We love drag racing here at Mopar Muscle, so it’s little wonder that one of our latest project cars is a ’64 Dodge that will eventually be raced in the Nostalgia Super Stock class. We picked this car up at the car corral of the Mopar Nationals in 2011, and since then have been repairing and modifying the Dodge to first be a street/strip car and then evolve into a dedicated race car to compete in the quicker index classes of Nostalgia Super Stock. Since our Dodge was pretty much a basket case when we purchased it, we spent a fair amount of time simply cleaning the car up and inventorying the parts we got with it.
Unlike many project cars we build here at Mopar Muscle magazine, this Dodge won’t be stripped down to a shell and started from scratch. Instead, we thought it would be fun to simply put the car together, fix what needed to be fixed, and make the necessary upgrades so that the car would be safe to drive and take to the track. Someone else had already begun this project before we got it, and their progress had ended at the paint shop where the car had been painted but not reassembled. There was no engine or transmission with the car when we got it, making it a great candidate for us to install a big-block and 727 transmission that we had in the shop. And while the car’s original front suspension components are in good roadworthy condition, the rear leaf springs were worn and the differential contained the factory axles and center section, so some major upgrades needed to be performed.
01 Our Dodge was equipped with an 83⁄4 differential, but had weak, original axles and axl
02 We removed the factory center section, and took it to Inline Performance Specialists w
03 The Strange Engineering axle and spool package comes with sealed axle bearings which m
Equipped with an 83⁄4 rear and factory multi-leaf rear springs, our ’64 Dodge doesn’t need a complete rear suspension and differential transplant yet, but rather some basic upgrades to make sure it holds up to our abuse. Eventually we may replace the leaf springs and rear with something more substantial, as we increase the car’s power to run the quicker classes of Nostalgia Super Stock, but for now, upgrading our suspension with CalTracs mono-leaf springs and CalTracs bars from Performance Online, and new axles, shocks, and a Spool from Strange Engineering will make our Dodge tough enough for severe street and strip duty.
We’ve already made several improvements to our Dodge, including a race-oriented fuel system from Aeromotive, and disc brakes from Wilwood to replace the factory 10-inch drum brakes that originally equipped our Dodge. The low deck 451-inch big block we’re installing makes over 600 horsepower, so we needed our rear suspension and differential to handle this kind of power. Since our Dodge is in relatively good shape and showing only 68,000 original miles, we didn’t want to cut the body or floors for mini-tubs or aftermarket suspension -- at least not yet.
Choosing to stay with leaf spring suspension, we contacted Performance Online, and ordered a pair of Calvert Racing’s split mono-leaf replacement springs, and CalTracs traction bars. The CalTrac springs and bars offer the best traction available for leaf spring cars, and for the price, we consider them one of the best upgrades around for the rear suspension of a Mopar. In fact, we ran this same suspension setup on the B-3 Barracuda race car we built several years ago, and they worked flawlessly even as the car ran deep in the nines on relatively small tires.
In high torque applications with great traction (i.e. slicks or street radials), the front segment of factory leaf springs can distort and flex as the tires bite and the pinion snubber engages the floor (commonly called spring wrap). Clamping the front segment of the multiple leafs of factory springs can help, but the affect is limited. CalTrac’s split mono-leaf springs are designed specifically for the demands of drag racing, and control and reduce body separation in the rear suspension without unloading the tires. The mono-leafs also reduce spring wrap, and have aluminum front bushings instead of rubber, offering great stability at the top end of the track. These springs have been tested to 1,500 horsepower, so they’ll easily handle the power of our Dodge’s 600 plus horsepower.
04 To protect our investment, we filled our differential with AMSOIL Severe Gear syntheti
05a Factory multi-leaf springs, even Super Stock springs, can distort and separate under
05b Factory multi-leaf springs, even Super Stock springs, can distort and separate under
The CalTrac bars are specifically designed for drag racing, and can be used with or without the split mono-leaf springs. A nice feature of these traction bars is that they are completely bolt-on, requiring no cutting, fabrication, or modifications to the car’s suspension. Designed to keep the axle housing from rotating, these bars have been proven to improve 60 foot times, and are approved by sanctioning bodies like NHRA, NMCA, and PSCA for most drag racing classes. The CalTrac bars are fully adjustable for various levels of preload, and the front mounting brackets have two provisions to mount the bars. All of the CalTrac pieces are precision manufactured and powder coated, using top grade hardware throughout.
