1972 Chevrolet Nova – The Time Thief

1972 Chevy Nova Red Front Quarter View

By: Ro McGonegal

Is it still the same old story, a fight for love and glory, a case of do or die? According to Billy Utley’s brilliant ’72 Nova, the vein of that old tune runs deeper than that. All the best equipment in a finely crafted chassis surrounded by pin-neat sheetmetal is his signature, or more correctly the signature of B&B Classics in Ortonville, Michigan. B&B is collaboration, a cooperative between father Bill and son Billy that produces a prodigious amount of work all under one rather small roof.

But unlike the storied cobbler’s shabby shoes, Billy doesn’t drive a beater and dream of what could have been. No, he simply foreshadowed and built the best rolling billboard in the business. A car that began as a twinkle in his mind’s eye. All he wanted was clean piece to tool the streets. He began the project in 2007 with a simple mission: a nice stance, big wheels and tires, modified factory suspension, and a snappy carbureted small-block under the flap. My, how things quickly vectored to the moon. “It was to be built with the intent to cruise around,” he said sheepishly.

It seems that Billy was too conservative about his passion. How could he not celebrate the same level of sophistication that he was building for his customers on a daily basis? It didn’t make philosophical sense, but as you can see, he kicked that half-empty mentality out, laid his hands on, and didn’t quit until tire smoke was pluming out the back. Even as its progenitor, Billy claims his double-throw down enchilada is worth quite a bit of healthy stock.

The Nova’s mechanical realm is exemplary, from engine to chassis to rolling stock, B&B inserted aftermarket systems, not necessarily bolt-on equipment but stuff that has been proven a thousand times over. To Billy, such strategy would ensure completion in the least amount of time. He abandoned his uncomplicated blue-sky cruising dream for an active role in a driving experience that would push the limits of the equipment and the ability of the driver absolutely.

1972 Chevrolet Nova Sparco Steering Wheel  
1972 Chevrolet Nova Engine View 1

In his 28th year, Billy is not exactly a novice, having broken ground with an ’07 Subaru WRX STi and then his first ’72 Nova. Could it be that young Bill was headed in one direction and then saw the light as it infiltrated the B&B environs? Muscle cars and their variants are the lifeblood of the shop. His Subaru filled a need but it would never have the cache of a cool piece of Detroit. It would never run the quarter in 11.6 or approach a 175-mph top end.

Since Billy obviously wouldn’t be able to devote full time to the Nova, it became a two- year long after-hours celebration. And in the end, the mule would accelerate and stop and handle on the edge, a top-notch Pro Touring character free of excuses and brimming with potential. Somebody must have heard about it. In 2010, he got an invite to the Optima Ultimate Street Car invitational.

In 2011, he came back at the Midwest Muscle Car Challenge nailing the top speed award as well as first place in the speed/stop event. He cemented the deal with a second place overall in the Run to Music City event. In 2012, he was the overall winner in the Run to the Shore show and he copped second in the non-ABS road race and third in the non-ABS autocross trials at the Muscle Car Challenge hosted at Pittsburgh. He’s also affiliated with the American Street Car and Ultimate Street Car series as well as the festivities at Orange Cone Racing.

And Billy’s red devil keeps on rollin’.

Engine & Drivetrain

1972 Chevrolet Nova Engine View

The beauty of hot rodding is that it’s completely elective. Though most would have begun with a “simpler” LS engine design, Billy happened upon an L99 out of an SS Camaro, the one governed by variable valve timing (VVT). He sent the core to Thomson Automotive in Wixom, Michigan, for the machine work, internal expansion, and the build process. The L99 grew from a cast-guts 376 to an all-forged 416 via a Callies stroker crank, Oliver connecting rods, and Mahle 11.2:1 pistons. Thomson selected a Mast Motorsports VVT camshaft (something on the order of 230/237 degrees duration; 0.588/0.607-inch lift) and combined it with OE roller lifters and Mast pushrods. Although the cylinder heads were not modified, they host Mast 1.7:1 rocker arms and valvesprings. The intake tract is stock LS3 but supported by a K&N filter. Exhaust is extracted by 1 7/8-inch diameter primary tubes that feed 3-inch pipes. All accessories (sans A/C compressor) are gathered by a ’10 Camaro drive system. In factory form, the L99 produces 400 hp at 5,900 rpm and 410 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. On the Thomson dynamometer, the engine twists out 580 hp at 6,200 and 554 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm. The torque parade begins with a Ram Force 9.5-inch twin-disc clutch assembly and Tremec T-56 (2.66, 1.78, 1.30, 1.00, 0.79, 0.63:1). A Dynotech Engineering prop shaft delivers it to the 3.89:1 gearset in a 9-inch style axle equipped with a Detroit Truetrac differential.

