Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Towing Your Muscle Car

Beasts of Burden

Picking the right tow vehicle

Story Wayne Scraba

During the dog days of summer – at least in our neck of the woods (tourist country) – a common site is an overworked RV stranded on the side of the road, hood up and engine steaming. Honestly, just because a given car, truck or RV can have a hitch fitted doesn’t make it a tow vehicle.


It doesn’t matter if you’re hauling a trailer for a collector car, camping, boating, powersports, biking or a race car, the single most important piece of equipment you’ll require is a capable tow vehicle. Without a truck (motorhome, van, etc.), you simply cannot move your trailer with any kind of safety to the final destination. Obviously, every hobby has different demands, and that means everyone will likely place different stipulations upon the tow vehicle. Some folks prefer the comfort and convenience of a motorhome. Others appreciate the versatility of a pickup truck, while others value the passenger-carrying capabilities only a van or a Suburban can offer. Still others have trailers and equipment so large, a conventional pickup truck is actually out of the question. In any case, to ultimately arrive at your destination (and to arrive safely), there are a number of things to consider.

Weight Ratings

So which combination is best suited to trailering? That depends upon your requirements, but no matter what your personal towing preference, you still have to purchase the right tow vehicle (with the right equipment) to get the job done. If there is any secret to trailer towing and setting up a given vehicle for the task of tugging a trailer, it involves determining the total combined loaded weight of the tow vehicle and the trailer. This weight is referred to as the Gross Combination Weight Rating or GCWR. Each and every truck, car or motorhome has a maximum GCWR that will allow for satisfactory performance when towing.

How do you arrive at the GCWR? It’s not that difficult. Most trailers will have a “Trailer Manufacturing Rating” stamped on the trailer ID tag (usually affixed to the left front of the trailer frame). This tag will indicate the weight of the trailer. Next, you have to figure out how much equipment you’re going to carry. This includes the weight of everything in and on your trailer, including support equipment, tools, spare fuel, oil, water and so on. The total loaded trailer weight is then added to the total loaded weight of the tow vehicle. Keep in mind that the total weight of all passengers, luggage, supplies and other equipment loaded into the tow vehicle must be included in the total GCWR figure (more on GCWR later).

In order to determine tongue weight, most automotive manufacturers point out that you can simply use 10 percent as a basis for dead-weight hitches and 12 percent as a basis for weight-distributing platform hitches (sometimes called an equalizer hitch). When towing a trailer, you have to add the tongue load to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of the tow vehicle, because the truck will be carrying that weight too. The manufacturers also suggest it’s a good idea to weigh your trailer and the tongue separately after the trailer is loaded. Carefully planned trailer loading can be used to juggle the tongue weight percentage.

Getting Hitched

Once GCWR and tongue weight have been calculated, you can determine the type of hitch assembly required for your tow vehicle. The lightest type of hitch is commonly referred to as Class I assembly. These are light-duty pieces designed for a maximum trailer weight of up to 2,000 pounds and a tongue weight of no more than 200 pounds. The common rear step bumper found on a truck is capable of handling this weight (both trailer weight and tongue weight). A ball size of 17/8 inches is typically required for use with these lightweight trailers. Few, if any, serious equipment (boat, race car, etc.) trailers fall into this category.

Class II and Class III hitches are almost always skipped over by the Detroit automobile manufacturers, simply moving to the large Class IV hitch assemblies when the trailer weight exceeds 2,000 pounds. The one exception to this rule is certain pickup trucks with rear step bumpers carrying a 4,000-pound trailer weight rating and a 400-pound tongue weight rating. A two-inch diameter ball is required in all applications up to 4,000 pounds.

The typical Class IV hitch package is designed for use with trailers up to approximately 8,500 to 10,000 pounds with tongue weights of between 800 and 1,200 pounds. There are a number of different tow vehicles capable of pulling a trailer in this range, but always remember that a trailer of this size is large. Class IV equipment normally consists of a hitch platform that is bolted to the truck frame through pre-punched holes. The hitch ball, anti-sway and equalizing equipment must be purchased from aftermarket sources. Hitch ball diameters are commonly in the 2-inch to 25/16-inch range with platform hitch packages. Certain Class IV platforms are welded to the frame in addition to the bolting procedure. This is acceptable as long as the welding process is done correctly.

