HEMI DUTY | Pro Stock Dodge Challenger Race Car
Words Karlee Sangster Photography Luke Ray
This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 22.
David Guy grew up around cars. The forty-four-year-old has fond memories of drag meets and hot rod shows from his youth, spending time with his father and the Thunderbirds hot rod club in Melbourne. Not many of these stories end with a full father-son resto project though, and what a project for them to take on; Kevin Monk’s old Dodge Challenger race car.
“My old man, Ron, first saw the Dodge at Summernats and always said if it ever came up for sale and he had the money he would buy it. That was back in 1995, just after it was built,” recalls David. “Ten years later he saw it for sale in Unique Cars magazine. He had the cash and bought it from Phil Woodridge (of Chevy Thunder Down Under) in Queensland. It was bought as a roller, after the motor was pulled and sold off separately.”
The Dodge has had quite an illustrious history. The engine is the same one that propelled NHRA racer Don Carlton to the Pro Stock World Championships in the USA in the 1970s. Carlton and his team were unbeatable for years and he most famously piloted the Motown Missile and Mopar Missile pro stock cars, vehicles renowned for their marriage of engineering, technology and power. The Challenger sports a Don Carlton prepped 426 Chrysler factory pro stocker, which more than powers the outfit.
“The Challenger was originally built by Kevin Monk in Queensland who originally bought it back in 1990 in Houston, Texas. Whilst he was there he bought all the parts needed for the build, which took him three and half years. When we first got the car it was in pretty average condition. It had no motor or gearbox, it had damaged paint and was in need of a lot of TLC,” says David.
“We had to get it trucked down from the Gold Coast to Victoria. When we got it off the truck and started to look over the body, that’s when I noticed the paint starting to lift in certain spots. It was then I realised it had to be stripped down to see what was underneath and holy crap, body filler front to back, top to bottom. That was enough for me to take the lot back to bare metal, so that's what I did with help from my panel beater mate who knows how to metal finish with hammers, dollies and files.
“Once that was done, I got it ready for paint inside Dad’s 25x30 foot garage. He and I banged up a pine timber frame and lined it with large clear plastic sheet that I got from work, a jet fire heater and dust extraction fan and that's where it was painted. I spent a few weeks with 3000 grade wet and dry sandpaper blocking it flat ready for a buff. I do not wish that job on anyone, that was a massive challenge for me.”
While skills and experience played a major role in the rebuild, sheer luck also came into play. “Whilst rebuilding the motor, I called a guy in Queensland to chase a set of piston rings. He asked me what type of car they were for and when I told him I was doing a full resto on Kevin Monk’s Dodge Challenger he informed me that he had the original auto box that was with the motor when Kevin bought it. We made an offer and got him to rebuild it before sending it to us. Within the year, I contacted Phil Woodridge and asked if he could put me in contact with whoever had bought the motor and he was more than happy to give me the guy’s phone number. I then contacted him (he was based in Adelaide) and asked if he would be interested in selling me the motor so I could put it back in the Dodge where it belonged.”
But it wasn’t that easy. This wasn’t an “ask and you shall receive” kind of job. David explains: “He didn't want to sell it because he had plans to put it into a Willys coupe to be built as a street rod. I had to explain to him that it was a drag race motor and no good for the streets. About three days after I had got in contact with him, he rang me back and said I had first priority to buy the motor, and after some negotiations we came up with a price and made the deal.”
The Dodge had its soul back and David and his dad weren’t about to mess with a classic. “We didn't want to take too much away from its original look, so we personalised it by doing a few things our own way without spoiling the soul of the car. The Challenger was originally all painted in a darker shade of red. We’ve left the chassis in that colour, what you can see underneath is still the original paint. But we chose a new, brighter red for the body. We’ve put different rims and tyres on the front, slicks on the back. We took the hornet scoop off the bonnet, built a new aluminium rear wing, installed a 180 mph Simpson chute, retrimmed the seats, added carpet and replaced all the side markers and front/rear light lenses.” The car was almost complete. It sounds like a quick and easy job, but the Dodge build has been a labour of love, spanning an entire decade, and many late nights.
“On and off for the last ten years my dad, my mate Jamie and I have been working from Dad’s shed, fully stripping the body back to bare metal, replacing the bottom right hand quarter panel in the process. Jamie then went in and mostly metal finished the body fully and we resprayed it in PPG bright red two pack. All the bodywork was completed by Jamie and I and getting the body straight and ready for paint was by far the most challenging part of the build. I had entered the car in the 2016 Victorian Hot Rod Show in Melbourne which gave us a tight deadline for it to be completed and ready to shine.” The team made it in the nick of time and the Challenger made its appearance at the show to rave reviews.
With the car finished, the question on everyone’s minds is: “How fast is it?”