Exterior

1972 Chevrolet Nova Rear Side View  

Back in the arms of B&B, the Nova was destined to retain originality. It was made whole again and sanitized against time. The Bill and Billy team shaved the side marker lights, filled in the license tag cove in the front bumper, and narrowed both bumpers slightly. They built the engine compartment, smoothing it out with a custom firewall. Premium Truck and Auto Body in Clarkston, Michigan, completed the application with BASF basecoat/clearcoat Inferno Orange.

Chassis

1972 Chevrolet Nova Backseat

The Nova’s substantial underpinnings are founded on Detroit Speed hydroformed subframe (with rack steering, C6 spindles) and QUADRALink four-bar rear suspension. But for something a little different, Billy specified a full-floating 9-inch housing from Speedway Engineering in Sylmar, California. To adapt it to the Nova, B&B had it narrowed 3.5 inches (56.5 inches, flange-to-flange). While they were mucking around in the back room, they installed Detroit Speed mini-tubs to accept those big 19s. Eibach coils surround JRi double-adjustable shock absorbers that are mounted at each corner. To add stability to the chassis and to abet safety, B&B erected an eight-point rollcage.

Interior

1972 Chevrolet Nova Interior  
1972 Chevrolet Nova Racepak  
1972 Chevrolet Nova Seatbelt

Most of B&B’s effort was consumed by a hand-formed steel replacement dashboard fixed with a RacePak UDX view screen. It, and the Pioneer head unit (along with twin Polk Audio 6×9 speakers), is enabled by an American Autowire fuse block sprouting a custom in-house wiring harness. Paul’s Auto and Boat Interior in Pontiac, Michigan, covered the Recaro sport seats in Recaro Nardo and artista cloth. The door and side panels are retro. An unadorned Sparco 345 steering wheel on a factory tilt column sides by a Pro 5.0 shifter. Schroth Racing harnesses suck Billy to the seat.

Wheels & Brakes

1972 Chevrolet Nova Wheel

The energy burning equipment is typical of the Detroit Speed conversion: Corvette C6 ZO6 brakes with 14-inch DBA (Disc Brake Australia) 5000 rotors squeezed by a Wilwood master cylinder and six-piston calipers. The frictional coefficient is Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires—265/35 and 305/30—cohabiting with three-piece Forgeline ZX3R rims, sizes 18×9.5 and 19×11.

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Posted in General Motors, Interesting Stuff

1966 Chevrolet Chevelle – Canyon Killer

By Rob Fortier

What do you get when you mix road racing, SoCal canyon roads, and a childhood muscle car slash hot rod influence? In this case: Westlake Village’s Mike Cavanah’s curve-carving ’66 Chevelle.

“My father exposed me to muscle cars as a child” Mike remembers. “He owned a ’64 split-window Vette, ’68 and ’71 Vettes, a ’57 Chevy, and a couple of Model A Ford roadsters. I learned to drive in the ’68 on Stunt Road in Malibu; loved driving the Santa Monica mountain canyons as a teen and young adult.”

Cavanah still lives in the same area—and still carves the same canyon roads, behind the wheel of both European (Porsche 911s) and American muscle (’09 Challenger). The latter re-unleashed the muscle car bug, leading Mike to track down and acquire a ’69 Camaro off eBay. “When the car arrived” he recalls, “I didn’t like the way it drove.” A friend subsequently pointed him in the direction of Jason Pecikonis at Timeless Kustoms in Camarillo, and following some serious talks, the decision was made to step back a few years in time—1966 to be exact—and do a Chevelle instead.

1966 Chevy Chevelle White Front Quarter View  
1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Rear Side View  

Through a search on Craigslist, the appropriate project base roller was located back in 2010, and over the course of the following three years, the not-so-mild transformation ensued.