Class V hitches are similar to Class IV versions, but they’re larger. For the most part, Class V hitches were originally designed for commercial or agricultural applications. Where a typical Class IV hitch will be based around a 2-inch square receiver, a Class V receiver measures 2½ inches and is rated at 10,000 pounds. With a weight distributing assembly, the total weight rating typically goes up to 14,000 pounds. This sort of hitch is typically limited to use on full size, one ton or larger trucks.

What about equalizing devices? According to the manufacturers, trailers that exceed 4,000 pounds mandate some sort of weight distribution device. In practice, this system is based upon a weight-distributing hitch, which disburses tongue weight to all axles of the tow vehicle and trailer. This allows vehicles to tow heavier trailers with less sagging at the rear and improves steering and brake control. A weight-distributing hitch system includes a hitch head that fits into the receiver-tube opening, spring bars, and hook-up brackets that connect the spring bars to the trailer frame.

The last type of trailer hitch assembly commonly found on light-duty trucks is the fifth-wheel assembly. Fifth-wheels are hitches in the bed of a pickup that include a plate, like on a big rig, whereas a gooseneck is a ball in the bed that gets mounted directly to the frame. There are two types of fifth-wheel assemblies manufactured today. The first design has a fifth-wheel mounted on a bar, which is supported by brackets mounted to (or over) the rear wheel fender housings. The kingpin is then mounted to the trailer. The second type of fifth-wheel hitch features a kingpin mounted in the bed or box of the pickup truck while the actual fifth-wheel is attached to the trailer. The fifth-wheel hitch is not supplied by any truck manufacturer. Instead, it is supplied by the trailer manufacturer or an aftermarket vendor such as Reese or Draw-Tite.

The tongue weight or load of a fifth-wheel or gooseneck trailer is often greater in percentage than that found in a conventional tag-along trailer. Because of this, you have to be very careful with the truck GVWR, as well as the maximum allowable payload of the tow vehicle. Due to the weights involved, most big fifth-wheel or gooseneck trailers mandate trucks with dual rear wheels.

In all cases from Class I to the large fifth-wheel rigs, you should first consult the trailer-towing guides provided by the Detroit vehicle manufacturers. A lengthy list of GCWR packages for all of their respective trucks is included in those trailer guides. It’s a very good idea to peruse this list of specs completely before deciding on the truck for a given application. One word to the wise: The use of a truck that is too heavy for the intended trailering application is always better than using one that is too light.

Rolling Stock

Generally speaking, the larger the truck and trailer package, the larger the tire required. Tires are best selected by the “bigger is better” method. All modern trucks have a certification/tire label on the rear edge of the driver’s door or in the Incomplete Vehicle Document in the cab (the Incomplete Vehicle Document is used when a truck is converted into a motorhome or other custom body). This label shows the size of the original equipment tires mounted on the truck when it was new and also shows the inflation pressures needed to obtain the gross weight capacity of your vehicle. This is called GVWR or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. The GVWR includes the weight of the vehicle, all occupants, fuel and cargo (don’t confuse this with GCWR – which includes the trailer weight). The certification/tire label also tells you the maximum weights for the front and rear axles (called Gross Axle Weight Rating or GAWR). To find out the actual loads on your front and rear axles, you need to go to a weigh station and weigh the truck. You should never exceed the GVWR for your vehicle or the GAWR for either the front or rear axles on the truck.

Don’t forget about the truck spare tire either. Spare tire location and the method of deployment can also prove important in trailering combinations. Some trucks might be best equipped with a box-mounted spare, while others are best arranged with under-chassis assemblies. Many manufacturers offer special crank-operated spare tire carriers or glide-out models that simply take the drudgery out of spare tire removal and installation. Remember that the type of trailer you tow can have an influence on the operation of the crank-out mechanism. In addition, the type of spare is also consequential. When the truck is loaded to maximum capacity and you have to get somewhere with a fully loaded trailer, you’re far better off with a matching (correct capacity) spare than a generic tire.

