Fact 1: Gene Snow is a legendary Dodge funny car pilot. His daily driver has got to be something wild, right? Not so much. I had a chance meeting with the Snowman at the 1992 NHRA Winternationals in the (since decommissioned) Pomona timing tower.
When I asked about his personal cars he said: “The last thing I wanted was a loud car . . . got enough of that on the track.”
A series of luxurious Chrysler Imperials served Snow’s daily needs through the 1960s and 1970s.
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Fact 2: Dodge really caused a stir by including the 1971 Challenger T/A in a six-page Dodge Scat Pack advertising insert. Bound into late-1970 issues of popular magazines such as Hot Rod, Motor Trend, and Car and Driver, it depicts a bright yellow T/A complete with black fiberglass snorkel hood with pins, T/A side stripes, sideexit megaphone exhaust tips, staggered E60/G60-15 tires, trunk spoiler, and rear-mounted radio antenna.
Everything about it looks proper, except the 1971 grille and reference to a “standard 340 4-barrel. V-8.” Some observers conclude it’s simply a 1970 with a photo-retouched grille insert. To my eye, the grille and car appear real. Apparently Dodge came close to offering the T/A for a second year, perhaps with a garden-variety 4-barrel in place of the Six-Pack to restore some profit, and this is a pre-production prototype. But it was not to be and the 2,399 T/As built in 1970 were the only ones offered.
Incidentally, Plymouth avoided similar speculation entirely. There were no references to a second-coming of the 1970 AAR ’Cuda in any 1971 new-product materials.
Fact 3: More than a few automotive journalists have incorrectly described the 1969 Charger Daytona as having a fiberglass nose cone and spoiler. Technically, my fellow scribes are not 100-percent wrong.
The white-with-red-tail Charger Daytona prototype displayed at an April 13, 1969, press preview was indeed equipped with fiberglass appendages, hastily cobbled to get the point across (pun intended). Perhaps this is where the misinformation began. For the record, the 503 production nose cones were formed from steel panels (with fiberglass headlamp bucket assemblies) and the three-piece tail spoilers were extruded aluminum.
Fact 4: The April 13, 1969, Charger Daytona press preview prototype was also equipped with a standard tunneled Charger backlite, another unfortunate detail that’s spurred plenty of confusion over the years.
All production Charger Daytonas were fitted with steel plugs, which raised the lift-inducing recessed rear window flush with the roof sail panels. The same body modification was also applied to the 1969 Charger 500 (392 built).
Fact 5: Knowing the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States (ACCUS) was intent on doubling the minimum production requirement of aerodynamically enhanced Detroit bodies for the 1970 race season, Dodge accelerated the pace of its Charger Daytona development program to take advantage of the more lenient 500-unit minimum of 1969.
It’s hard to believe, but design and manufacture went from pencil sketches to dealer deliveries in 27 weeks. To legalize the Daytona for the race season, all 503 of the cars needed to be on their way to dealer lots by September 1, 1969; and they were.
Fact 6: So exactly how much help was the 1969 Charger Daytona aerodynamics package? Testing revealed the nose cone/chin spoiler to be good for 200 pounds of downforce. It also offered a major reduction in drag while the crazy rear spoiler, which rode 23.5 inches above the trunk lid, exerted in excess of 600 pounds of much appreciated downforce on the rear tires at 200-mph NASCAR race speeds.
Showroom-stock street cars were mechanically incapable of those speeds, but drivers report added directional stability and fuel economy (versus a standard Charger R/T) at road speeds above 70 mph.
Fact 7: Was the 1966 426 Street Hemi’s dual-Carter AFB inline intake manifold originally designed to be heated by engine coolant for improved cold-weather operation? Possibly.
During a 1965 visit to Chrysler’s Chelsea, Michigan, proving grounds, Hi-Performance CARS magazine editor Martyn L. Schorr photographed a 1965 Coronet 500 hardtop (complete with black vinyl roof and spinner wheel covers) that was fitted with a prototype 426 Street Hemi.
A close look at the pictures reveals a pair of rubber heater hoses plumbed into the rear of the manifold. While eventual 1966–1971 production Street Hemis utilized steel heat-riser tubes connected to the passenger-side exhaust manifold to deliver hot exhaust gas (not liquid coolant) for warming the carbs, Marty’s pictures don’t lie.
Fact 8: Four years before starring in the hit CBS crime-drama TV show Magnum P.I. (1980–1988), scruffy-faced actor/model Tom Selleck appeared in 1976 Dodge magazine print advertisements. One of the most memorable showed him with the 1976 Charger Daytona, a mild effort to rekindle memories of the winged warrior of 1969. Base Daytona power came from the 318 2-barrel; the 360 2-barrel, 360 4-barrel, 400 2-barrel, and 400 4-barrel were optional upgrades.
Ironically, Dodge never asked Selleck (who played private detective Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV on TV) to promote the Charger’s replacement: the 1978–1979 Dodge (you guesed it) Magnum.
Unlike the original 1969 Charger Daytona, this 1976 offering has the Magnum next to the hood, not under it.
Fact 9: Another Charger Daytona with Hollywood connections was bought new in 1969 by singer/actor Robert Goulet before ending up in the hands of famed L.A. street racing impresario “Big Willie” Robinson.
Robinson owned two XX29J Hemi Daytonas: an orange 4-speed (VIN 356523) and a bright green metallic automatic (VIN 356525).
It is unclear which car came from Goulet’s garage. What is known is that both of the incredibly rare Hemi Daytonas (only 70 built) were extensively modified for drag racing, and at least one still exists.
Fact 10: The Ramchargers are most remembered for their candystriped Super Stockers, Factory Experimentals, and flip-top Challenger and Dodge Sport Funny Cars. But let’s not forget their successful foray into the Top Fuel dragster ranks. In 1964 and 1965, driving chores were handled by an unlikely choice.
At 27, driver Don Westerdale had plenty of race experience, but unlike most of his teammates, who were full-time Chrysler employees, Westerdale was a machine repairman in the frame department at Ford’s massive River Rouge assembly plant.
Other name gamers included Marvin Ford, performance manager at Glenn E. Thomas Dodge (early sponsor of Bill “Maverick” Golden’s Max Wedge and Hemi drag machines), and Charlie Dodge, a member of New York’s Pacer Automotive and frequent car magazine writer in the mid 1960s.
Fact 11: Paperwork dated October 6, 1970, confirms that Dodge came very close to producing 50 440-powered Demons in 1971 for use in NHRA SS/C competition. Similar in theme to the 1969 440 Dart GTS (640 built), Tom Hoover was in charge of the aborted homologation special.
The plan was to utilize stock 440 Six-Pack short blocks, fitted with new head and cross-ram intake manifold castings based on the 518 Stage III Max Wedge of 1964. Backed by 727 Torqueflites and 83 ⁄4 rear axles hanging from 002/003 Hemi Dart leaf springs, the SS/CA 440 Demon program was meant to increase the Mopar wedge-head’s presence in drag racing’s lower and middle classes while providing vintage SS racers with much needed Max Wedge replacement parts.
The timing was bad on many fronts and nothing came of the program, until now. Mike Staveski and Bill Sefton of Chicago’s Nostalgia Lane have conspired with Tom Hoover to create replicas of the never-was Super Stock Demon 440 race package. Time will tell how many buyers step up for these phantom 440/Max Wedge Demon hybrids.
Fact 12: Hemi-powered Dodge station wagons were a common thing in the 1950s. Starting in 1953, thousands of long-roof buyers paid extra for the increased towing capability offered by the A274 Red Ram/Super Red Ram Hemi head V-8.
The second-generation A864 Race Hemi of 1964 was a different story. Fred Cutler’s stock-appearing 1964 Dodge 440 (440 was the series designation, not the engine displacement) Hemi-Wagon campaigned heavily in NHRA B/FX action (complete with crossram, Race Hemi single-headlight grille, and hood scoop/push-button 727 equipment). However, it was not an assembly-line offering.
Soon after, Lee Smith’s Preparation H A102 Street Hemi 1966 Belvedere wagon did battle in NHRA Modified Production. But again, the 426 Street Hemi was not a factory offering aboard wagons. Three decades later, Hemi-powered Dodge station wagons reappeared with the 2005–2008 Magnum R/T and 2006–2008 Magnum SRT-8.
These third-generation Hemi station wagons combined the ready availability of their 1950s counterparts (many thousands of each series were built) with power nearly equal to the 426 Hemi (the SRT-8’s 6.1-liter Hemi delivered 425 net horsepower, but 600 is easily achieved with a bolt-on blower kit). The third time was the charm!
Fact 13: In 1965, independent Dodge B/FX racer Fred Cutler raised more eyebrows among Hemi enthusiasts (and latter-day historians) with his 383-cubic-inch Race Hemi–powered 1965 Coronet A990 sedan.
Emblazoned with the Roadrunner name (three years before it was immortalized by Plymouth) many have wondered if Dodge whipped up a special cross-bolted low-deck (9.98 versus 10.725 inches) Hemi block just for this application. Though intriguing, the reality is Cutler’s micro-Hemi was a regular 426 Race Hemi block with a destroked rotating assembly to deliver 383 cubes. The resulting big-bore, short-stroke architecture may have been down on torque but was capable of nearly 8,000 rpm.