In order to provide not only the canyon killer handling Mike sought, but to achieve competitive results in various sanctioned autocross events (including USCA), Jason and crew at Timeless retrofitted the Chevelle chassis with Art Morrison/C6 front suspension, triangulated four-link, beefy sway bars front and rear, and RideTech springs. To bring the wide Boze Mesh 19-inch wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport radials to a suitable halt, 15-inch carbon Brembo discs were utilized, while an Art Morrison quick-ratio power rack helps keep things “on track.”

Then there’s the drivetrain: 416 cubic inches of LS3 goodness via Scoggin-Dickey put out a reported 698 hp at 5,500 rpm with a boastful 650 lb-ft a few revs up the tach. With LS9 injection, full complement of COMP Cams valvetrain components, Lingenfelter 30 percent overdrive pulleys, and custom long-tube headers (by Timeless), the V-8 feeds its 9.2:1 compression through a T-56 six-speed to a 3.73-geared rearend. A nice mixture of custom-shaped tinwork and Corvette shrouding artistically blend the LS into the Chevelle’s spacious engine bay.

Timeless’ adept handiwork flows well beyond the underhood confines, as you may well have already noticed. The Chevelle, wearing Grand Sport stripes on the passenger side only, features shaved handles and driprails, reshaped body lines, and custom hood vents beneath a flawlessly prepped, applied, and finished PPG white paint job offset by the aforementioned gunmetal gray Boze wheels and custom chin spoiler. The one-sided red racing stripes, among other things, lead the onlookers’ eyes within the car, where Agoura’s Eric Thorsen redid the cockpit in luxurious leather, including stock-bolstered Kirkey bucket seats and custom side paneling. The dash, reworked by Timeless, now houses instrumentation from Auto Meter, while a Focal-Alpine sound system and custom rollcage were also integrated.

And, as previously mentioned, Cavanah’s Chevelle was built to perform: “I debuted the car at USCA Laguna Seca in March 2014, followed by autocross in Pomona and Del Mar. But my dream is to get an invite to OUSCI in Pahrump after this year’s SEMA Show.” But Mike’s ’66 is also a family cruiser, as well, and with six kids, it’s rare that any of his weekend drives are spent behind the wheel “solo!”

Motorvation

1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Engine View

Texas-based Scoggin-Dickey supplied owner Cavanah and builder Pecikonis with a 4-inch bored and stroked (416ci) LS3 long-block (complete with Manley crank and H-beam rods, Wiseco 9.2:1 pistons, and COMP valvetrain) which Timeless Kustoms top-ended with later LS9 components, custom-fabbed tube headers, and Corvette-influenced external dress shrouded by handformed tinwork in the engine bay. Linking the Currie 9-inch posi to V-8 is a Tremec T-56 six-speed gearbox equipped with a dual-disc hydraulic clutch and B&M shifter.

Underpinnings

The Chevelle’s stock chassis was retained, however, it’s been completely updated with Art Morrison Enterprises C6-based front suspension and quick-ratio rack-and-pinion, aftermarket coil springs and three-way adjustable shocks, triangulated four-link, and 15-inch, carbon-rotor’d Brembo binders.

External

1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Passenger Side View  

Save for the smooth removal of door handles and driprails, a little body line reshaping, and integrating hood vents, the Chevelle’s shell is “mostly” stock. Timeless’ painstaking bodywork is topped by an equally meticulous PPG white paint job. Red passenger-side front fender racing stripes go well with the gunmetal gray accenting of the Boze wheels and aftermarket front spoiler, as well as the chrome bumpers for that matter.

Cockpit

After Timeless Kustoms reworked the Chevelle’s dash and installed an appropriate rollcage, among other chores, Eric Thorsen dressed the interior up vividly in red leather, covering everything from stock-esque looking Kirkey bucket seats to the custom door panels. Vintage Air A/C, Alpine-based Focal sound system, and Auto Meter instrumentation provide necessary amenities.

1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Interior  
1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Steering Wheel  
1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Shifter  
1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Front Seats Seatbelts  

Rollers

Wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 285/35- and 325/30-series performance radial rubber, 19-inches of wide Boze Mesh clench the normal wheel-size diameter of the 15-inch Brembo carbon rotors and accompanying calipers nestled snug inside.

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Posted in General Motors, Interesting Stuff

As original as it gets: Jon Gray’s 1937 Studebaker President rumble seat coupe

1937 Studebaker President

By: Kurt Ernst

Jon Gray with his 1937 Studebaker President. Photos by author.