The best part of the CalTracs suspension components is the ease of installation. Other than needing to cut the rusted factory U-bolts from our original springs, we had the CalTrac springs and bars installed easily with simple hand tools. Performance Online carries these parts for many Mopar applications, and the springs can even be ordered for higher or lower than stock ride heights if desired. We installed springs with a one-inch higher than stock ride height on our Dodge, to give the car a little bit of rake and to allow for slightly more rear tire clearance. For additional adjustability, we also replaced the stock shock absorbers with Strange double adjustable aluminum units.
Rather than installing our CalTrac bars and springs on our stock, somewhat rusty original front spring hangers, we opted for a pair of new hangars from AR Engineering. Since most of the car’s torque and power is transferred to the frame through the front spring hangers, it’s a good choice to replace these parts with new ones while the springs are off of the car. The AR Engineering front hanger brackets are made from .188-inch thick material, are zinc plated, and offer two mounting holes for dual ride height options. We chose the stock ride height for our Dodge, and installed the hangers using AR Engineering’s reinforcement plates and hardware. With our CalTracs and new mounting hardware installed, we moved on to our differential.
We all know that the 83⁄4 rear is one of the toughest built, second only to the Dana 60, but our factory open center-section with 2.76 ratio gears is basically worthless for a performance drag racing application. Since our Dodge will be a street/strip vehicle, and eventually end up only seeing track duty, we contacted Strange Engineering for an axle and spool package for our vehicle. Aftermarket axles are a mandatory upgrade for drag racing, required by the NHRA and other sanctioning bodies, and the Strange 35 spline axles and spool are some of the toughest in the business. Even better, the Strange axles get rid of the funky, early Mopar rear hub bolts, with retainers that bolt directly to the axle housing and non-adjustable sealed axle bearings.
06 Compared to the stock multi-leaf springs, the Calvert Racing split mono-leaf springs (
07 Rather than reuse our factory front spring hangers, we installed a set of new heavy-du
08 To replace our worn rear shocks, we chose a set of double-adjustable race shocks from
We know you may be thinking that a spool is a little much for a street car, but this is barely a street car, and will only be driven on dry days or evenings to an occasional cruise night. Rather than installing a Sure Grip and having to change it later, we opted to install the spool for maximum straight line traction to both tires. For safety reasons, especially in a car that will be driven in the rain, we certainly don’t recommend a spool for a street car, but in our case we’ll sacrifice a little drivability for maximum traction.
To set up our rear differential, we took our components to Inline Performance Specialists. The crew at Inline installed our Strange spool with a Richmond 4.10-ratio ring and pinion gear set, all new carrier and pinion bearings, and a pinion yoke for a 1350 universal joint. With the components together, we bolted our center section and axles in place and filled the differential with AMSOIL Severe Gear 75W120 lubricant.
With our rear suspension and differential up to speed, we installed, we finally got to install our Weld racing 15x8-inch RT-S forged racing wheels and a set of Mickey Thompson ET Street Radial tires we got from Summit Racing Equipment. The Weld RT-S line of wheels are great looking, lightweight, one-piece forged wheels, and meet SFI 15.1 specifications for racing applications. To match the nostalgic look of our ’64 Dodge, we chose the five-spoke versions of this wheel with polished outers and black centers. The Mickey Thompson P275/60R15 tires are street legal, but sticky enough to give great traction on the track.
Speaking of the track, this month’s improvements get our Dodge that much closer to actually making a pass down the drag strip. We’re making good progress on our car, and hope to make the Mopar Muscle Mopar Southern Nationals at South Georgia Motorsports Park Memorial Day weekend. We hope to see you there, and can’t wait to finally get a chance to race our super stock Dodge. Be sure to follow this project in future issues of Mopar Muscle.
09a With our suspension in place, the lower bar of the CalTracs system is adjusted with a
09b With our suspension in place, the lower bar of the CalTracs system is adjusted with a
10b Our rear suspension and differential improvements should allow our Mickey Thompson dr
|Performance Online Cal-Trac bars and brackets
|Rear split mono-leaf springs
|Strange Engineering double adjustable rear shocks
|Strange 35 spline axle and spool kit with 5/8 studs and bearings
| Richmond 4.10 gear set
|Richmond differential bearing kit
|Weld RT-S rear wheels
|Mickey Thompson ET Street Tires