The project ensured a Dodge presence in NHRA B/FX competition, where entries had to carry 9.0 to 12.99 pounds per cubic inch. By contrast, the A/FX weight break was 0 to 8.99 pounds per cubic inch, and C/FX was for cars with 13.0-plus pounds per cubic inch.
Cutler’s 383 Race Hemi faced competition from similarly bizarre one-off creations such as Jerry Harvey’s 427 SOHC Quiet One 1965 Galaxie 500, Darrell Droke’s 427 SOHC Wonder Colt 1965 Fairlane Thunderbolt (with ballast added to weigh 3,800 pounds), and—the closest thing to “normal” cars in the class—the fleet of 15 289 powered B/FX Comets prepared for Mercury by Bill Stroppe Engineering.
Fact 14: Four-door Red Ram Hemi-powered Coronet, Meadowbrook, and Royal hardtops and sedans may have been common in the 1950s, but during the A864 Race Hemi (1964–1965)/A102 Street Hemi (1966–1971) eras, Dodge shunned orders for multi-door 426-powered intermediates.
No Race Hemi four-doors are known to have been built (home-brewed contraptions aside), though a handful of verified H-code 1966 Street Hemi Coronet four-doors have surfaced. One is currently on display at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida.
These elephant-powered models must have confused factory floorpan assembly workers tasked with spot welding the forward leaf spring mounting bulkheads (a.k.a. torque boxes) in place, and stand as the only intentionally built, torque-box-equipped, fourdoor B-Bodies in existence.
Fact 15: Factory literature from 1962–1964 states the 413/426 Max Wedge was “available in any Dodge or Plymouth B-Body except taxi and station wagon” applications. Several factory-built 1962 and 1963 four-doors have been verified, though the factory lightweight package (sales code 709) was restricted to two-door sedans after March 1963.
The September 1962 issue of Hot Rod magazine (page 42) shows a light-colored 1962 Dodge 330 four-door sedan—with Palmer Dodge markings—racing Al Eckstrand’s more typical Stanford Brothers–sponsored 1962 Dodge Max Wedge two-door at Indiana’s Muncie Dragway.
Fact 16: Despite factory claims to the contrary, three Max Wedge station wagons were built on the assembly line. One Dodge and two Plymouths were assembled in 1963 (plus several home-built 1963s and 1964s, which set many records)
Their mission was NHRA drag racing, where the extra rear overhang was helpful in planting the slicks for a starting-line traction advantage. One of the Plymouths, sold new to racer Ron Mandella through Milne Brothers Chrysler-Plymouth in Pasadena, Californa, won A/SA class honors at the 1964 Indy Nationals.
Interestingly, Ron’s younger brother Phil currently operates Phil Mandella Racing (PMR), a frequent Best Engineered NHRA Wally Award–winning chassis shop in California. Numerous SS/AA Hemi Darts (and Barracudas) have been prepped by PMR.
Fact 17: Dodge PR writers obviously didn’t consult with Tom Hoover, Jim Thornton, the Mancinis, or any of the rest of the Max Wedge development engineers (who doubled as The Ramchargers drag team on weekends) when early press releases described the May 1962 introduction of the 413 Max Wedge as being well suited to “police applications.”
Can you imagine the budget-breaking frustrations faced by municipal fleet service managers tasked with constantly adjusting valve lash, replacing fouled spark plugs, servicing worn points, and replacing bald rear tires? Though it sounds sexy on paper, Chrysler never courted the law enforcement market with its Max Wedge, Race Hemi, Street Hemi, or 440 Six-Pack powerplant for that matter.
Sure, some rogue agencies are known to have toyed with hopped-up cop cars, but these words from a 1964 Dodge fleet sales brochure define the company’s stance: “They call ’em the Dependables because they are . . . Dodge has had such a solid reception as a Police vehicle. Today, in fact, Dodge is used as the State Police vehicle in nearly half of our fifty states! Dodge gives you what you’ve gotta have in a Police Pursuit—rugged, low-cost, day-in-and-dayout performance and dependability.”
4-barrel-inducted 383 and 440 squad cars were hot enough for the job. Anything hotter was handled by the under-dash Motorola radio.
Fact 18: A vivid memory of mine is a 1979 viewing of a late night rerun of the ABC TV movie Hot Rod (a.k.a. Rebel of the Road). It’s the story of an outcast rodder, his struggles with a corrupt small-town police force, and an eventual drag strip showdown with an Olds 4-4-2 sponsored by the Munn’s Root Beer company.
At the beginning of the flick, the hero drives a 1965 Coronet sedan, presumably an A990. After the cops force him off the road, totaling the Dodge, he swaps the Hemi into a 1941 Willys. You probably remember the movie now. But has anyone noticed that he steals a replacement Hemi out of an AMC Matador cop car? I sure did! It stands as yet another tribute to the mythical legacy of Hemipowered cop cars on TV and in the movies.
Fact 19: The brutal nature of a cammed, cross-ram Max Wedge idling at 1,100 rpm is completely at odds with the breezy luxury of a convertible body, but when Dodge listed Max Wedge availability for “any model except stations wagons and taxis,” they weren’t kidding. Several 413 and 426 Maxie drop-tops are known to have been produced by the factory.
Authentication begins with these stamped numbers: 1962: The fourth character of the VIN tag must read 2 for Hamtramck assembly plant and the fender tag must show engine code 500 (11:1 engine) or 509 (13.5:1 engine) on the third line, under the letter N.
1963: Same “2” Hamtramck plant code in VIN as 1962 but fender tag code changed to 09 (11:1 engine) or 19 (13.5:1 engine) and was repositioned beneath the letters Q and R.
1964: VIN code unchanged but new fender tag codes were used. Look for engine code 08 (11:1 engine) or 09 (12.5:1 engine, now only offered with two-door sedan body) beneath letters A and B.
Incidentally, this code information also applies to fixed-roof Dodges. Plymouth codes are similar but not identical.
Fact 20: As if the availability of Max Wedge Dodge convertibles isn’t wild enough, the mighty A102 Street Hemi was also offered without the roll-over protection and engine torque resistance afforded by a fixed steel roof. Though the 1964–1965 Race Hemi– era was skipped, between 1966 and 1971 Dodge sold approximately 77 Street Hemi engines in the ragtop-equipped Coronet/Coronet 500 (1966), Coronet R/T (1967–1970), and Challenger R/T (1970 only). Plymouth moved approximately 119 Street Hemi ragtops in the same period (all models combined).
Verification is as easy as checking the fifth character of the VIN for the Street Hemi engine code: H (1966 only), J (1967–1969), or R (1970–1971).
As with Max Wedge ragtops, folks weren’t lining up to buy them new. It’s a different story today. With approximately 200 Street Hemi convertibles built, that’s roughly four times the number of Max Wedge convertibles made in 1962 to 1964.
Fact 21: The 1969 Charger Daytona’s reverse-facing, bolt-on, fendertop scoops cover 5-inch-diameter circular holes cut into the tops of the fenders. Coarse-mesh screens prevented passage of debris without restricting airflow. The goal was to evacuate the pressurized (and lift-inducing) air vortices generated by the spinning front tires at more than 200 mph.
Similar (but not interchangeable) reversed scoops were installed on Plymouth Superbird street cars. But, to trim production costs, the Superbird’s fender tops did not feature venting holes. The scoops were purely ornamental, until Nascar race teams completed the job with a hole saw.
Fact 22: Hemi-powered A, B, and E-Body shells were factory equipped with distinctive torque boxes that are easily seen (as low-hanging bumps) ahead of the rear tires when viewing the car from the side. Borrowed from the convertible body parts bin, these stampedsteel “hats” were spot welded in place atop the forward leaf-spring bulkheads to resist potential metal fatigue in this critical area. Though never offered for public consumption, it is known that Dodge (and likely Plymouth) built a small number of 426 Street Hemi–powered B-Bodies in 1965.
A close look at vintage photos taken by Hi-Performance CARS editor Martyn L. Schorr of a 1965 Coronet 500 Street Hemi hardtop at the Chelsea proving grounds reveals convertible-style torque boxes. The kicker is that (even though the B-Body was totally redesigned from top to bottom for 1966 with completely different floor, trunk, cowl, and fender wall stampings) Chrysler knew the mighty Hemi would tax the handful of 1965 Street Hemi prototypes. So convertible-spec torque boxes (from the 1965 Coronet convertible parts bin) were added to the hand-built engineering hardtop test cars to validate the concept.
Fact 23: Torque boxes were not specified for use on 1962–1964 Max Wedge super stockers, the fleet of 101 Dodge WO1/A990 Coronet Race Hemi sedans, or their 101 Plymouth Belvedere I stablemates built in 1965.
Likewise, the radical, altered-wheelbase 1965 Dodge (and Plymouth) hardtop funny cars were not equipped with torque boxes. The reason is likely due to the fact these exotic Race Hemi creations were not intended to survive a typical 100,000-mile life on the street, so shortcuts were permissible in the name of trimming weight.
That said, while torque-box-equipped 1968–1973 Dodge and Plymouth 340, 383, 440, and Race Hemi A-Bodies are a common sight, B-Body torque-box applications should be restricted to convertibles and Street Hemis. Proving there are exceptions to every rule, in 1999 I inspected a San Diego–based L-code 1967 Charger 440/727 that came from the factory with torque boxes!