Some see order where others see chaos, or majesty where others see nothing but disrepair. Jon Gray is one of these glass-is-half-full people, as evidenced by the 1937 Studebaker President he rescued from a 28-year garage slumber in 2012. A true barn find, extracting the Studebaker from its resting place required a chainsaw, a tractor and ample patience to remove the near-three decades of debris cluttered around the car.

1937 Studebaker President

Something of a local legend, the Studebaker was the property of a carpenter who’d fallen on hard times. Convincing him to even show the car took some doing, but Jon’s persistence paid off. Heeding the advice of friend John Royals, Jon bought the car not because it was a Studebaker with a rumble seat, but because it was a President, even though doing so required him to sell his 1936 Ford to raise funds.

Though once black, today Jon’s car sports car more oxidation than paint. He doesn’t seem to mind, and went to great lengths so show off the farmyard mud that still coats the inner fenders and parts of the frame. “We drove it to shows for the first year wearing a coat of dust, complete with raccoon prints down the windshield and across the hood,” Jon explained. It’s hard to top that for patina.

1937 Studebaker President

The Studebaker has since been cleaned, and Jon admits to vacuuming around five gallons of “mouse detritus” from the rumble seat area. He’s yet to pull the back seat out of the car, but is confident that more rodent residences will be uncovered when he does. The can of wax that Jon found stored on a shelf in the rumble seat compartment is still there, since as he explained, “it was a part of the car when we bought it.”

1937 Studebaker President

He confesses to driving the car home on its existing set of tires, but soon replaced them since the flat spots made the car shake badly. He’s changed a fan belt (with an original Studebaker replacement part), replaced a set of points, sleeved the wheel cylinders and the master cylinder, cleaned the carburetor and replaced the exhaust system, but that’s the extent of the mechanical refurbishing the Studebaker has seen. Jon even claims the spark plugs and wires are original, though we’ll bet that both have been replaced at some point during the car’s 77-year lifespan.

1937 Studebaker President

The 250.4-cu.in., 115-horsepower L-head inline-eight engine still runs like a top, despite the car’s age and its 73,407 accumulated miles. The three-speed transmission lacks a Synchromesh first gear, and Jon’s Studebaker didn’t come equipped with overdrive, but neither item dims his enthusiasm for the car. “It’s from the Art Deco period,” Jon said, “and it features a Helen Dryden interior.”

1937 Studebaker President

Though industrial designer Helen Dryden was an influential figure in both the art and design worlds, she still had to answer to then-Studebaker-design-consultant Raymond Loewy. Nonetheless, Dryden got top billing for the interior of both the Studebaker Dictator and the Studebaker President, which the company proclaimed in period advertising as “styled by Helen Dryden.” Once described by The New York Times as, “the highest paid woman artist in the United States,” Dryden reportedly spent her later years living in a $10 per week welfare-subsidized hotel room, and today is largely unknown outside of art and design circles.

1937 Studebaker President

I asked Jon if he had any future plans for the Studebaker that survived the scrap drives of the Second World War, and he shook his head. “We just want to drive it and have fun,” he said, “People really appreciate the way it is and love to see it.”

Judging from the attention it drew at last Saturday’s Cruise-In Spectacular, we’re inclined to agree with him.

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Posted in Interesting Stuff

Buick-built 1970 GS Stage 1 show car heads to auction

 

Buick-built 1970 GS Stage 1 show car heads to auction

By: Kurt Ernst

Looking to draw attention to its muscle car offerings for the 1970 model year, Buick pulled a pair of white GS Stage 1 models, with sequential serial numbers, from September 1969 production. One of these was finished in pearlescent red paint and fitted with a bold, mostly monochromatic interior before being shipped off on the show circuit. After a life spent on stage, street and strip, this one-off 1970 Buick GS Stage 1 (the subject of a feature article in the August 2005 issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines) heads to auction this October in Chicago.

