member which Claus discovered wouldn't work with his motor mounts. "I called RMS up and told them my situation and they gave me the first good news since I started the project. They said they would take my K-Member and attach the appropriate mounts free of charge as long as I paid shipping," he says. With the engine mounting situation taken care of, the rest of the suspension was attached. QA1 10-way adjustable coilover shocks reside up front and a Flaming River rack-and-pinion and bumpsteer kit provide smooth steering. Out back, Super Stock springs support the 8¾-inch rear end filled with Moser axles, 2.92 gears, and a Sure Grip differential. Wilwood disc brakes now handle the stopping power on all four corners and sit behind a set of Weld Racing Pro Star wheels.
In the end, it took nearly three years to complete the project after he started working on it. He ran into many obstacles when trying to find parts, or getting them and having to wait on a six month backorder. Claus currently resides in Beaufort, South Carolina, where he enjoys driving his Dart and taking it to shows. "My next project is a '67 Belvedere, but shhhhh . . . my wife doesn't know about that one either."
The Year One catalog was cracked open for the interior restoration. Claus, as with most of
Adding some custom flare, Claus modified the dash to accommodate a slew of Auto Meter gaug
An all-aluminum Indy 440 packs a serious punch. It was assembled by Witcher Racing Engines
This Barry Grant Six Shooter setup feeds the big-block and is assisted by an Aeromotive fu
The classic look of the Weld Pro Star never gets old.
A fiberglass AAR hood gives incoming air a direct path to the air filter. It also makes th
'68 Dodge Dart 270
Owned by Claus Williams, Beaufort, South Carolina
- Engine: After realizing that his 440 block was no good, Claus contacted Indy Cylinder Head for its lightweight and reliable 440 RB Wedge Indy Maxx aluminum block. The engine was assembled at Witcher Racing Engines in Middleburg, Florida, where it was punched out to 500 ci. They installed 4.375-inch Wiseco pistons, 6.760-inch Eagle connecting rods, and a 4.150-inch Eagle stroker crankshaft. When paired with the Indy 440-SR aluminum heads, it produces 9.5:1 compression. An Isky solid roller camshaft was placed inside the block and was ground with .578/.578-inch lift and 244-degrees duration. A set of Comp Cams shaft-mount roller rockers and Isky springs control the 2.19-inch intake and 1.81-inch exhaust valves. On the top of the engine are three Barry Grant Six Shooter carburetors attached to an Edelbrock 3x2 intake manifold, fed by an Aeromotive fuel pump. The ignition has been converted over to MSD electronics, which include a 6AL box, Blaster II Coil, and plug wires. A TTI exhaust system routes the used hydrocarbons away from the engine via long tube headers with 2 ¼-inch primaries and 3 ½-inch collectors. The full exhaust system is made up of aluminized 3-inch pipe with Dynomax mufflers.
- Transmission: Brewers Performance in Ludlow Falls, Ohio, built the four-speed to handle the big-block Mopar power. It's shifted with a Hurst pistol grip shifter.
- Suspension: QA1 10-way adjustable coilovers and super stock springs handle the bumps and weight transfer. An RMS K-Member kit was used to support the 440 and reduce front-end weight. The steering is controlled by a Flaming River rack-and-pinion, and a bumpsteer kit adds a level of precision to the once lackadaisical steering. The factory 8 ¾-inch rearend now houses stronger Moser axles, 2.92 gears, and a sure grip differential.
- Brakes: With all the power on hand, the stock brakes weren't going to cut it. Claus installed a disc brake set from Wilwood to bite as hard as the 440.
- Wheels: Weld Pro Stars look great and weigh close to nothing. They measure 15x5 up front and 15x10 in the rear. BFGoodrich G-Force tires do their best to put all the torque and power to the ground.
- Body: Most of the bodywork was performed by Claus, with help from friend Tom Feluer, including the replacement of the trunk, fenders, and extending the wheelwells.
- Paint: After Tom finished working his mastery on the body, he sprayed the Dart with PPG Hemi Orange.
- Interior: YearOne black vinyl seat covers and black carpeting return the factory interior to showroom quality. Claus customized the dash to accept enough Auto Meter gauges to make NASA jealous. An Alpine CD player controls a pair of 6 ½-inch Pioneer front and 6x9-inch rear speakers. The steering column is from Flaming River and the steering wheel is from Billet Specialties. A Vintage Air air conditioning system keeps things cool inside this clean A-Body.