Fact 24: Limited-production models are often fitted with parts adapted from similar applications to minimize cost. The Hurst-modified 1969 440 Dart GTS is a prime example. Though it shares its dual-bulge steel hood with 1968–1969 Dart 340 and 383 models (nearly 15,000 of these hoods were stamped), the engraved, plastic, engine-displacement badges used on 1969 hoods (two per hood) posed a problem.
With low output predicted (only 640 were eventually built), tooling a specific hood vent insert wasn’t justified. So production engineers retained the donor car’s “383 Four Barrel” badges, but applied adhesive-backed 440 labels (in a matching font) to cover the 383 portion and voilà, the problem was solved at minimal expense.
Fact 25: The elaborate dual-mode undercar exhaust system fitted to 1962–1964 Max Wedges stands as the most uncompromised exhaust plumbing of any muscle car offering. The massive 3-inch header pipes and 2-inch secondary tubing interfered with the parking brake cables so Max Wedge floorpans received taller brakecable stands plus a pair of bolt-on cable guides to prevent contact. Knowing eyes use the added-height cable stands to help verify Max Wedge status.
Fact 26: In 1964, the Max Wedge development team devoted extra attention to exhaust tuning and some 1964 Stage III Max Wedge cars were delivered with exotic Tri-Y exhaust manifolds. Intended to isolate competing exhaust pulses for greater efficiency and to provide each cylinder with a true 21-inch primary branch, the resulting iron castings were massive, but effective.
Due to Chrysler’s 1-inch off-center engine location (for steering box clearance), the passenger-side Tri-Y manifold interfered with the horizontal shelf of the inner fender wall below the hood hinge. Instead of crudely massaging the area with a sledge hammer (see any 1968 Hurst Hemi Dart for reference) or compromising the manifold, a specific Stage III inner fender stamping solved the problem. It was the most expensive solution, but it underscores Chrysler’s “extra care in engineering” mantra.
With the July 1964 arrival of the 426 Race Hemi, all Max Wedge development was terminated. Ironically, the vast majority of 1964 Dodge Ramcharger (and Plymouth Super Stock) 426s were delivered with conventional semi-tuned Max Wedge exhaust manifolds.
Fact 27: An engine bay hassle challenged the A864/A990 Race Hemi installation in 1964–1965. Again, due to Chrysler’s off-center engine placement, the stock passenger-side shock absorber mounting hit the passenger-side rocker cover.
The solution was a redesigned stamping that reverses the shape of the mount and restores clearance. At one time, this unique item was sold separately as PN 2460988. Installation requires removing the stock item and welding in the replacement. Modern Race Hemi clone builders use a plasma cutter to gently remove the offending section of metal before reversing it and welding it back in place. If done carefully, the result looks correct.
Fact 28: Lots of 1960s muscle cars came with optional trunk-mounted spoilers. But the 1969 Charger Daytona stands taller. It’s horizontal wing is positioned about 2 feet above the surface of the trunk lid (23.5 inches to be exact). Why was it positioned so high?
Unlike other muscle car spoilers, which were generally attached to the deck lid and raised with it for trunk compartment access, the massive wing conjured by Chrysler’s aerodynamicists measured 58 inches across and 7.5 inches wide. With 3 square feet of surface area, it was capable of adding 600 pounds of valuable downforce at racing speed. The resulting wing was simply too wide to be attached to the deck lid so it was mounted to the outboard corners of the quarter panels, where it prevented the trunk lid from being opened. By simply lifting the horizontal wing (an inverted Clark Y airfoil) 2 feet in the air and perching it atop a pair of castaluminum vertical supports, trunk operation was restored.
Still, Charger Daytona trunk hinges have stop-tabs to prevent panel-to-wing contact; it’s a close fi t. A nice side effect of mounting the wing so high was the extra surface area given to the vertical stabilizers. They add a significant amount of self-centering force at speed and NASCAR wing-car pilots loved the way it helped prevent spinouts. The above also applies to the 1970 Plymouth Superbird.
Fact 29: On the downside of Dodge’s NASCAR history, the redesigned 1975 Charger body was slightly smaller than its 1974 predecessor but unfortunately its squared-off lines and blunt grille fascia possessed inferior aerodynamic qualities at high speed. This is why NASCAR granted race teams permission to continue using the 1971–1974 “Coke bottle” body style on super speedways until January 1978, when the more slippery Dodge Magnum became available for race duty.
Fact 30: Detroit automakers strive to make their products legal in all fi fty states; why add difficulty to the process of selling new cars? But in the case of the 1969 Charger Daytona, the District of Columbia and state of Maryland forbade registration due to the lack of a front bumper. This explains the simple rubber strip affixed to the nose cone of Plymouth’s 1970 Superbird. Daytona owners living in D.C. and Maryland are documented to have added homebrewed bumperettes to satisfy the requirement.
Fact 31: Because the 1964 A864 Race Hemi was 125 pounds heavier than the outgoing 426 Stage III Max Wedge, Race Hemi development engineer Jim Thornton went to extremes to shave vehicle weight. An example was his decision to eliminate the inboardmounted high-beam headlamps from Hemi-equipped 330 sedans (1964) and W021 Coronet sedans (1965).
To fill the resulting gaps, simple filler panels, scavenged from donor grille stampings, were pop riveted in place. The result reemphasized the horizontal shape of the grille and gives every 1964– 1965 Race Hemi sedan a truly brutal appearance. Plymouth used the same strategy on its 1964 Savoy Race Hemi sedans but a 1965 grille redesign (from four to two headlamps) spared the need for similar hand-modified grilles.
Fact 32: I once assumed that Dodge (and Plymouth) devised specific one-piece steel rear quarter panels for use on the 1965 alteredwheelbase hardtop body shells—and wasted months searching for factory part numbers. The reality is (as with the cobbled-together 1964–1965 Race Hemi grilles) budgetary concerns ruled out such extravagance. The filler panels needed to restore proper body lines to the 1965 Dodge (and Plymouth) A/FX fleet were simply sliced from fresh donor stampings.
Many are shocked to learn that new 1965 A990 Dodge (and Plymouth) sedans were parked next to the altered-wheelbase hardtop body shells during construction at the former Amblewagon facility. The 0-mile A990s served as donor vehicles and were thoroughly scavenged of numerous drivetrain, interior, and suspension parts. The emptied shells were then delivered to drag and stock car race teams for whatever came next.
Fact 33: The front and rear window glass in every 2009 LC22R Drag Pak Challenger was temporarily installed with four small glue points. Sold as a partially complete rolling kit, it’s up to the retail buyer to prepare the car for racing, which includes installing a roll cage. The lightly installed glass eases the task of removal prior to fabrication work.
Enclosed transportation is recommended during construction as wind gusts have been known to dislodge the glass of LC22Rs in the open. Similar glass woes plagued owners of 1968 Hurst Hemi Darts. The thin Chemcor door glass was vulnerable to fracture from even the lightest impact.
Fact 34: Don’t go hunting for a Super Bee convertible; none were built. Like its chief rival, the Plymouth Road Runner, the Bee entered life in 1968 as an all-go pillar-coupe with minimal frills. But unlike the Road Runner, which grew a more luxurious hardtop version in mid 1968 and a convertible variant in 1969 and 1970, the Super Bee never went topless (though a hardtop was added for 1969).
Fact 35: The 1966 Charger was the first American production car with a trunk spoiler. The sleek fastback was supposed to help stability at the NASCAR race speeds of more than 150 mph. Instead, it generated lift. To correct matters, a small three-piece, aluminum lip spoiler was designed and tested. It worked but had to be a regular-production offering for NASCAR approval. So in mid 1966 it was listed as a dealer-installed option, with the proviso that it’d become standard equipment on every Hemi Charger built in 1967.
I’ve personally only seen two 1967 Hemi Chargers (118 built) with the spoiler. Did Dodge pull a fast one on NASCAR? One final detail: A widely circulated 1967 Dodge News Bureau photo shows the Charger lip spoiler mounted on a car with a 426 Hemi emblem affixed in the middle.
Fact 36: With few exceptions, Dodge (and Plymouth) factory Hemi lightweight drag cars were equipped with a pair of Bostrom Thin Line bucket seats. Each weighed 24 pounds plus 4 pounds for the aluminum mounting brackets. A typical B-Body front bench seat weighs 80 pounds. These trademark buckets were featured in the 1964, 1965, and 1968 Race Hemi package cars.
Also shared with Dodge A100/A108 compact vans (minus the articulated seatbacks), similar Bostrom seats can also be found today in some airport buses wearing brightly decorated, breathable mesh covers in place of the sticky original-equipment vinyl applied to S/S and Dodge truck units.
I have several Thin Line–equipped vehicles and dig their combination of low mass, high comfort, and perfect retro looks. Correct seat covers and reproduction S/S mounts are readily available from outfits such as Kramer Automotive Specialties. Don’t overlook junked airport transit buses as a potential source of seats.
Fact 37: You may be surprised to learn most Max Wedges were equipped with 80-pound articulated front bench seats; even the lightweight Stage III aluminum-nose sedans of 1964.
Rumors claiming the Stage III bench seats had every other support spring removed are false. Another surprise is that 1967 Coronet WO23 Hemi package cars (and their Plymouth RO23 counterparts) also came with front bench seats.
A saving grace is that the mass of these beefy seats was situated close to the vehicle’s center of gravity for easy and quick rearward transfer on acceleration. Let’s not forget the single front bench actually weighs less than a pair of regular (non-Bostrom) buckets.