1970 Buick GS Stage 1

The task of turning a production GS Stage 1 into an eye-catching show car fell to Buick’s Shows, Displays and Exhibits division, which began the effort by spraying the white GS a non-production shade called Fireglow Pearl. On the inside, the group removed the production steering wheel, kick panels, carpeting, A-pillar trim and seat belts, all of which would have been black on a car ordered with white vinyl seating. In their place, Buick substituted all-white components (except for the seat belts, which were tangerine), using thick pile carpeting that Craig Fitzgerald described as, “the kind of plush you might find in the back of a custom van from the 1970s.” One additional change was made to the car’s exterior, solely for the purpose of highlighting its interior: though a Soft-Ray tinted windshield was used in production, this was substituted for a clear glass windshield to avoid casting a blue tint on the all-white cabin.

1970 Buick GS Stage 1

Under the hood, the stock GS Stage 1 455-cu.in. V-8 and Turbo-Hydramatic three-speed automatic transmission remained unaltered. Compared to the GS 455 series, Stage 1 cars received a high-lift camshaft , 10.5:1 compression pistons, a rejetted Rochester Quadrajet carburetor and a low-restriction dual exhaust, bumping output to 360 horsepower (from the base 455′s 350 horsepower) and 510 pound-feet of torque. Like most muscle car horsepower ratings of the day, 360 was an extremely conservative number, meant primarily to appease insurance companies, and popular belief was that the Stage 1 actually made closer to  400 horsepower in stock trim.

1970 Buick GS Stage 1

Both cars pulled from production were loaded up with options, too, as Buick wanted to highlight features that could be ordered from a local dealer.  The show cars came equipped with the Rallye Ride Control Package; Goodyear Polyglas GT tires; tilt steering wheel; power windows; full instrumentation; chrome wheels; and a Rallye steering wheel. About the only option missing from the build was air conditioning, since Buick never intended the cars to be driven for any length of time.

1970 Buick GS Stage 1

At the conclusion of their time on the show circuit, the Fireglow Pearl GS Stage 1 and its sister car, a White Pearl GSX, were destined for a date with the crusher until Columbus, Ohio’s Len Immke Buick intervened by purchasing both vehicles. GM reportedly agreed to the sale on the grounds that the dealership would retain possession of both custom Buicks, but it wasn’t long before the cars were in the hands of customers. The Fireglow Stage 1 was used by its original owner for both street and drag strip duty, and although it was retired in 1978, he retained possession of the car until 2003, when it was acquired by John Chamberlain.

1970 Buick GS Stage 1

When Chamberlain took possession, the car showed less than 13,000 miles on the odometer and had no signs of significant rust, but the cracked Fireglow paint (and the once-white interior) had seen better days. The car’s original engine and transmission were lost to time, but the owner had preserved the factory-supplied cylinder heads, Quadrajet carburetor, and, reportedly, high-compression pistons. A two-year restoration was begun, preserving as many of the original parts as possible and substituting correctly dated parts where necessary. Completed in time for the 2005 Buick GS Nationals, the car has won awards as recently as 2010, when it picked up Gold Certification at the Buick Performance Group Nationals. Given the car’s unique and documented history, along with its remarkable condition, Mecum is predicting a selling price of $100,000 to $150,000 when the car crosses the block on Saturday, October 11.

Mecum’s Chicago sale will run from October 9-11 at the Schaumberg Convention Center. For complete details, visit Mecum.com.

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Posted in General Motors, Interesting Stuff

Dearborn Steel Tubing celebrates Thunderbolt’s 50th anniversary by building another one

Dearborn Steel Tubing celebrates Thunderbolt's 50th anniversary by building another one

By Charlie Ascher

Photos by Daniel Strohl.

It’s been 50 years since Ford took the drag racing world by storm with its lightweight Thunderbolt, and to celebrate, Dearborn Steel Tubing, the original manufacturer of the Thunderbolt in 1964, has just produced a new Thunderbolt.

The year was 1963 and Dick Brannan was the head of Ford’s Drag Team. Brannan was charged with keeping Ford competitive on the strip, and new NHRA rules for 1964 – which allowed a 427-cu.in. engine with a minimum weight of 3,200 pounds – meant that he would need to seriously update Ford’s entries to stay competitive.

Ford was already running lightened Galaxies with their powerful 425-hp, 427-cu.in. V-8s. The problem with the Galaxies was not their power, but their weight. Ford was only able to get the big Galaxies down to around 3,425 pounds, which was not going to be enough to compete against the new lightweight competitors from Chevy and Mopar. The Blue Oval needed to shed some pounds.

