Forget 666, 440 is the number of this beast
Religion and cars aren’t things you would often expect to clash, but in 1971, when Dodge released its Demon, the high-performance derivative of the Dart, well, let’s just say it didn’t go down particularly well with staunchly Christian Americans.
An angry beast, the Demon 340 was in fact based off the popular Plymouth Duster and not the Dart at all, meaning it was 75mm shorter in length, despite the use of Dart front guards, bumper and hood. It also packed Chrysler’s very strong 340ci small block, rated at 275hp, making it a very potent spirit indeed. After only two years of production, however, GM bowed to public pressure, removed the devil decals, and changed the name back to the Dart Sport for 1973.
Nearly 40 years on, and ironically because of those over-zealous religious types, the Dodge Demon has become anything but a shunned vehicle. The limited production run (around 19,000 all told) and its cheeky, controversial history have seen the Demon become one of the more desirable cars in the Mopar stable.
The Devil We Know
Kapiti Coast’s Mike Dean has always loved his A-body Mopars, having owned several examples in the past. The much sought-after Dodge Demon, however, has always been his favourite. “You barely ever see them because so few were made,” Mike explains. “I think that rarity is half the appeal, but I also love the look, especially the taillights.”
Twelve years ago Mike was finally able to get his hands on his dream Mopar, a 1972 Dodge Demon 340. This particular car was a racer through and through, having first hit the strip back in the early 1970s when it was near new. This meant the car was is in very good condition, with low, essentially race-only mileage. “I bought it off a friend who had imported it from California back in 1992, and then raced it for the next few years. In 1997, I took it off his hands as a rolling shell with fibreglass bucket seats, an aluminium dash, a roll cage and many other parts missing.”
Luckily, many of the pieces required to return the car to road-worthiness came in boxes with it, and so began the long journey of getting this seasoned racer back out onto the street.
“When I first brought the car home as a shell, the wife saw it sitting in the garage and to be honest, she didn’t have the most favourable response,” Mike remembers. “She warmed to the idea as the build progressed, though.”
As a big fan of the 440 big block, Mike knew what would be powering his re-invented Demon. The Mopar engine that now resides between the front guards has been fully balanced, and uses forged pistons, chromoly rings, ARP fasteners, a Crane Fireball cam and a high-volume oil pump along with a Milodon deep pan sump to keep everything well-lubricated.
Up top, a pair of Edelbrock alloy heads improve flow, and sit below a Mopar Performance single-plane intake, fed by an angry Holley carb and K&N filter. Mallory has provided the pump, regulator, filter and lines that make up the heavy-duty fuel system, while spark is produced by a Mopar Performance electronic dizzy and a Blaster Coil from MSD.
Out the rear, a set of Chrysler Performance Parts Association two-inch headers direct exhaust gases into a twin three-inch exhaust system, which runs a pair of Flowmaster mufflers.
Double Time Demon
Although the Demon was originally specced with a four-speed manual transmission, it has since been swapped over to a modified 727 Torqueflite auto, in hopes of improving its quarter-mile performance. The Torqueflite now benefits from a Cheetah reverse pattern manual valve body, a set of heavy duty clutches and a 2500rpm high-stall torque converter. Now super-strong and fast shifting, the trans spins a Dana 60 differential out the rear with Richmond 4:10.1 gearing.
The diff turns a set of Hoosier Pro Street Radial rear drag tyres, wrapped around 15×12-inch Centreline Auto Drag rims. The wheels look super-fat compared to the tiny 15×3.5-inch Centrelines up front, but for getting down a straight line in record time, there is no better combination.
Improved handling and ride height are thanks to some simple suspension work: Mopar Super Stock springs, six-cylinder front torsion bars, 90:10 front drag shocks and re-set leafs.
Although all the work Mike carried out on his Demon is about purpose, there is no denying it’s not a bad looker either, which is impressive considering the exterior paint is a good 30 years old. One look at the engine bay will reveal that Mike intends to paint the car in a trademark Mopar Plum Crazy hue very soon, which should look very sharp.
Currently, the exterior also benefits from fibreglass bumpers, a fibreglass hood and stretched and tubbed rear guards by Mike Tripae, done so well that you wouldn’t even know it unless they are pointed o
Within The Beast
The interior is fairly no-nonsense, sporting leather seats from a late model Jappa, a few Auto Meter gauges and a cleverly hidden Pioneer stereo system.
“I don’t like seeing new stereos in old cars, so I hid the MP3 head unit in the glove compartment, and control it with a small remote,” Mike says.
The rear speakers have also been hidden under a custom parcel tray by Year One, and the interior has been completely fitted out with Dynamat sound deadening and new carpet.
Although Mike has gone through quite a few Mopars, it looks like this particular one is a bit of a keeper. “I think I’ll hold on to the Demon for a while,” he tells us. “I should have already repainted it in Plum Crazy, with the original factory stripes, but it’s the usual story, other things that need money come up and progress slows down. So once that is done, I’ll be perfectly happy with the car and there will be nothing left to do but drive and enjoy it.”
Given that the car has more than 500hp from a howling big block 440, looks that could kill and that little extra bit of character that only a once-controversial Dodge Demon can provide, no one would begrudge Mike that.
1972 Dodge Demon – Specifications
Engine: Fully balanced 440ci (7210cc) Mopar big block, 30 thou over, 10.5:1 forged pistons, chromoly rings, ARP fasteners, high-volume oil pump, windage tray, Milodon deep pan, Edelbrock alloy heads, Crane Fireball cam, Crane adjustable steel rockers, Mopar Performance single plane intake, 780 vac sec Holley, K&N filter, Mallory Comp series 140 electric fuel pump, regulator and filter, dual tank pick-ups, 13mm fuel line, Mopar Performance electronic distributor, Orange box, MSD Blaster coil, Taylor leads, trunk-mounted battery, high-torque mini starter, CPPA (Chrysler Performance Parts Association) big block/A-Body two-inch headers, dual three-inch exhaust system, two-chamber Flowmaster mufflers, twin electric fans
Driveline: 727 Torqueflite, Cheetah reverse pattern manual valve body, heavy-duty clutches, 2500rpm stall converter, Dana 60 diff, Richmond 4:10.1gears, Sure Grip, narrowed 20mm
Brakes: Factory disc/drum
Suspension: Six-cylinder front torsion bars, 90:10 front drag shocks, Mopar super-stock springs, lowered 50mm in the front, rear leaf springs moved in-board, lowered 100mm in the rear, adjustable pinion snubber, polyurethane bushes
Wheels/tyres: 15×3.5-inch Centreline Auto Drag front rims, 15×12-inch Centreline Auto Drag rear rims, Hoosier 31×16.5.15-inch Pro Street Radial drag tyres
Exterior: Stretched and tubbed rear arches, fibreglass hood, fibreglass bumpers, 30-year-old white paint
Interior: Late-model Japanese leather seats, Cheetah shifter, Auto Meter gauges, full Dynamat, new carpet, Pioneer MP3 stereo, 6×9-inch Pioneer speakers hidden in custom parcel tray
Mike & Debbie Dean – Owner Details
Occupation: (Mike) Business development manager
Previously owned cars: ’64 Valiant, ’67 Pontiac Laurentian, ’67 Pontiac Firebird, tubbed ’63 Dodge 440 four-door hard-top with 6276cc (383ci), ’71 Valiant coupe with 440ci, ’72 Valiant Charger with 440ci, ’70 Dodge Charger with 383ci and then 440ci
Length of ownership: 12 years
Build time: Ongoing
Mike thanks: Performance Development Services, Mike Tripae
Words: Peter Kelly Photos: Sean Craig