Fact 38: Dodge (and Plymouth) E-Body N96 Shaker hood scoop assemblies were designed with a large number of interchangeable parts to control manufacturing cost. All Challenger (and Plymouth ’Cuda) applications (regardless of engine size or carburetion) share the same plastic bubble, bubble grille inserts, cold/warm air doors, hood-skin adapter ring, Shaker base outer adapter ring, and Shaker base rubber gasket. The key item that allowed the same Shaker unit to fit multiple engine/induction types was the clever use of an inner adapter plate.
Formed from metal, inner adapters were produced for 340 4-barrel, 383 4-barrel, 440 4-barrel, 440 Six-Pack (3×2), and 426 Hemi (2×4) engine applications. The engine-specific inner adapter had seven mounting studs that fi t matching pre-drilled holes in the outer adapter ring to merge them into one and accept the rest of the Shaker unit.
Though often removed by owners to hasten carburetor access, Chrysler designed stamped-metal support feet that bolt between the engine and Shaker base. These metal supports are also engine specific, even though the Shaker will function if they’re missing. The metal base is plenty rugged on its own.
Fact 39: Beware, all Shaker base plate inner adapters are not created equal. Though the Six-Pack and dual-quad Hemi inner adapter plates are easily distinguished by the number of holes stamped for carburetor choke-housing clearance, the single 4-barrel units look similar but are not interchangeable.
The 440 engine has a taller deck height than the 383 and the small-block 340 sits lower in the car than either big-block. To make sure the Shaker bubble stood proud through the hood skin for the proper visual effect, three specific 4-barrel inner adapter plates were manufactured to suit 340-4, 383-4, and 440-4 applications. The main difference is the height of the tapered carburetor “bell.” (Happily, they’re all available new as faithful reproductions from Ben Snobar’s ShakerHood.com.)
Fact 40: The 1983–1987 Shelby Charger got around the need for special shipping methods by packing the body kit loose for dealer installation. Assembled at the Belvidere, Illinois, plant, the Shelby Charger’s deep chin spoiler and rocker extensions were close to the ground and would have suffered damage in transit by truck or rail. So it was up to new-car prep workers to finish the job at the dealership level. Sales totaled 8,251 in 1983; 7,552 in 1984; 7,709 in 1985; 7,669 in 1986; and 1,011 in 1987.
The Shelby Charger ground-effects installation job occurred 32,192 times in Dodge service bays all across the country, each guided by a printed instruction sheet. This figure excludes 1,000 final-year 1987 Shelby GLHS Chargers that were shipped from Shelby’s Whittier, California, plant. These units were massaged with intercoolers and other tweaks bumping the 2.2 Turbo from 146 to 175 hp and 175 ft-lbs.
Fact 41: With high-stall-speed torque converter development in its infancy, Dodge transmission lab employee Roger Lindamood and his team created the Clutch-Flite automatic transmission in late 1964. Replacing the torque converter with a conventional pedalactivated dry clutch, drivers of Torqueflite-equipped cars could begin drag races at the same engine speed as stick-equipped cars.
But after “exploding off the line” at more than 4,000 rpm, upshifts were as simple as pushing the buttons marked 2, then D, when the tach needle hit the appropriate RPM.
The 383-cubic-inch destroked Race Hemi in Fred Cutler’s Roadrunner 1965 Coronet A990 was an early Clutch-Flite recipient. It raced in NHRA B/Factory Experimental, where such innovations were legal. Once Chrysler got the Clutch-Flite ball rolling, aftermarket companies such as B&M, C&O, and Art Carr ran with the idea.
Fact 42: The 1962 426 Hemi was the first Chrysler production engine to employ cross-bolted main bearing caps. While the stronger caps better contained the rotating assembly, brute strength wasn’t the primary goal. Rather, during extended operation at high RPM (as encountered during the Daytona 500) cap deflection compromises the oil wedge formed between the crank journal and bearing face, resulting in cumulative bearing wear. Under less strenuous conditions (drag racing) the effect is momentary and of little consequence. The switch to cross-bolted number 2, 3, and 4 mains was made primarily to stabilize the caps for improved bearing life for endurance racing.
Fact 43: When NASCAR imposed severe handicaps on the Hemi in 1971, many Dodge (and Plymouth) teams reverted to 426 Max Wedge engines that were similar to what they ran in 1963. The major difference was the number of these latter-day wedges built on 426 Hemi blocks.
After reworking the oil drain passages, the beefy Hemi block readily accepts wedge heads while delivering the bearing-saving benefit of cross-bolted mains. Apparently, Bill France’s hawks were okay with the block juggling. These 426-cube wedge/Hemi hybrids were common during the 1972–1974 NASCAR race era.
Fact 44: To reduce the load on the 1964 Stage III 426 Max Wedge’s Tri-Y exhaust manifold mounting flanges, Chrysler used a pair of steel supports. Made of 3/4-inch-diameter tubing with pinched ends, the supports (one per side) bolt to specifically cast and tapped fastener holes in the cross-ram intake manifold (or NASCAR single 4-barrel).
It was a handy way to prevent heat- and vibration-related metal fatigue from harming the weighty iron castings hanging off each cylinder head. At roughly 40 pounds apiece, the Tri-Y exhaust manifolds blatantly contradicted Chrysler’s use of exotic aluminum fenders, hoods, and bumpers. Their main intent was indeed NASCAR racing (not the drag strip), where nose weight is more closely scrutinized.
Fact 45: The upswept cast-iron exhaust manifolds used on the 413/426 Max Wedge aren’t as heavy as they look. I’ve weighed them, and the passenger side came in at 27.5 pounds and the driver’s side checked in at an even 32 pounds.
Fact 46: 1985 was a good year for the Shelby Charger. The 2.2-liter inline four gained a Garrett AirResearch T3 turbocharger and output leapt from 107 to 146 hp. The sub-2,500-pound curb weight was minimally impacted by the extra hardware but the power-toweight ratio jumped from 22.7:1 (naturally aspirated) to 17.1:1 (turbo).
Better still, once Shelby’s crew added an intercooler for the 1987 GLH-S variant (1,000 built), output jumped to 175 hp and the power-to-weight figure tumbled to 14.2:1. For comparison, a typical 1966 Charger 383 (325 hp) weighs 3,900 pounds and delivers a 12:1 power-to-weight ratio.
Line ’em up and it’s safe to say the peppy Shelby would lead the race, despite its wrong wheel drive.
Fact 47: The May 1962 issue of Hot Rod magazine has an excellent thirteen-page feature story by Ray Brock on how Chrysler developed the Max Wedge engine. It is full of factory photos, including a pre-production prototype cross-ram intake manifold fitted with removable plenum lids. The goal was to test the effect of carburetor placement.
A similar hand-made manifold (perhaps the same one) appeared in the Roger Huntington photo collection mounted atop a 413 test engine in a 1962 Plymouth mule car. Clearly, there was lots of testing conducted before the ideal cross-ram intake manifold configuration was found.
Fact 48: Contrary to popular belief, the J-code 340 Six-Pack engines built for the 1970 Challenger T/A (and AAR ’Cuda) were not factory assembled with four-bolt main bearing caps. Instead, the blocks were cast with extra oil pan rail material and thicker bulkheads, but it was up to the end user to drill and tap the outboard fastener holes and obtain the requisite four-bolt caps from the dealership parts department. These special blocks weigh 20 pounds more than standard 340 castings and are easily identified by a “TA340” casting number on the driver’s side of the block.
Fact 49: The 340 T/A 4-bolt main cap conversion was simple compared to other aspects of race engine preparation. Remember, the SCCA Trans-Am series imposed a strict 5-liter (305 cubes) displacement limit. The stock 340 crank’s 3.31 stroke was too great and had to be replaced by an aftermarket (usually Keith Black) 2.96-stroke unit.
With the unaltered 4.040-inch bore, the combination delivered a legal 305 cubes and 8,000-rpm capacity. That said, very few of the 5,123 340 Six-Pack engine customers (2,399 Challenger T/As and 2,724 AAR ’Cudas) were serious SCCA racers. The vast majority of 340 Six-Pack E-bodies served as street/strip machines where the two-bolt main caps and 340-cubic-inch displacement remained unaltered for the life of the vehicle.
Fact 50: Special heads with casting number 3418915 were included with every Challenger T/A (and AAR ’Cuda), but again it was up to the end user to fully reap the performance benefit. Cast with extra iron around the ports, customers had plenty of opportunity to grind away material for significant fl ow improvements without breaking through the metal. Another key feature was a signifi cant outboard relocation of the intake pushrods and drilled pushrod holes. This eliminated much of the intruding pushrod hump that plagues all LA intake ports.
Fact 51: The 340 Six-Pack stands as the only Chrysler engine produced with adjustable rocker arms and a hydraulic camshaft. These features rarely converge, but in the case of the 1970 340 Six-Pack, the relocated intake pushrods prevented the use of existing 340 stamped-steel rocker arms because the balls and cups were no longer aligned.
While it probably would have been cheaper to whip up some specific stamped-steel offset rocker arms to solve the problem, Chrysler invested in high-strength, cast-steel rocker arms incorporating the proper offset to do the job. Doing it this way spared racers the expense of trying to find suitable aftermarket rocker arms when swapping a solid racing cam in place of the stock hydraulic unit.