Harnessing the Power

Trailer wiring harnesses are another prime ingredient of towing. Most truck manufacturers offer factory-installed trailer wiring harness assemblies as standard or optional equipment. The first type available is a common five-wire harness. This is a light-duty harness for use with trailers without brakes (typical Class I trailers). The second type of harness available on most pickup trucks is a heavy-duty, seven-wire assembly. It’s designed for use with trailers exceeding Class I, which require the use of trailer brakes. In some instances, the connector is not included with this harness, but all of the applicable wiring is routed to the rear of the truck and tie-wrapped to a frame member. If that’s the case, you have to supply the correct connector for your specific trailer and trailer brake arrangement.

The electrical system on the tow vehicle will also require upgrading in towing applications. Remember that the truck now has to contend with a number of added loads on the power supply and storage system. These loads include the need for charging the trailer battery(s), additional lights, trailer brakes and so on. Because of this, all of the Detroit manufacturers offer heavy-duty alternators in the amp range of 100 to 130+. These heavy-duty alternators are designed to cope with the increased demands placed upon them, and in most cases, they’re either part of a towing package or available optionally. The same applies to heavy-duty batteries. Start with the largest capacity battery available for your truck. In most applications, a battery carrying a 600+ cold-cranking rating will be required for towing purposes. Another electrical option that is readily available (and ideal for race car haulers) is an auxiliary battery. Most Detroit truck manufacturers offer a dual-battery setup. Although this does not ensure double the cranking power, it does guarantee that you will have at least one fully charged power source. Most auxiliary batteries are rated at 500+ CCA. That’s enough capacity to boost-start the truck (or the car on your trailer) if necessary. In addition, this battery can supply power for any number of accessories that might come into use while running or parked.

Powertrain

When it comes to engine, transmission and rear-axle combinations for towing, opinions are diverse. However, virtually everyone agrees on one thing: If you tow in any type of terrain with grades, bigger is always better. For example, we’ve had extremely good luck towing on the flatlands of the Great Plains with a small displacement V-8 pickup. The moment that same truck rendezvoused with the Rocky Mountains, it howled, “Enough!” Mother Nature can become a great equalizer in these situations, and you’ll end up kicking yourself for not purchasing the largest power source available for the GVWR of the truck you select. All three Detroit truck manufacturers offer a wide array of engine, transmission and rear axle choices. In each of those situations, the truck manufacturer can provide a recommended powertrain combination for a specific GCWR package.

Here’s how the math works (and intertwines): The Sierra crew cab 4X4 has a GVWR of 7,000 pounds. With the 403hp 6.2L engine, six-speed automatic transmission and 3.42:1 rear-axle ratio, along with a heavy-duty cooling package, GMC has determined the maximum trailer weight (loaded) is 9,300 pounds. That means the GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) of the rig is 16,300 pounds, including the truck, trailer, everything on the trailer and everything in the truck (including you and your passengers). Similar recommendations (minimum engine size, transmission type, rear-axle ratio, truck GVW) are made for every truck manufactured.

Keep in mind that the power output of the engine, the transmission combination and the rear-axle ratio can add up to much improved reliability in the total trailering package. In most of today’s trucks, you can specify either an overdrive automatic or, in select cases, an overdrive manual transmission. These gearboxes typically feature an overdrive ratio of roughly .70:1 in high gear. Simple math proves that a pickup truck fitted with a 4.56:1 rear axle and a .70:1 overdrive works out to a remarkable 3.19:1 overall ratio. This allows you to tow in the highest non-overdrive gear, but when the truck is empty, you can operate it in overdrive. Properly equipped, the truck will live longer, will perform better under load and will prove easier to drive.

Built to Haul

Extra capacity cooling systems are important in a towing application (that should be a no-brainer). As trailer size and the overall package weight increases, so does the demand for additional cooling. The normal powerplant coolant operating range will increase as the truck is burdened with additional weight or long grades. At the same time, the transmission (automatic) will also require additional help and so will the engine oiling system. As you’re no doubt aware, a certain amount of powerplant cooling is provided by the lubricant. As the demands on the engine increase, the need for additional cooling also increases.

