I began cleaning up the Dodge and collecting motor parts in 2001. It took me a couple of years to prepare the Dodge. I still do all of my own work. Fiberglass, painting, chassis tuning and design, engine building, etc., etc.

The Dodge still used its original chassis setup and rebuilt Koni shocks. All it really needed was a new engine, so my Dad and I decided to buy one from a Northeast builder who seemed to understand the rigors of road racing. But,once the car was running, in 2005, the only real problems to sort out were with the engine.  I spent the summer of 2005 learning that my first “pro built” engine was over cammed, no torque below 5000 rpm, had connecting rods that were too light and weak for a 4.125 inch stroke, an electric water pump that would not keep up with the demands of the  motor and Edelbrock Carbs that don’t like cornering forces.

At the November Daytona race, while coming down the front straight, an already damaged main bearing packed up, spun and starved the next pair of rod bearings of oil, beating out the bearings and breaking the two rods. Once I had it disassembled at home, I also found that none of the remaining rods were their original lengths. The longest was .013 longer, which tells me that they were not long for this world either. So much for 7000RPM with those rods! Now I was going to build it like I did in the past, a slower turning torque monster. No one really uses a Hemi today like I do.  I knew what was needed; I just didn’t have a machine shop to use anymore.

After some head scratching, I decided it was time to renew my acquaintance with Mr. Bill Gwyn, of Suffolk, Va.  He has built successful engines for every kind of car and boat and loves his motor development, as he always learns something new.  In the seventies, he did some machine work for Dave Lewis.  Bill line bored the block, cut the side clearances on my new 7.1 inch Crower Billet endurance racing rods to fit the crank, fitted the pins and balanced the rotating assembly. The same die at CP Pistons was used to make the pistons. This time I had them remove as much of the dome as possible to reduce weight and lower the compression to 11.5 to one and raise the wrist pin for the increase in rod length and a 4.5 inches stroke. With a 4.5 inch bore and stroke, you end up with 572CID, which is a little over 9 liters.  The crankshaft was a used Bryant piece that I found on eBay. It was only used a few times in a non blown dragster and checked out fine, but had to be turned .020 under.  I did the valves and assembled the motor. The first smaller camshaft I tried was a Crane roller, but it lacked top end and the torque came on like a light switch. Three other special grinds were tried until I found one that worked well.

The big find for the year was an old Keith Black manifold for Webers carburetors. I had been looking for one for more than ten years. Then I bought four 58IDA Webers  from Gene Berg and spent the last half of the summer of 2006 advancing or retarding cams and trying 6 different emulsion tube and jet combination’s at an air strip in N.C.  Finally, I found the best compromise and got my torque curve back like I had 30 years ago. On a chassis dyno, I got 600ft lbs at 3000RPM and 730ft lbs at 4900RPM at the rear wheels, and it ran on mostly pump gas. Now, it also needed a dual disc clutch so Ram made me one with five ceramic pucks on each disc. It’s their street unit, except for the pucks, and works beautifully. A single disc clutch is only good for around 700 ft lbs. and it was slipping with the new Hemi.  I also ended up using a G Force dog clutch transmission. It is an absolute joy to shift, just lift up on the gas enough to detorque the driveshaft and pull the stick. It is rated for 1000 HP. All I need to do now is move the torque curve up 1000 rpm, and I will do that with larger primary pipe sizes this winter.  Once again, the Dodge can drag race with a Porsche 935!  Also for 2007, I repaired the front hood and fenders that were used in 1978. These were designed and made entirely by myself with more down force in mind, or at least to try to reduce the overall lift.  I believe my Dodge Hemi Challenger RT never looked any better either. It is my favorite look of all the panels I have made to date. Some pictures of it are posted above.

Another interesting note is Fast Phil Currin. I met Phil at the first IMSA race at VIR in 1972. He finished 6th overall and 1st in the GTO class that weekend. We have been friends ever since. We were able to race the Dodge at several events in the summer of 2007, because he had some open schedule time from being a driver instructor. I have the rest of my life to drive my cars, but working with him was special to me, an opportunity that may not come along again to sort out my car with a real driver. It was nice to see John Bishop’s original AAGT car concept work against Turbo Porsches. Phil and I out lasted many of them at the Mid Ohio Lumbermans 500 Mile race, 30 years ago.  This summer, we had podium finishes and class wins. The Dodge was faster at the Mitty than all the Porsches Turbos, and at the VIR, it lapped faster, out ran and out accelerated a 935 Turbo too!  The Dodge is also lapping faster than Can Am cars from the late 60s, like big block injected McLarens, etc. and it is an old school car too, like me, stuck in the sixties.

As a side note, my friends told me that it was interesting to watch Phil Currin from a distance at the cars first vintage race at VIR in 2005.  After the first time out in the car with many  little problems, he sat in his “Fast” Phil chair in the shade while I worked on the car and studiously made notes of places on the track where he could do better, and quietly announced by how much. Then he would go out and knock that much time off of his lap. He did that 3 times, by 1.5 seconds per lap, ending up with a 1.56, wishing the Dodge ran better (Edelbrock problems) and the brakes were not so spongy!  At the Mid Ohio event in 2007, after three practice sessions of tweaking the car, he came in and said there was nothing to do, just nothing he wanted changed on the car. It was awesome. That was a rare moment, but the chassis tuning has never been better. I am not even running a  sway bar now, and the Hemi is truly a torque monster.