Fact 52: Though based on the 1968 340 4-barrel, the 1970 340 Six-Pack contained enough unique parts (block, heads, pushrods, rocker arms, triple-Holley induction system) to warrant its own engineering code, which is A340. The 1968 single-carbureted 340 was designated A105. The 1964 273 small-block (Chrysler’s response to the Chevrolet 283 and Ford 289)was identified as the A828 program. The high-performance 273 4-barrel was coded A861 in 1965.
Fact 53: Hemi historians must remember there were three distinct Hemi engine families produced in the 1950s: Dodge, DeSoto, and Chrysler. Each type is highly specific and has virtually no parts interchange. The Dodge engine was the smallest, inside and out, and debuted with 241 cubes in 1953. By 1957 displacement had grown to 325 inches, but despite extra deck height in 1956 (from 9.287 to 10.38 inches), Dodge engineers felt the basic architecture was maxed out at 325 cubes (while maintaining 100,000- mile reliability).
In its brief five-year lifespan between 1953 and 1957, Dodge produced Hemis in 241-, 269-, 315-, and 325-cubic-inch variants, the most potent of which was the dual-quad 310-hp, 350 ft-lbs, Super D-500 of 1957. After 1957, all Dodge V-8s employed less costly polyspherical or wedge combustion chambers until the limited return of the 426 Hemi in 1964.
Fact 54: When Dodge conjured the Coronet D-501 NASCAR race package in 1957, it raided the Chrysler parts bin and swiped a bunch of 1956 Chrysler 300B–spec Hemi engines. A full 5 inches wider than the Dodge-sourced 325-cube baby Hemi used in sameyear 1957 Super D-500 (a less potent, yet still muscular offering), the Chrysler-sourced 354 Firepower was a sight to behold.
So as not to blur product identity boundaries—and perhaps to conceal the Chrysler-in-a-Dodge switch from overly inquisitive race track officials—these special Hemi engines were fitted with non-denominational rocker covers bereft of the usual “Chrysler Fire Power” stamped logos, nor did they sport “Dodge Red Ram” pressings. These no-name 354 Hemi rocker covers were only fitted to D-501 engines and are highly sought after today.
Fact 55: Designers of the 2002 Gen III Hemi engine started from a clean sheet of paper. As such, engineers were able to correct a key detail that frustrated Tom Hoover and the Gen II 426 Hemi design team in 1964. The 426 crew, restrained by a budget mandate to retain as much RB wedge block architecture as possible (to eliminate the need for tooling investment), was forced to use unusually long (and heavy) exhaust rocker arms to span the distance between the Hemi head’s laterally opposed exhaust valves and existing (RB wedge-based) lifter bore/pushrod trajectory.
The next time you see a Gen III Hemi, look for the prominent, raised camshaft tunnel visible beneath the intake manifold. It offers mute testimony to the fact the Gen III Hemi design team got Hoover’s wish, albeit four decades later. The raised cam improved the lifter/pushrod trajectory and allowed the use of short, light exhaust rocker arms, which help the Gen III Hemi reach high engine speeds safely.
Fact 56: High production costs killed the Gen I Hemi after the 1958 model year (1959 in heavy trucks). But in late 1997, when DaimlerChrysler sought a replacement for the aging LA-series 360 Magnum for light truck and SUV applications, the playing field changed significantly. Competing vehicle makers (namely Ford and most Asian brands) had adopted overhead cam V-8 architecture for truck/SUV use. Though DaimlerChrysler engineers are known to have explored SOHC, DOHC, two-, three-, and four-valve V-8 engine configurations, the inherent benefi ts of the double-rocker, hemispherical combustion chamber proved to be less costly yet just as potent as more exotic configurations.
Fact 57: Some observers say the 2003-up Gen III Hemi isn’t a true Hemi because its combustion chambers aren’t “pure” hemispheres. It is true that some chambers (particularly those used on 5.7-liter engines) have filled-in side sections, a quick look inside any 6.1 or 6.4 SRT8 engine reveals more familiar open chambers with unshrouded valves that open into the center of each cylinder bore.
The 1964–1971 Gen II 426 Hemi’s huge 172-cc combustion chambers required massive piston domes to attain 10.25 to 12:1 compression ratios. By reducing chamber volume (to 84.9- cc chambers in the 2003 5.7 Hemi Magnum), lighter pistons with smaller, more efficient domes were possible.
Truth be told, the only “true” hemispherical combustion chambers appeared on the Gen I Hemis of the 1950s. The Gen II 426 Hemi chambers were pinched slightly to reduce engine width for easier assembly-line installation.
Fact 58: Dodge (and Plymouth) played an interesting game of see-saw with the Six-Pack intake manifolds. For the 19691 ⁄2 440 SixPack Super Bee, the only material was aluminum, as supplied by Edelbrock. For 1970–1972, 440 Six-Pack availability was expanded to include Challengers and Chargers, and construction material gradually shifted to cast iron.
By contrast, the 340 Six-Pack small-block intake manifold designed for the 1970 Challenger T/A (and sibling AAR ’Cuda) was never rendered in anything but aluminum (also provided by Edelbrock). Apparently, Chrysler wanted to limit nose weight on the handling-oriented Challenger T/A, of which 2,399 were built.
Fact 59: Like Chrysler and Plymouth, Dodge first applied the principles of inertia and resonant ram tuning to its 1960 models. Little known is the fact Chrysler Corporation began experimenting with tuned induction as early as 1946 and took out numerous design patents in the late 1940s. At the core of it all is the formula for calculating the optimum intake passage length for tuning at a given RPM level.
The formula is L = K divided by RPM. L equals the passage length, K is a constant, and RPM is the desired engine speed. Once a closely guarded secret, the constant is equal to 90,000.
For example, if you want maximum resonant and inertia ram effect at 5,500 rpm, you divide 90,000 by 5,500 to get 16.4—that’s the ideal distance (in inches) measured from the intake valve head through the intake tract and ending at the plenum opening beneath the carburetor.
The only hassle with ram/inertia tuning is underhood packaging. The early Dodge D-500 Ram Induction 361/383 of 1960 (and similar Plymouth SonoRamic Commando, DeSoto Ram Charge Adventurer, and Chrysler 300F) was tuned for a boost way down at 2,500 rpm. This called for 36-inch passages (though 30 inches was selected for production castings). This explains why the early crossram intake manifolds were so long. But they did work and highway passing torque was improved 10 percent over standard engines equipped with tandem (inline) dual-quad induction.
Fact 60: The early, long-ram intake manifolds lacked sufficient volume and became restrictive above 4,500 rpm. To remedy the problem in 1961, Chrysler released a modified version of the long ram with half of the internal divider wall removed to yield 18-inch runners, which were free breathing to about 5,500 rpm. These units were fitted to the optional 400-hp version of the Chrysler 300 letterseries 413 wedge through 1964.
Shorter runner lengths (tuned for high-RPM effectiveness) were also used in the ram manifolds designed for the 1960 Hyper Pak Slant-6 (17 inches), 1962–1964 Max Wedge (15 inches), and 1964, 1965, and 1968 Race Hemi (12.4 inches). Later, Dodge rediscovered V-8 ram tuning with the “barrel ram” cast-aluminum EFI intake manifold introduced in 1992 for use on the 318/360 Magnum light truck/SUV powerplant (18.5 inches).
Most recently, a variety of tuned runner intake manifolds have served atop every Gen III Hemi engine made since 2003. In 2009, engineers got their cake and ate it too with the addition of a computercontrolled, “2-speed” intake manifold for the 5.7-liter Hemi installed in the 2009 Ram pickup, Dodge Durango, and Chrysler Aspen. Equipped with an electronically activated valve that toggles between short (for better high-speed horsepower) and long (for enhanced low-end torque) runner lengths, this novel active intake manifold technology has not (yet) been applied to Dodge passenger cars.
Fact 61: Was the massive Dana 60 rear axle ever offered under a fourdoor Coronet? Remembering that the hottest engine option for four-door Coronets was the 330-hp 383 4-barrel, Dodge rightfully figured the 83 ⁄4-inch rear axle was rugged enough for the job. But in the case of the two or three 1966 Coronets that were ordered with the 426 Street Hemi and 4-speed manual transmission, assembly-line workers likely chuckled as they noted the build sheet’s instruction to grab a Dana 60 instead. The stodgy four-door sedan and the exotic Dana 60 axle are an odd combination, but it surely happened!
Fact 62: A full year before their addition to the 1965 Dodge C-Body regular option list, Chrysler tested two experimental disc brake systems on a small number of 1964 Dodge 880 C-Body police cruisers assigned to the California Highway Patrol. One group used Budd four-piston front disc brakes; the other group was fitted with four–wheel disc brakes from popular aftermarket supplier Airheart.
Though the Airheart system was not seen in production, the Budd design (front discs only) was adopted for use on production cars. Coincidentally, the Ramchargers 1964–1965 “ramrail” AA/F dragster used lightweight rear disc brakes supplied by Airheart.
Fact 63: Although we’ll never see complete, running Challenger Drag Paks for sale on the showroom floor (emissions and safety restrictions forbid it), each model year seems to be more complete than the last. The cars built in 2009 were shipped with an empty independent rear suspension cradle devoid of a differential center section and axle half-shafts. For 2010 the stock cradle was replaced with a temporary yellow dolly with trailer tires. In the field, live axles (83 ⁄4, Ford 9-inch, or Dana 60) are installed with either fourlink or leaf-spring suspension before these cars hit the drag strip.