The solution came not from remaking the Galaxie out of construction paper and unobtanium, but by switching car models entirely. Inspired by Bob Tasca, who had started tinkering with putting a low-riser, 427-cu.in. V-8 into a 1963 Fairlane 500 two-door hardtop, the midsized and 700-pounds-lighter Fairlane became the subject of Ford’s drag racing efforts.

Brannan ordered 10 burgundy two-door hardtops and got to work making the Fairlane into a drag monster. The cars arrived at Dearborn Steel Tubing for modification already without their radios, heaters and seam sealer, but these were minor deletions compared to what the cars would undergo in the coming months.

1964FordThunderbolt_02_2000

All in the name of shaving weight (and thus, hopefully, time off the quarter-mile,) the Fairlanes had their front bench seat replaced with bucket seats from an Econoline, their rear and rear side windows switched for fixed Plexiglas windows, no sound deadening, no passenger-side windshield wiper or sun visor, and fiberglass front fenders, fiberglass doors and a fiberglass hood. Oh, and that new fiberglass hood just so happened to have a huge teardrop-shaped bulge in the center of it, under which lurked Ford’s powerful new 425-hp, high-riser, 427-cu.in. V-8. Fresh air was supplied directly to the mighty engine through intakes where the high beams used to be in the grille.

After a couple of months, Ford settled on the Thunderbolt name for its new drag racer, which actually weighed less than the 3,200-pound minimum and needed to use extra fuel as a ballast. Ford built 100 Thunderbolts – 49 four-speeds and 51 automatics – to satisfy the NHRA’s homologation requirement. Besides the first 10 cars that Brannan had personally ordered in burgundy, all Thunderbolts came in white.

The Thunderbolts dominated immediately, winning their first event, the 1964 Winternationals. The cars ran roughshod over the competition throughout 1964, with a four-speed Thunderbolt managing an 11.61 second quarter-mile at 124.8 MPH in 1963.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of these legendary drag cars, the Thunderbolt Owners Association, in conjunction with the Fairlane Club of America’s 2014 National Meet, recently hosted a banquet that brought more than 20 original Thunderbolts to Dearborn, Michigan.

It was at the celebrations in Dearborn that Dearborn Steel Tubing – now known as DST Industries – rolled out the 101st Thunderbolt. Commissioned by DST CEO Brenda Lewo in 2013, the new Thunderbolt was constructed by DST’s restoration team using a 1964 Fairlane to which they had given a full rotisserie restoration. While not a perfect clone, the reproduction Thunderbolt stays mostly true to the original, painted in vintage burgundy and powered by a 427 high-riser going through a Borg-Warner four-speed transmission, only receiving a few upgraded components to make it more streetable.

DST’s reproduction Thunderbolt will be auctioned off at Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach in the spring of 2015 and comes signed by Dick Brannan, Brenda Lewo, Edsel Ford II and Mark Fields. Proceeds from the auction will go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in memory of Brenda Lewo’s late husband and former DST industries CEO Joe Lewo.

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Posted in Ford, Industry News, Interesting Stuff

How To Prep And Fit Aluminum Panels

Weight savings from lots of recycled pop cans?

Well, its a little more than that with a real project to lighten up a vehicle. AMD says that the cardboard box that the parts are shipped inside of weigh more than the parts do themselves! Recently Tamraz’s acquired the rest of AMD’s inventory and is now quite possibly the only stocking dealer left with these hard to find lightweight parts.

It’s certainly no secret that one of the ways to go faster is to reduce the weight of whatever you want to move. Racers have been looking for ways to shave pounds since the very beginning of speed contests, and clearly, there are only two ways to reduce weight-remove superfluous parts or make them lighter.

We hung out with the crew at Muscle Car Restorations in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, as they installed a set of Auto Metal Direct’s (AMD) all-new and recently released aluminum body panels on a ’69 Camaro. AMD is the first company to manufacture aluminum parts for this car, including the hood, fenders with extensions, upper and lower valances, both bumpers, and trunk lid. The total weight savings is more than 100 pounds.

AMD stresses that these panels are made from modern aluminum that is similar to that being used on some new cars today. It is stronger and more dent resistant than the factory panels of the ’60s and even tougher than some of the ultrathin, lightweight steel panels used by some of the foreign manufacturers. Once the panels were installed, we found we could lean on the fenders without fear of damage.