For the most part, trucks equipped with air conditioning are fitted with larger capacity radiators, heavy-duty clutch fans (often with increased pitch on the fan blades) and/or auxiliary electric fans. These features all ensure that the maximum amount of air is pulled through the radiator. In addition to this increased cooling efficiency, you should also consider factory-fitted, heavy-duty transmission coolers (for automatic equipped trucks), heavy-duty radiators and auxiliary engine oil coolers. All of these items can be included in the manufacturer’s heavy-duty cooling system, towing package, or combination of the previously mentioned components. The heavy-duty automatic transmission cooler can include a larger radiator tank and/or separate transmission oil cooler. The auxiliary engine oil cooler is just as the name implies – a separate radiator is plumbed into the engine’s oiling system.

Heavy-duty suspension components are normally determined by the GCWR ratings, but many of the manufacturers do not include heavy-duty shock absorbers or large diameter stabilizer bars in their entry level towing packages. Does four-wheel drive offer a towing advantage? Not if you tow in normal conditions. Obviously, it’s some assistance when towing in snow or mud, but for most auto enthusiasts, that isn’t a pressing issue. You’ll often find that four-wheel-drive trucks actually have a lower GVWR and lower GCWR than their two-wheel-drive relatives.

Auxiliary or larger capacity fuel tanks are also good towing investments. The added range is more of a convenience than anything else. But if you find that filling a small tank frequently becomes a chore, you’ll quickly appreciate more fuel capacity. Electronic speed or cruise control is also a perfect option for towing. Large mirrors (the latest trucks offer large electric mirrors) are another serious bonus. Rear cargo lamps can prove beneficial when hooking up at night and can also be useful when loading the bed when shrouded in darkness. Other interesting truck hardware that’s applicable to towing includes underhood lamps, reel-style trouble lamps (mounted underhood with enough cord to reach the rear of the truck), additional behind-seat storage, roof marker lamps and a host of comfort and convenience options. In the end, take the time to peruse the respective manufacturer sales catalogs. In many cases, there’s plenty of good trailering equipment available right from the manufacturer, but you have to find it.

When all is said and done, the right beast of burden for towing depends upon the load you’re hauling. So, choose your options and your trailer carefully. You won’t be sorry.

1968 Hemi Barracuda SS/AH

The car continually draws a crowd, as it is without a doubt the most beautiful SS/AH Hemi Barracuda of all time.

Good to Be King

Kuda Reigns Triumphant

Story Arvid Svendsen Images autoimagery.com, PMR Race Cars and Arvid Svendsen

The proven consistency and success of his 1968 Hemi Barracuda SS/AH car seems to signal a new chapter in the class evolution. Hemi cars are really showing themselves to be true players in Super Stock competition. Recent trends are showing that an SS/AH Mopar ought not be counted out when lining up next to an up-to-the-minute SS/DM Cobalt.

A familiar sight at the dragstrip, Bucky (who owns a thriving auto body shop in Martinsburg, West Virginia) has been racing Hemi cars since the ’80s. His wild paint schemes have made a big contribution to his popularity. The paint on Bucky’s car is the product of Bucky’s son, Travis Hess, who signs his work with the “Kolor by Tuki” crest. Michelangelo with a paint gun, Travis’ prolific career has resulted in some of the greatest race car paint schemes of all time.

The King Kuda II is consistently one of the top players in the Hemi Challenge events. For 2011, Bucky stepped up his engine program by enlisting Pro Stock driver Jason Line and brother Lance to build some serious 426 Hemi elephant power. Bucky’s new motor will combine up-to-the-minute Pro Stock engine technology of Jason’s team at KB Racing with the Sportsman savvy of Jason and Lance Line, who have grown up racing in the Stock and Super Stock ranks.

All that power has to have a competent chassis in order to turn on the win light at the end of the track. Unlike a number of Hemi cars, the King Kuda II hooks well with consistency. Chassis builder Phil Mandella of PMR Race cars explains: “The thing that was different with Bucky’s car was the location of the weight bars and the placement of the engine. All of the weight bars were interchangeable so we could locate the weight where we need it in the car. Engine location was also a big part of getting the car to hook. Once NHRA allowed us to have the motor plate and the mid-plate, they became less interested in the stock location. In building Bucky’s car, we moved the motor down two inches, and forward one inch in order to get more weight to the front of the car.

“At Indy, in mediocre air, I had to put 160 pounds of lead in another Hemi car just to keep the front end down. The typical Hemi AH car has about 54 percent weight on the front end. But tires, torque converters, and transmissions have gotten so good that we don’t need the weight bias to the rear for getting the car to hook. With the way Bucky’s car is set up, with weight bar placement and engine location, we don’t have to bolt on weight to the front end.”

Getting the car dialed in was accomplished with Phil at the track. “When we first built Bucky’s car, we spent two days at Atco blowing the tires off the car. I was really questioning what we had done. We kept adjusting the car, moving weight around. I had Roger Lamb build some new shocks and overnight them to us. The shocks were too tight, so with the new shocks from Lamb, Bucky’s car hooked.”

Tagging along with Bucky to a number of events allowed me to get a feel for the intensity of these Hemi racers. At the 2009 Hemi Challenge at Indy U.S. Nationals, he was frustrated over blowing up his “good” motor just two weeks prior. The spare motor didn’t have the horsepower to compete. Some guys might be prone to giving up. Not Bucky. “This is my life. I didn’t sleep last night because I was thinking about getting in the big show. I want the big trophy, the national event Super Stock winner trophy. I’ve had the class records, and I was fortunate to win a Hemi Challenge. I’ve got all the right stuff, Mandella chassis, so now I want to win the big trophy.”

Bucky didn’t get the “big trophy” that day. Soon thereafter, Bucky did win the Super Stock Eliminator, bringing home the coveted “big trophy”, a Wally. Mandella said, “It’s really nice to go out and see a driver perform well. On his way to the finals in Virginia, I told him that the way it’s going, there were no excuses. Having been able to work with Bucky to build a car that was capable of winning a national event was one thing, but then for him to actually win it was great. Bucky is still the king.”

Talk to most SS/AH Hemi guys, and bragging rights are typically going to center around world records and SS/AH Hemi Challenge events. The prospect of an “AH” car winning a national event in the Super Stock eliminator has long ago been dismissed as next to impossible. Bucky and a few others are changing that perception. Bottom line, a well thought-out chassis, a repeatable state-of-the-art motor, and a great driver equal a Hemi car that goes rounds. It just keeps on winning.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

1967 Camaro Exhaust

It’s exhausting

Breathing new life into the exhaust system

Story Larry Weiner

The mid-1960s through the early 1970s were an amazing time when the conversation turns to performance cars. Muscle and pony cars were all the rage, with their fresh styling and often bold graphics, especially when compared to the pedestrian-looking full-size cars.


Almost without exception, models were available with fire-breathing small- and big-block engines, backed up by four-speeds and highly-geared limited slip differentials that would easily fry even the new Wide Oval tires.

While the new cars were exciting to look at, and even more thrilling to drive, the stock exhaust systems on most of them were simply not in the same league. In fact, the exhaust systems on the performance cars of the era were often very restrictive, to say nothing of being far too quiet for the rebellious youth. To add insult to injury, they were manufactured from steel that quickly rusted out. In many cases, the result was that most of the stock exhaust systems were unceremoniously removed soon after the vehicles were purchased and replaced with larger diameter pipes and glass pack mufflers, along with headers equipped with flanged collectors that could be quickly disconnected from the head pipes for weekend forays at the strip.

When we purchased this 1967 Camaro SS350, the exhaust system consisted of old rusty head pipes, the original hanger assemblies, and what appeared to be a recently installed Flowmaster transverse muffler with tailpipes that exited in the stock location right behind the rear wheels. When the muffler was installed, it was positioned too low, so that when the Camaro was viewed from the rear, you could see it hanging down. Further aggravating the situation, the corded rubber on the original exhaust hanger assemblies was dried out, cracked and deformed from 44 years of heat transference and supporting the weight of the exhaust system. Needless to say, the Camaro was ready for a new system.

When deciding the exhaust system to use, we took several factors into consideration. We wanted a low restriction system with a slightly more aggressive sound than a factory-style replacement system with a transverse muffler, but not as loud as the Flowmasters that had been on the Camaro. Next, we wanted the system to appear visually stock from the outside of the vehicle, with the tailpipes exiting behind the rear wheels, including the use of factory-style hangers and third, the exhaust pipes would need to be configured specifically to accommodate the Gear Vendors unit located behind the Muncie M20 transmission.

Based on these parameters, it was obvious that a conventional reproduction exhaust system would not fit our needs. It led us to talk to Jim Warner, the owner of Warner’s Muffler in Oceanside, California. Jim understood exactly what we wanted and he suggested not trying to modify a stock type exhaust system. The best solution was to create a full custom system for the Camaro using 2¼-inch pipe. The head and tail pipes would closely mirror those used on a stock system, while the exhaust pipes would be specifically designed to provide the additional clearance required for the Gear Vendors Under/Overdrive unit.

For mufflers, Jim suggested using two Imco turbo mufflers, similar in size and shape to the resonators GM used on the 1967 Camaro SS396 exhaust system. Like the factory resonators, they fit neatly in the floor recesses under the rear seat area and would provide the vintage ’60s performance tone. Lastly, the system would be designed to utilize original-style muffler and tailpipe hangers. The hanger assemblies we had chosen from YearOne Inc. are similar in appearance to the original factory hangers and bolt to the Camaro with the factory attachment points and fasteners.



1 This detailed comparison photo of the original GM front hanger assembly and reproduction hanger assembly illustrates differences.

2 This photo shows the original GM tailpipe hanger assembly and the reproduction hanger assembly. You may be able to see the distortion of the corded rubber on the original hanger.

3 There are threaded bungs in the floor support for attaching the front hanger assembly. Here’s the reproduction front hanger assembly bolted into place using original fasteners.

4 There are holes in the factory subframe for mounting the tailpipe hanger assembly. The reproduction tail hanger assembly is bolted into place using original fasteners.

5 Jim Warner takes the initial visual measurement in advance of beginning to bend the head pipe for the right side.

6 Bending the head pipe on a hydraulic pipe bender.

7 The diameter of the tip of the head pipe must be compressed to match the diameter of exhaust pipe mounting flange.

8 Re-use the original exhaust flange and slip it onto the head pipe, followed by flanging the pipe.

9 Insert a short piece of pipe into the head pipe. Expand the pipe slightly to lock it into place. This creates a pipe extension to support the packing that mounts on the end.

10 Install the head pipe flange over the three studs on the exhaust manifold and tighten the three nuts to 13 to 17 lbs-ft as recommended by the Chevrolet 1967 “F” Car Assembly Manual.

11 The completed head pipe fits into the recessed area of the factory transmission mount. The end of the head pipe has been expanded to accept the exhaust pipe that will run to the turbo muffler.

12 The left side head pipe will need to be formed to provide ample clearance for the oil filter and clutch linkage.

13 The left head pipe is created to mirror the image of the right pipe, with variances to accommodate the differences dictated by the mechanicals.

14 The muffler needs to be test-fit to determine placement in relation to the front hanger assembly and the recess in the floor.

15 The electric solenoid, wiring and speedometer cable are located on the left side of the Gear Vendors unit, so clearance is critical for the pipe. Jim took measurements and the pipe is installed with the completed bend.

16 The muffler is attached to the exhaust pipe with the outlet correctly located at the front hanger assembly. Additional bends have been incorporated into the rear of the exhaust pipe to facilitate the installation of the muffler.

17 With tack welds holding the left side, work begins on the right side.

18 Both sides are now complete to the muffler.

19 All joints are welded at this time. Note the clean welds, which are critical.

20 The tailpipe hanger assembly for each side is bolted onto rear subframe in preparation for the tailpipes.

21 Jim begins with a piece of straight tubing and makes several bends to create the first tailpipe. The tailpipes require multiple bends and angles to clear the differential and fit the vehicle properly. Jim is checking his bends at an early stage in the creation of the tailpipe.