Fact 64: Intended for NASCAR race action on paved and dirt tracks, Dodge fi t the 1957 Coronet D-501 with upsized parts borrowed from other product lines and sister divisions. The stock front spindles and brakes were replaced with Dodge pickup truck units and the 12-inch rear drum brakes were sourced from the Imperial line (minus the Imperial’s huge 5-on-5 bolt circle). The 56 D-501 Coronets built in 1957 are not to be confused with lesser Dodgepowered D-500s, of which about 400 were built with standard 11-inch drum brakes all around.
Fact 65: Ever wonder why most Dodge muscle cars ride on slightly longer wheelbases than same-year Plymouth offerings? It’s because showroom sales competition between the two divisions was just as fierce as it was with outside models from General Motors, Ford, and AMC. An extra inch or two helped to justify Dodge’s higher base sticker price while offering slightly better ride comfort. The wheelbase shuffle dates back to the early days of horse-drawn carriages, when long wheelbases provided a less bumpy ride. Here are a few examples: 1970–1974 Challenger with 110 inches versus 108 inches for Barracuda; 1968–1970 Super Bee with 117 inches versus 116 inches for Road Runner; and 1968 Dart with 111 inches versus 108 inches for Valiant.
Fact 66: 83 ⁄4 rear axle units installed under 1965–1972 Dart performance and trailer-towing models feature specific axle shafts that do not interchange with parts from B-, E-, or C-Body applications. Though they share the same 30-spline (inboard) drive end and plug into all 83 ⁄4 center sections, A-Body shafts are forged with smaller flanges to accept the 5-on-4-inch A-Body bolt circle and 7/16 wheel studs (big cars use 1/2-inch studs set on a 5-on-41 ⁄2 circle). The central brake drum register hub is also of a smaller diameter than used on big car shafts.
Fact 67: A-Body 83 ⁄4 rear axle assemblies also use specific drum brake assemblies with shallow backing plates and 10×11 ⁄2 drums. The backing plates are stamped with less offset between the housing end and brake shoe surface. B-, E-, or C-Body drum brake assemblies are not interchangeable because the backing plates are stamped with greater offset distance between the housing end and brake shoe surface. Remember these facts when shopping for an 83 ⁄4 for your Dart at the next swap meet. These facts apply to Plymouth A-Bodies as well.
Fact 68: Though an improvement over the 9-inch drum brakes fitted to Slant-6 Darts, the 10-inch drum brake package specified for 1965–1969 V-8 cars is prone to brake fade with severe use. To help dissipate heat, a revised rear brake drum was introduced for 1970. Sharing the same 10×11 ⁄2 shoes and lining area as previous 10-inch drums, the novel feature was the addition of an integral 2-inch flare that protrudes into the under-car air stream. Unfortunately, the flared drums must be used with 14-inch (or larger) rims. Stock 13-inch A-Body rims (as used on Slant-6 models) contact the drums and prevent installation.
Fact 69: The NHRA Factory Experimental class of 1962–1966 fostered incredible innovation (and some amusing lip service to Wally Park’s rule book). While “stock” class Max Wedge and Race Hemi vehicles had to be available (in modest numbers) to the Average Joe, FX rules invited one-off mixing and matching of engines, suspension components, and vehicles as long as the items were from the same manufacturer’s parts bins. It truly was a playground for factory performance engineers. In 1964 Dodge experimented with weight transfer by creating a straight front axle conversion kit (PN 22352) for A- and B-Body drag cars using the new Dodge A100 van’s beam front axle and parallel leaf springs. The goal was to increase ride height for a higher center of gravity and extra traction on the launch.
The April 1965 issue of Drag Racing magazine features a detailed four-page how-to story using Dick Landy’s 1964 Dodge 330 Race Hemi as the guinea pig. A second kit was supplied to Connecticut racer Bill Flynn who installed it under the nose of his Yankee Peddler 1964 Dodge hardtop. With a straight face, story author John Durbin describes how the beam axle conversion “affords better handling characteristics” versus the stock torsion bar setup. Who’s kidding who? The real goal was altitude. Incidentally, Landy’s 1964 Dodge sedan (the sport’s first altered-wheelbase funny car) is presently owned by respected Hemi racing historian and author Pete Haldiman.
Fact 70: At 631 ⁄4 inches drum-to-drum, the stock Dodge A100 van axle was too wide for use under A- and B-Body Dodge Factory Experimental drag cars. To keep the front tires from protruding beyond the body (a violation of FX rules) Dick Landy’s shop narrowed the I-beam 4 inches.
At the other end of the country, a similar straight axle swap was made in Connecticut by Bill Flynn on his Yankee Peddler 1964 Dodge Race Hemi hardtop (a converted Max Wedge car). Flynn’s high-riding Dodge beat Arnie Beswick’s 421 Tempest coupe with an 11.95 run to take Modified Production honors at the NHRA Indy Nationals in September 1964, proof the A100 weight transfer concept worked.
Fact 71: At the same time Landy and Flynn were stuffing narrowed A100 beam axles under their 1964 Dodge B-bodies, at least three A100-axle-equipped 1964 Darts were also under construction. In Alabama, Billy Jacobs’ Kid Goat and Liberty Motors’ Corruptor’s Pup featured Race Hemis and A100 front axles. Chicago Heights, Illinois, hot rodder Jack Sharkey’s Rampage Dart started life with a 426 Max Wedge and 3-speed T-85 manual transmission. The stock 111-inch wheelbase car was nose heavy and chronic tire spin prompted radical wheelbase alteration surgery. Soon, the wedge gave way to a 426 Race Hemi, 727 Torqueflite, and a narrowed A100 front axle.
Dart match-race builders generally removed 51 ⁄2 inches from the center of a stock A100 front axle beam to keep the front tires properly tucked under the front fenders.
Fact 72: The Drag Pak Challenger program grows from strength to strength with each passing year. But the recent 2011 offering (50 built) with its Viper-sourced 512-cube V10 engine has no showroom counterpart. Perhaps the time is ripe for a return of the NHRA Factory Experimental category. FX was created in 1962 for one-off engine, body, suspension, and induction combinations emanating from the same manufacturer’s parts bins; but not necessarily available to the general public. Though Dodge has presented prototype V10 Challengers at recent SEMA shows (conjured by the brilliant magicians at Mopar Underground), regular production is dead-ended by the fact frontal impact characteristics do not meet federal standards; the massive V10 is too close to the Challenger firewall and won’t “submarine” in a head-on crash. So with zero likelihood of showroom V10 Challenger offshoots, why not whip
Fact 73: The 1968 Hurst-modified SS/B Hemi Darts (and Barracudas) featured a simple rear suspension trick designed to move the leaf springs inboard for improved drag slick sidewall clearance. Rather than revise the front and rear leaf-spring mounting points on the body, Bob Tarozzi’s Hemi A-Body development team fabricated new forward spring mounts that pulled each spring inboard nearly 1 inch, but bolted up to the stock mounting bulkhead. At the rear of the spring, simple offset shackles also delivered 1 inch of inboard movement. The strategy worked well and the parts are still available in the Mopar Performance catalog for A-Body drag racers looking for extra sidewall clearance.
Fact 74: The 1968 Hurst Hemi Darts (and Barracudas) were the first factory-issued Race Hemi package cars with front disc brakes. While production 340 and 383 Dart GTS offerings came standard with 10-inch front drum brakes or optional four-piston disc brakes, both retained the standard A-Body 5-on-4-inch small-bolt wheel circle, for which no suitable 15-inch-diameter rims were available. On the Hemi A-bodies, specific rotors with big-bolt (5-on-41 ⁄2- inch) wheel pattern were selected, thus opening the door to a wide array of aftermarket mag wheel choices. Likewise, the 83 ⁄4 (Torque- flite cars) and Dana 60 (4-speed cars) were also fitted with big-bolt axle flanges and 10-inch drum brakes.
Fact 75: The 1968 Hurst Hemi A-bodies were the second factory drag race package cars delivered with a dual-circuit master cylinder (the 1967 WO23/RO23 A/Stock Hemi hardtops were the first). Within the tight confines of the A-Body engine bay, the larger master cylinder and driver-side Hemi rocker arm cover fought for the same space. Again, Bob Tarozzi’s development team conjured an elegantly simple solution using an aluminum offset mounting block that repositioned the master cylinder outboard 1 inch. Brake pedal modifications were limited to moving the brake pushrod to the outside of the brake pedal arm and adding 1 inch to compensate for the thickness of the offset mounting block, a minor task. Also available today in the Mopar Performance catalog (P5249717), it’s a must for any Hemi A-Body conversion.
Fact 76: Once the Tarozzi Hemi A-Body brake offset kit is installed, the rocker cover is trapped beneath the master cylinder. Normally, the hard lines prevent rocker cover removal without breaking into the hydraulic system, forcing a time-consuming brake bleed after adjusting valve lash. Again, Tarozzi’s roots as a hands-on hot rodder simplified things. Every Hurst Hemi A-Body got a pair of fl exible, reinforced, rubber brake hoses mounted in-series with the fixed brake lines beneath the master cylinder. They permit the master cylinder to be pulled to the side a few inches for rocker cover removal, without breaching the hydraulic brake circuit.