They’re tough, but they are still aluminum, so they need some special attention as they are fitted to the car; you can’t work aluminum like you can a steel panel. No heating/shrinking, heavy hammering, or cutting and welding are allowed. They can be worked, but you must be much gentler than one would imagine.

AMD PARTS IN THE ARTICLE
DESCRIPTION PN
’69 Camaro inner fender lefthand 250-3569-L
’69 Camaro inner fender righthand 250-3569-R
’69 Camaro trunk floor 800-3569
’69 Chevrolet Camaro aluminum
body panel kit 2-inch cowl hood 199-3569-2AS
ALUMINUM PANEL WEIGHT SAVINGS
AMD STOCK STEEL
Fender w/o extension 9 lbs 26 lbs
Fender extension 2 lbs 3-4 lbs
2-inch cowl hood 23 lbs* 56-61 lbs
Upper valance 3 lbs 5.5 lbs
Lower valance 4 lbs 11-12 lbs
Trunk lid 11 lbs 24 lbs
Front bumper 4 lbs 12 lbs
Rear bumper 5 lbs 15 lbs
Total weight savings: about 115 pounds
*AMD says the shipping box weighs more than the hood.
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Source: Hotrod.com
Posted in General Motors, Interesting Stuff, Parts Highlight, Restoration Tips

How does the 1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger stack up against its modern equivalents?

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T, with the 426 Street Hemi. Photo by Jeff Koch.

By: Kurt Ernst

The past, sometimes, is more fondly remembered in the present. While most of us pine for the days of cheap gas and affordable muscle cars, it’s no secret that today’s muscle cars are capable of jaw-dropping performance off the dealer’s showroom floor, yet still come complete with a factory warranty and are capable of reasonable functionality as daily drivers. All the hype surrounding the upcoming release of the 707-horsepower SRT Hellcat Challenger got us thinking: How does this modern muscle car stack up against the 1970 Dodge Challenger, equipped with the legendary 426-cu.in. “Street Hemi” engine?

“Foul,” the most astute Mopar fans would cry, “The Elephant engine was normally aspirated, while Dodge is using forced induction chicanery to squeeze 707 horses from the Hellcat.” Point well taken, and to that end, we’re also considering last year’s top-shelf Challenger SRT in the comparison, which sported a normally aspirated 392-cu.in. V-8 beneath its hood. In fact, this Challenger is likely the most direct analog for the Hemi-powered 1970 Challenger, but we’re including the Hellcat simply because it is, at the moment, the pinnacle of the Challenger product line, horsepower-wise.

1970 Dodge Challeger R/T

Photo by Jeff Koch.

First, let’s take a trip into the past. In 1970, one could walk into a Dodge dealership and special-order a Challenger R/T with the 426-cu.in., 425-horsepower (gross; the net rating would have been around 350 horsepower) Hemi V-8 engine. Doing so required the purchase of a Challenger R/T ($3,266.00 for the hardtop model) and the E74 Hemi V-8 engine ($778.75); however, checking the option box for the Elephant engine also required the ordering of the A34 Super Track Pak (including a 4.10:1 rear end ratio, a 9 ¾-inch Dana rear end, a Sure-Grip differential, a seven-blade Torque Drive fan, a high-performance radiator with fan shroud, and power disc brakes), for $236.65; a four-speed manual transmission (although the TorqueFlite automatic was also available at a higher price), for $194.85; and a collapsible spare tire, for $12.95. All told, the sticker price of such a bare-bones model would have totaled $4,488.20, or the equivalent of $27,559.63 in current money (according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CPI Inflation Calculator).

1970 Dodge Challeger R/T

Photo by Jeff Koch.

As delivered, the Challenger would have been 191 inches long, 76 inches wide and 51 inches high. The car’s front track would have measured roughly 60 inches, the rear approximately 61 inches, and the car would have weighed in at about 3,402 pounds. Performance wise, the Hemi Challenger, with its 490 pound-feet of torque, would have taken roughly six seconds to sprint from 0-60 MPH, running through the quarter mile (on stock tires) in around 14 seconds at a trap speed in the 104 MPH range, at least according to the in-period review from Road Test cited in our July 2011 feature on a Hemi-equipped 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T that captured our Muscle Car of the Year award.

1970 Dodge Challeger R/T

Photo by Jeff Koch.