“Well,” says David, “The 426 cubic inch Hemi engine and clutched 727 torque flight transmission are as they were prepped by Don Carlton and his race crew. These engines put out around 980 hp at 9,400rpm and in the mid ‘70s this car held the record at 9.11 seconds at 153 mph. If you don't think that's quick for a Pro Stock elapsed time, remember that's in the ‘70s, and Pro Stock meant Pro Stock. The car as it is today has no full chassis, no gargantuan slicks and has a stock steel body that weighed in at around 3500 pounds back in the day. This Challenger is almost 500 pounds lighter than Calton's race car and with its four link equipped tube chassis and 33'x 17' 15” Goodyear slicks, it should easily be capable of running an 8 second ET.”
He continues: “The Dodge won't competitively fit into any established ANDRA classes that I'm aware of except for the nostalgia class. We would like to have a play with those guys on our new local track, Bairnsdale Motoplex, which is a 1/8 mile concrete track. We don't have any plans to run competition classes because this was a father and son project we did to have some fun at our local track and a few local car shows.” It’s a refreshing perspective from a team that obviously knows their car has what it takes.
“We have adhered to ANDRA rules during the build,” David explains, “So that if we do turn up at a meet and need to be scrutinised then we shouldn't have any problems because we've built according to their rule book. As far as my factory glass windows go, under the ANDRA rules windshields and/or windows on all competition cars, when listed under class requirements, must be of shatterproof material, safety glass or polycarbonate. Other than factory tint, front windscreens must clear on all vehicles, so the car is fine in that regard.”
David and his father clearly know their stuff, and have put the time in to build a car anyone would be proud to own. Their humble attitude is a refreshing take in the world of show quality restorations.
“My father was approached by two Castrol reps about six years ago and asked if he would be interested in putting their logo and colours on the Dodge after they had seen a photo of it on the wall at one of our local pubs when they passed through one day. He declined their offer because that's not what we bought the car for. We just wanted to have some fun with friends and family.” Mission accomplished.
Not one to rest on his laurels, David has the next few years mapped out already.
“I've played with many cars over the years but this is my first and only muscle car father-son project. My next big plan is do up a 1963 Rambler Wagon 660 Cross Country with a factory 287 V8 that has been patiently waiting in my shed for its turn. I will have help from my own son Joseph,” beams David. It seems history might repeat itself, which in this case could be a very good thing.
“I would like to say a special thanks to my dad Ron Guy, who has been with me every step of the way during this massive journey, a thanks to my spray painter and great mate Jamie Evans of Evo's Restos for all the hard work he has put into the outstanding paint job, also a big thanks to Kevin Monk for coming all the way down from the Gold Coast, Queensland just to see the Dodge for the first time since selling it, and lastly to my beautiful family for all their love, support and patience.”
The publishers would like to extend special thanks to Steve Church and West Sale Airport for assistance with the shoot.
Body & Chassis
1970 Dodge Challenger with a full Chris Alston prolink chassis kit, Alston column and 5th wheel. Wilwood discs front and rear.
Narrowed Dana 60 with 5.86:1 diff centre and Dana 60 axles, front suspension, JC struts and Koni coil.
Wheels & Tyres
15x14 Weld Prostars on the rear, 15x3 1/2 Aluma stars on the front. Goodyear slicks.
Trimmed in 316 stainless steel and fitted with a Jones mechanical tach, Autometer gauges and SAAS race seats, reupholstered.
Don Carlton prepped 426 Chrysler factory Pro Stock engine with friction, polished oil ways and side oilers with a Kellogg billet crank.
Arias 13.5:1 pistons (final ratio of 15.3:1) Hastings moly rings, Bill Millar aluminum rods with BME rod bolts.
Reed Pro Stock roller cam provides .855 lift and 337 degrees duration and links to a Pete Jackson dual idler valve timing drive.
Cleveite Nascar bearings
Keith Black oil pump and sump with dual remote pickups
Oberg ‘tattletail filtering’ to keep everything running smoothly.
Don Carlton prepped Pro Stock heads fitted with Manley stainless steel valves
Manley triple valve springs
Smith Brothers push rods
Reed roller rockers
Chrysler Pro Stock aluminium valves covers.
Weiland prostock tunnel ram intake manifold fitted with 2 Holley 1150 dominator carbies.
Sunoco 116 race fuel via 2 Holley GPH pumps and earl braided lines
Stainless steel headers with 2.5 inch primary and 6 inch collectors.
Mallory Super Magneto
BMW M3 radiator
Don Carlton and crew take the credit for the transmission, a clutched 727 Torque Flight with Hays single plate.
B&M pro stick shifter, Pro Stock flywheel and tail shaft
The engine is good for a genuine 980hp at 9400 rpm.
The engine itself has plenty of history having propelled NHRA racer, Don Carlton to the pro stock world championships in the ‘70s.