Fact 77: Dodge was way ahead of the curve with its Li’l Red Express (LRE) muscle pickup truck of 1978–1979, beating the 1990– 1993 Chevy 454 SS and 1993-up Ford Lightning to market by more than a decade. But let’s not forget the 1964–1967 Custom Sports Special (CSS). With standard-issue bucket seats, floor console, chrome grille, and a quartet of 1-inch contrasting racing stripes applied over any one of the thirteen regular colors, it was a legitimate muscle truck, but only when equipped with the optional 426 Street Wedge (standard power was the 145-hp 225 Slant-6; the 200- hp 318 poly was also optional). 426-motivated CSS pickups shared the same 11-inch drum brakes as lesser offerings but were fitted with exclusive antihop traction bars to help keep the lightly loaded 6.70-15 tires on the road when all 470 ft-lbs were unleashed.
Though Dodge prepared an exclusive four-page color brochure touting the 1964 CSS, few were built and each was treated to numerous “hand modifications” during assembly. The 426-powered models were pulled off the normal build line onto a siding for traction-bar installation and surviving examples show where line workers used a hammer to make firewall clearance for the Street Wedge’s exhaust manifolds.
Fact 78: In a move likely aimed at preserving directional stability, the Custom Sports Special was only available on the long-bed platform with a 122-inch wheelbase. Likewise, 426 trucks were restricted to the 727 Loadflite automatic transmission. So few 727 equipped D100 and D200 trucks were built that assembly-line workers used an acetylene torch to cut clearance notches into the transmission crossmember. Can you imagine the mayhem caused by a 114-inch, short-bed CSS packing a 426 and four-on-the-floor?
Fact 79: Building upon the legacy of the Custom Sports Special and Li’l Red Express, Dodge unleashed the Ram SRT-10 muscle truck in 2004. To ensure braking capability equal to the Viper-sourced, 510-hp, 8.3-liter V-10 engine, the 2004 SRT-10 featured massive four-wheel disc brakes borrowed from the heavy-duty Ram parts bin. First-year examples used 15-inch front rotors (14-inch rear) and two piston calipers with an eye-catching red powder-coat finish. For 2005–2006, improved four-piston calipers were developed by TRW Automotive and not shared with any other Dodge or Ram product.
Under the cargo bed, Dodge replaced the standard 91 ⁄4 Ram rear axle with a revived version of the legendary Dana 60 rear axle. Proven behind everything from the 440 4-speed 1967 Coronet R/T to Don Carlton’s Mopar Missile 1970 Pro Stock Challenger, the Dana stood ready to harness every bit of the 505-cubic-inch V-10’s 525 ft-lbs of torque. As with the original CSS, Dodge employed a traction aid (in the form of a fifth shock absorber) to help curb axle hop. It all makes the 1964 Custom Sports Special and 1978 Li’l Red Express seem a bit quaint, doesn’t it?
Fact 80: Dodge (and Plymouth) muscle cars always carried an extra measure of braking capability as compared to competing cars from General Motors. While Chevy, Pontiac, Olds, and Buick muscle models ran on the same 9.5-inch, four-wheel drum brakes as lesser family sedans, 10-inch drums were the rule on early-1960s B-Body performers. Better still, with the 1966 advent of the Street Hemi option, 11-inch drums were adopted. These “Hemi brakes” were made standard on all 1968-up Super Bee and R/T models, while GM muscle car pilots white knuckled it on standard 9.5s (DelcoMoraine discs were an extra-cost GM option from 1967-up).
Fact 81: The September 1969 issue of Car Life magazine contains a reader letter from Clifford L. Moffett of Sherman, Texas: “I own a 1967 Dodge Charger 440-cid and have been trying to buy a rear spoiler for it. No luck so far. The local Dodge dealer says he can’t find the parts number, and I’ve received no answer from Chrysler after writing them. Can you help”?
Magazine editors responded thus: “The Charger spoiler originally was a racing item only, NASCAR permitting them on the grounds of safety. Later, in very limited quantity, they did become a production item. But now there’s no parts number available on them, and a Dodge representative tells Action Line he doubts there are any left in stock. Sorry.”
The spoiler in question was made from extruded aluminum and comprised three parts, which stood about 1 inch above the tail of the trunk and quarter panels. A series of flush-mount screws secured it to the deck lid and body. I have only seen one example, perched atop the trunk of a 1967 Hemi Charger.
Fact 82: July 20, 1969, was a very important day in history. Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and the Charger Daytona began high-speed testing at Chrysler’s Chelsea, Michigan, proving grounds with Charlie Glotzbach and Buddy Baker at the wheel. While Soviet “intelligence systems” kept an eye on the lunar landing, several light aircraft circled overhead as the Daytona lapped the 5-mile, six-lane, 31-degree banked Chelsea circuit at speed. Aboard the low-flying craft were observers from Dearborn, who’d invited themselves to watch the progress.
The Daytona “only” hit 194 mph but it has recently come to light its Hemi was intentionally choked by a 750-cfm carburetor. Chrysler’s Larry Rathgeb and George Wallace didn’t want to see more than 200 mph that day. They knew word would spread too quickly and spoil the surprise. Within a week, unwanted scrutiny had lessened and Glotzbach was regularly orbiting the track at an astonishing 204 mph.
Fact 83: Friday, May 6, 2005, was a tough day for me. Two days before, I got a call from BBDO (Dodge’s advertising agency) asking if I was available to be on-camera for a Dodge Charger TV commercial. The plan was to recreate the Barrett-Jackson auction block (inside the historic Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica, California, airport) and have some fun as a new 2006 Hemi Charger crossed the fictional auction block. To add realism, Dodge had Barrett-Jackson set up the actual Scottsdale auction block and a hundred Hollywood extras were hired to play the part of audience members and bidders. They even brought in Alain De Cadenet, Craig Jackson, Spanky and Amy Assiter, and me to make the illusion complete.
My role was to announce the car before bidding commenced. Perched atop a 40-foot lift, I was teamed with veteran character actor Roger Nolan and had to say these words on cue: “It’s a 2006 Hemi Charger in Inferno Red Crystal Pearl.” Well, time and again I screwed up the paint name, much to the joy of the director who was tasked with resetting the stage scene after my many bloopers. I finally got a clean take but will never forget the horror of being tongue tied with 200 people holding their breath, hoping I’d get it right.
Incidentally, the Hemi Charger used in the commercial bore serial number 00027 and was a pre-production pilot car. The commercial ran for 19 weeks and was my first union TV gig
Fact 84: “Wide-open throttle bursts with the 12.5:1 and 11:1 ratio engines must be limited to 15 seconds to prevent engine damage.” Published in a 426 Stage III Max Wedge service bulletin dated December 14, 1963, that’s lawyer-speak for don’t stand on it for too long or you’ll suck the pan dry and wipe out the rod bearings. With a typical well-tuned Ramcharger running mid-11s in the quartermile, there’s plenty of cushion in the 15-second suggestion
Fact 85: Rarity often goes hand in hand with low demand. It’s hard to imagine in today’s world, where Shaker-hood Challengers (and ’Cudas) are worth their weight in gold, but in 1970 only 184 Challenger customers paid the modest $97.30 upcharge for the N96 Shaker hood. That’s roughly 1 in 418 cars (76,935 Challengers were built in 1970). The ratio looks better for 1971 with 224 of the 26,299 Challenger buyers opting for the groovy Shaker, or roughly 1 in 117. Of course, let’s remember the Shaker wasn’t available on Slant-6, 318 2-barrel, or 383 2-barrel cars, but you’d still think more buyers would have been tempted by the macho exposed Shaker unit. Perhaps folks worried about rain, snow, and dust polluting the engine and shied away.
Later in the decade, Pontiac capitalized on a non-functional Shaker-style hood scoop, which helped sell hundreds of thousands of Firebird Trans Ams. Dodge was just a little bit ahead of the curve on this one.
Fact 86: December 6, 1963, was a momentous day. The first 426 Hemi ran under its own power. Previous valvetrain testing was done using electrically driven fixtures but this was the real thing. The first running engine, a single 4-barrel NASCAR-spec Track Hemi with 426-cubic-inch displacement, was a precursor to the small fleet of engines built to run at the 1964 Daytona 500—a mere four weeks away on February 23. It is likely that the first running engine was sacrificed on the dynamometer and subsequently scrapped. Numerous firsthand accounts indicate the early blocks developed fatal main bulkhead fractures after 400 miles of simulated testing. Hand-filed casting cores (to add material in critical areas) saved the day but not until numerous blocks were ventilated on the dyno. Rumors persist that the engine blocks used in the Daytona 500 were still warm to the touch, having emerged from the iron foundry just days before the race.
Fact 87: Though wind tunnel validation wasn’t part of the program, the 1976 Dodge Aspen coupe managed to glide through the air with 10 percent less aerodynamic drag than a comparable 1975 Dart. In real-world testing, the more slippery shape delivered a 21 ⁄2 percent increase in fuel economy. Side-by-side comparisons of a 1975 Dart and 1976 Aspen revealed 15.0 versus 15.4 mpg, respectively.
Fact 88: Between February 23 and May 23, 1968, workers at the Dodge Hamtramck assembly plant must have wondered why Dodge Darts were rolling off the end of the line without any paint, just gray primer. A quick look at the LO23 VIN prefix would have cleared any confusion. The second character, O, stood for Super Stock, a realm where the abnormal is normal. A total of 80 Darts (and 70 Barracudas) were partially assembled at Hamtramck with 383 drivetrains then trucked to nearby Hurst Industries for Hemi conversion. After completion, but still in primer, the cars were returned to Chrysler’s U-drive lot for customer pickup.