As for other specifications, we were unable to locate data on braking or road holding, but to be honest, a Hemi Challenger was built for the sole purpose of going fast in a straight line. Those interested in speed, cornering and braking would have ordered a Challenger T/A, which was better equipped for the road course than the drag strip. As for fuel economy, we were also unable to find data, but suffice it to say that low double-digit numbers may have been theoretically achievable with a light right foot and plenty of short shifting. Warranty coverage was deliberately curtailed on Hemi-equipped cars as well, since Dodge knew exactly how (and where) these models would be driven. Instead of the standard five-year, 50,000 mile powertrain warranty, Hemi Challengers received a 12-month, 12,000 mile warranty that was valid for the original owner only.

2014 Dodge Challenger SRT

2014 Challenger SRT. Photo courtesy Chrysler Group, LLC.

Fast forward to 2014, where $40,485 is the minimum price of admission for a 392-cu.in. Hemi Challenger carrying the SRT badge. The modern car measures 7 inches longer overall (198 inches, versus 191), carries the same 76-inch width and has an overall height 6 inches higher (57 inches, versus 51). The track has widened to 63 inches in front and 63.1 in the rear, and the weight has ballooned by 800 pounds, with the contemporary Challenger tipping the scales at 4,231 pounds. Horsepower from the 392-cu.in. Hemi V-8 has reached 470, but torque has dropped by 20 pound-feet and now measures 470 pound-feet.

2014 Challenger SRT

2014 Challenger SRT. Photo courtesy Chrysler Group, LLC.

When the accelerator is depressed with authority, the Challenger SRT can run from 0-60 MPH in just under five seconds, on its way to a quarter-mile time of 13 seconds on street tires. Despite such impressive numbers, the modern normally aspirated Challenger can return fuel economy as high as 23 MPG on the highway, and its powertrain warranty coverage runs for five years or 100,000 miles (although make no mistake; manufacturers can and will void warranty coverage for vehicles that have been used for “competition purposes”). Among the current crop of Big Three muscle cars, the Challenger, even in SRT trim, is the car you’d most like to drive from coast to coast; it’s quick, but it’s also surprisingly comfortable.

2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat

2015 Challenger Hellcat. Photo courtesy Chrysler Group, LLC.

Potential price gouging aside, in a few months, buyers will be able to stroll into an SRT-approved Dodge dealer, plunk $60,590 down on the counter and say, “I’d like a Dodge Challenger Hellcat, please.” Doing so will get one a Challenger of roughly the same dimensions (though one inch lower and with a curb weight of 4,488 pounds, a gain of 257 pounds over the Challenger SRT8), but equipped with a supercharged 370-cu.in. Hemi V-8 capable of producing 707 horsepower and 650 pound feet of torque. According to Car and Driver, the Challenger Hellcat will dash to 60 MPH in 3.6 seconds and run the quarter-mile in a time of 11.7 seconds, at a trap speed of 126 MPH. Driving the blower alone will require 80 horsepower, or roughly the total output of a 1980s economy car, and to keep things reasonable on the street, the car will be limited to 500 horsepower unless a special “red key” is used in the ignition.

2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat

Photo courtesy Chrysler Group, LLC.

Other data on the Hellcat, such as fuel economy and warranty coverage, has yet to be released by Chrysler, but word is that the Hellcat will deliver fuel economy comparable to the SRT8, at least when driven conservatively, and we’d be surprised if the automaker shortened the powertrain warranty by any significant amount.

2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat

Photo courtesy Chrysler Group, LLC.

Styling preferences aside, perhaps the biggest drawback to the new Challenger models is their complexity. By evolution or by design, there are very few user-serviceable parts beneath the hood of a modern automobile, and most tuning is performed with a laptop computer instead of dwell meter, timing light and screwdriver (though on the Hellcat, Chrysler has reportedly “locked” the ECU, meaning tuners will need to provide a new computer to make more horsepower). Though mechanical purists may balk, to those just cutting their teeth on performance cars, used to a world ruled by computers and lucky enough to afford the $40,485 – $60,590 price of admission, this may very well be the golden age of the muscle car.

On the other hand, there’s much to be said for the original body design, powered by a legendary V-8 (or legendary V-8s, if you also count the 440, 383 and 340) that can still be tuned and repaired with hand tools. Which version of the Challenger is better? That, we suppose, depends entirely on one’s perspective.

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