22 The right tailpipe is very close to completion.

23 After several more bends, the tailpipe fit perfectly. You can see the original GM strap clamp attaching the tailpipe to the hanger. There is not much space between the leaf spring and the quarter panel on a first-gen Camaro for the tailpipe, so a precision fit is essential.

24 Here’s the factory-like appearance of the completed dual exhaust system. Can’t wait for the road test.

1972 Plymouth Road Runner

Gone In Sixty Seconds

Found at a crosstown competitor’s used car lot

Story Al and Lynne Rogers

Images Al Rogers

As a mechanic at a Michigan Chrysler-Plymouth dealership in the ’70s, Mike Ryckman watched many of his favorite Mopars come and go. His passion for big block Mopars continued to grow.

His first Mopar was a 1969 GTX and you’d find him staged, making runs at the historic but now no longer standing Detroit Dragway.

Mike’s father was a dealership manager, giving Mike many opportunities to take the Mopars for a spin. It fueled his passion for the products. He dreamed of owning one and cruising on Woodward Avenue. When the situation presented itself, Mike worked some Hollywood magic and acquired what would turn out to be his Mopar version of the famed Eleanor from the movie Gone in 60 Seconds.

In 2002, as sales manager of a Dodge dealership in Brighton, Michigan, a friend at a crosstown dealership called to tell him that they had just taken in a red 1972 Plymouth Road Runner as a trade on a new convertible. It seems a lady wanted a new era convertible but didn’t have the money to make the deal. She told her husband she knew something else they could use. They later returned with a bright red 1972 Road Runner equipped with a white interior and offered it as a trade-in.

Mike went to the dealership and took it for a test drive. He could hardly believe it was a real 1972 Plymouth Road Runner in beautiful condition. Mike made a phone call to the dealership to say he wanted it. He was told it was already sold, but he realized they had not received any money yet.

Being a determined car fanatic with knowledge of dealership practices, he knew the deal is not done until there is money in hand. He sent one of his porters to the selling dealership with a check as payment for the car. The selling dealership never saw the Road Runner again as it was “gone in sixty seconds”. He knew he would never have a chance to purchase a 1972 Road Runner like this at such a fair price.

This Road Runner was an original unrestored, rust-free car. It started out powered by a 400 cubic inch engine back in 1972. At some point, the original owner felt the need to drop a 440 Magnum engine into it. This wasn’t a backyard job as indicated by the engine bay and documentation that came with the car. The odometer also read 24,310, believed to be original miles.

Mike’s vision was to transform the Road Runner into a top shelf, best-of-the-best ride. With the resources and talented technicians at the dealership, it put him in a position to make this Road Runner stand tall. It took a few years of sourcing small parts from local swap meets and the Internet. The interior was totally redone as Mike would have his interior trim technician re-stitch the factory white interior. The body, freed from dents and dings, was given a fresh coat of the factory TorRed color. At first look, one can’t help but notice the “attention to detail” that went into this paint. The body margins are precise and the sheetmetal is laser straight.

Although this Road Runner is not numbers-matching, there are a few rare things about it.

The car is registered with Galen Govier and the National Chrysler Registry. It is one of 1,489 produced with an automatic transmission and number 17 of 44 registered in the United States.

The 1 of 1,489 automatic transmission option is also accompanied by a host of other unique factory options. This car came with the machine-gun slotted factory exhaust tips, factory power disc brakes and electronic ignition, which was a rarity for cars of that era. It still possesses the factory original glass with the Chrysler stamping and date codes.

Mike drives his Road Runner regularly to car shows and events. He and his Classic Legends Car Club attend events and take part in the pilgrimage to the Woodward Dream Cruise. “Hanging out with family and friends at this yearly event is a blast,” he said.

When onlookers see this Mopar for the first time, the young ones usually gravitate to the Road Runner emblems. That is when the dad will tell them the story of what a muscle car should be. Mike also notes that many observers look at the well-detailed 440 Magnum engine and say, “Wow”. This Road Runner was exactly what Mike was looking for; it is an unabashed and unashamed great example of a muscle car.