Fact 89: 9,527 Dodge truck buyers were attracted by the 2004–2006 Ram SRT10’s many charms (3,057 in 2004, 4,097 in 2005, and 2,373 in 2006). In comparison, records indicate a nearly equal number of buyers (9,845) bought 426 Street Hemi–powered Dodge and Plymouth muscle cars in 1966 to 1971. Between these performance peaks (during the dark days of the late 1970s/early 1980s) the Li’l Red Express Truck offered a glimmer of hope and found 7,306 buyers (2,188 in 1978 and 5,118 in 1979). Not a bad tally considering the anti-performance climate of the day. An alternate to the Li’l Red Express was the Warlock. With its standard Slant-6 engine (the 318, 360, 400, and 440 were optional), the Warlock was more of a trim package than a performance vehicle.
Fact 90: In 2002, a full year before Dodge officially revealed its plans to reintroduce the Hemi in light trucks and (later) passenger cars, I was employed as technical editor at Hot Rod magazine. The publisher worked out a deal with Dodge to supply us with a new black 2002 Ram 1500 short-bed pickup truck and 528-cubic-inch Hemi crate engine. You can guess what happened next.
Though it flagrantly violated California’s strict emissions standards, the resulting 4,901-pound Hemi Ram (built by Tony Thacker and the SoCal Speed crew) was very popular around the office and enjoyed clear sailing for street driving thanks to its Michigan manufacturer license plates.
On March 17, 2002, I took the Hemi Ram to the Irwindale 1/8-mile drag strip and made nineteen passes, the best of which was an 8.407 at 85.13 mph (roughly equal to a 12.80 at 110 in the full quarter). The next morning, its stock 91 ⁄4 rear axle succumbed to the 454 hp and 481 ft-lbs (at the tires) and stranded me at the busy 605/10 freeway interchange with a broken spider gear cross shaft. Mopar Performance motorsports marketing manager Dave Hakim next-day’ed a fresh axle unit (disc to disc) and I fixed it in my El Monte driveway.
The crazy part is that we were largely clueless to the fact Dodge’s new third-generation 5.7-liter Hemi Magnum was less than a year away. In hindsight, it’s clear Dodge had us build (and write about) the truck to whet public appetite for what became the Hemi Magnum Ram pickup truck. But at the time, their lips were sealed!
Fact 91: This is the warning that came with every 1977 Dodge Monaco Police Pursuit, of which 4,963 were built: “Chrysler Corporation recommends that only police-type tires certified for highspeed use by the tire manufacturer and approved for handling by the car manufacturer, be used on vehicles that may be driven at speeds over 100 mph. Sustained speeds over 100 mph may cause a standard steel-belted radial tire to disintegrate suddenly without prior warning which could result in loss of vehicle control.”
Fact 92: Of the 83,032 Challengers built in 1970, roughly 1 in 5 (14,889) were muscular R/Ts. Of the 14,889 Challenger R/Ts made, 3,052 carried U-code 440 4-barrel power, 2,035 carried V-code 440 Six-Packs, and 356 got the Street Hemi.
One of the 440-4 cars was tested in the February 1970 issue of Auto Driver magazine, which had this to say: “The test car was a vibrant, almost fi re engine red with a white vinyl top and matching white stripe over the rear end just forward of the bumper. Add to that hood tie down pins and a scoop looking for all the world like the flattened nostrils of some mean animal and you could almost feel the cops picking up speed to nab you.”
Interestingly, the 4-speed test car’s optional 15×7 Rallye wheels were fitted with center caps, but no trim rings.
Fact 93: Auto Driver magazine checked out a 1969 Super Bee in its June 1969 issue with a special emphasis on whether or not female drivers could manage it easily. One of 27,846 Super Bees built in 1969, the test car featured the base 335-hp 383, a column-shifted Torqueflite automatic, and front bench seat with no console.
The key element that made it useful to female test driver Chris Laidlaw was the power steering, a $100 option. She said: “The steering was easy. The wheel turned with no great amount of effort, once the power steering was on. At one point I tried to turn the wheel with the key off but soon gave that up!”
Chris’ test car was a pillar coupe (8,202 built) with the optional M46 simulated side scoops affixed to the quarter panels, adding $35.80 ($25.75) to the window sticker.
Fact 94: “Normally we would just gather one up (and) test it until it cried for mercy. But in the case of the Dodge Daytona (Turbo Z), we couldn’t exactly do that because the cars don’t go on sale until this fall, and Chrysler balked at letting us do a full test on the only pre-production unit the company had at the time. We heard the word ‘irreplaceable’ used a lot.”
Still, in the July 1983 issue of Motor Trend magazine, testers exclaimed, “The Daytona Turbo Z is the best-handling front-wheeldrive production car we have tested.”
Fact 95: 1968 Dart GTS buyers had a number of exciting options to choose from. Working up from the $3,163 base price, an extra $114.70 got you power front disc brakes, $80.35 delivered power steering, and $21.30 included some of the most convincing (and heavy) fake mag wheel covers of the year.
But the best deal by far was the measly $29 cost of the 383 big-block upgrade. Though the peppy 275-hp 340 small-block was standard, stepping up to the 383 was a cheap way to gain an extra 80 ft-lbs of tire-smoking torque.
Of the 10,849 Dart GTSs built in 1968 (8,293 hardtops and 452 convertibles), about 1 in 5 customers preferred the burly 383 with 2,104 sold. Big-block Dart customers proved to be a rugged bunch since almost half (991) opted for the A833 4-speed manual transmission. With the simple addition of some 7-inch drag slicks to offset the big-block’s extra 90 pounds of nose weight, a properly tuned 383 GTS will beat a 340 GTS by about a car length in the quarter-mile. I repeat: Slicks are essential for this result.
Fact 96: 1968 was also the year of the Hemi Dart. It is known that each of the 80 Darts rolled off the Hamtramck line as a partially assembled 383 GTS model before shipment to Hurst for the Hemi conversion. But can we include these cars in the total Dart GTS production tally of 10,849? The answer is no. The Hemi-destined Darts were assigned specific VIN codes that read LO23M.
The telling characters that set them apart from the GTS are the O (Super Stock vehicle) and M (special order engine). By contrast, a 383 Dart GTS VIN sequence reads LM23H (or LM27H for a convertible). Thus, Hemi Dart production figures stand apart from 383 GTS totals
Fact 97: The 1968 Hurst Hemi Darts were not inexpensive cars. The window sticker carried a base price of $5,146, enough to buy two Slant-6 Dart sedans ($2,323 base price). In fact, the same money could have bought a loaded 1968 Hemi Charger R/T, with a couple hundred bucks left over for mag wheels and slicks.
Fact 98: The special body modifications applied to the 1969 Charger 500 and Charger Daytona NASCAR homologation specials were extreme enough to warrant a specific body code in the VIN. A “normal” 1969 Charger R/T VIN (regardless of engine) begins with XS29. By contrast, the aero-enhanced 500 and Daytona VINs begin with XX29. Non-R/T Charger (powered by 225, 318, and 383 engines) VINs begin with XP29.
Oddly, the equally unique 1970 Plymouth Superbird VIN (RM23) does not differ from that of a standard Road Runner hardtop. Superbird verification is found on the fender tag, where code A13 confirms wing car status.
Fact 99: Except for the book you’re holding (I try my best), be wary of believing everything you read. In the 80-page Motor Trend New Cars 1972, a one-shot annual publication offered on the newsstand and mailed as a perk to Motor Trend subscribers, the editors made major mistakes with these forecasts on the 1972 Challenger: “It is interesting to note that the Challenger still has the convertible, one of the few series lines that continue to carry this model.”
Another flub claims, “The 383-cu.-in. engine has been dropped and it has been replaced by a 400-cu-in. V-8.”
To set the record straight, after tumbling nearly 50 percent (from 4,243 to 2,165 built in 1970 versus 1971), ragtop Challengers were discontinued for the 1972 model year and beyond. A .090 overbore (to 4.34 inches) grew the 383 big-block to 400 cubic inches for 1972, but the Challenger was restricted to Slant-6 or 318/340 smallblock power for 1972-onward (with a 360 replacing the 340 in 1974).
Fact 100: Don’t look for a VIN tag on the dash of any 2009–2012 Drag Pak Challenger. Though the windshield glass lower blackout border is relieved for VIN sighting (Drag Paks use standard Challenger windshields), there’s no VIN tag attached to the dash panel. Rather, each of the cars sports a plain aluminum tag affixed to the passenger-side spring tower with two rivets.
Each laser-etched tag reads “LC22 Drag Program. Manufactured at Brampton Assembly Plant Canada.” The bottom line reads “Mopar” and is followed by an identification number providing info on model year and the sequence number of each particular unit. The first prototype is marked 2008001 and the first production unit (furnished to “Big Daddy” Don Garlits) bears ID number 2009001.
In the six years since the Drag Pak concept was first unveiled at the 2006 SEMA show, roughly 200 Drag Pak Challengers have been built. The SEMA concept car (with its hefty fiberglass body shell) underwent several suspension and graphics updates before being provided to Shaun Carlson for conversion into a drift car. Its current whereabouts are unknown. The most rare production Drag Pak (to date) is the 2009 360 V-8 (5.9) package, of which only three were made.
Written by Steve Magnante and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks