Mike Williams’ Dodge Challenger may be green inside and out, but with a 550hp blown Mopar in the engine bay, the envy is all yours.
The tough-looking street machine you see here is proudly owned by Mike Williams of Wellington. This member of Western Bays Street Rodders Inc refers to himself as a plastic surgeon, but keep those shirts on girls, as Mike’s handiwork takes place out at All Bumper Repairs Ltd, where the committed team manipulates plastic skin of the automotive kind. Mike, a true Wellingtonian, has been brought up around V8s most of his life and has owned a reasonable selection, including a ’69 HT Monaro, a small block T Bucket, V8 Commodores, a 440ci (7210cc) Chrysler limo, and a ’69 Dodge Charger to name a few.
But this boy doesn’t restrict his passion to street-driven V8s only; he also has a love affair with drag racing, and after many years of following the sport — which included crew duties for another well-known Wellington drag racer, Dave ‘Rocket’ Drew. Mike got his opportunity to hit the track after a generous offer from Dave to run his small block Chevy Altered, ‘Noiseworks’, as Dave had teamed up with Dennis from DenMac Autos to run another Altered, ‘Cheap Trick’. Again, this was small block Chevy-powered, but with the added bonus of some very special internals, a blower with injected alcohol dropping his quarter mile ETs to consistent seven-second passes. Driver duties for Mike in Noiseworks seemed a simple transition (as I suppose it would when someone lends you a car!) and he cut consistent low nines in the little 331ci (5424cc) Chevy, many a time finishing at the top end of his race class.
Big Blow = more go
The ’72 Dodge Challenger, originally imported to Kiwi-ville approximately 12 years back, was purchased locally by Mike seven years ago boasting the same colour scheme (super bright Barbados Green), but running a single four-barrel carb and semi high-rise manifold on the big-block 440ci (7210cc) Mopar. Mike drove the car regularly for a couple of years, and even had the courage to loan it to his siblings as their ride to high school proms! (Brave boy). Perhaps thoughts of more bling — but more that likely more power for this drag racer-come-hot rodder — saw Mike purchase the Mooneyham blower and Weiand manifold to sit aloft of the existing big block, and yes, good spotting, although most select a 6-71 supercharger for the street, Mike opted for the bigger 8-71 for this bad girl. A custom snout by Al’s Blower Drives was supplied and fitted to the new blower.
This became the start of a four-year rest from the road for the Challenger, as it was decided to remove the drivetrain to strip and inspect the motor and trans before installing the huffer. Although it was in reasonable condition Mike wanted to ensure the new boost wouldn’t do something silly, like push the pistons through the sump. So Darren Hacche from Headmaster Engine Reconditioners was enlisted to add the magic, which included new blower pistons, H-beam shot penned rods, a crank grind, complete balancing, and head porting with new big-ass valves, while Kelford Cams took care of the performance cam (as it does).
Unfortunately the first cam was lost when the plane carrying the cargo crashed into the waters off Kapiti Island en-route to Wellington, (obviously not enough lift!). A pair of Barry Grant 750 double-pumper blower carbs was purchased, which also necessitated an upgrade of the fuel system to include new braided big-bore lines, a quad port regulator and Barry Grant King Sumo fuel pump located next to the fuel tank. With the internals and fuel system taken care of, the ignition got the treatment with the installation of a billet distributor coupled to a MSD 6AL and 8mm leads. Although a 6000rpm limiting chip is fitted Mike reckons his foot has the best control (yea right!).
Keep It Cool
Cooling is taken care of by a custom-built alloy radiator care of Avondale Radiators, with a single 483mm electric fan attached. It cools the cubes so well on the open road, that the fan is only required for those slow trips through the city. The rumbling sound is transferred to the rear via heat-wrapped HPC-coated headers connected to twin three-inch (76mm for you young ones) tubes mellowed only by a single muffler on each pipe. With the motor done, the 727 trans got a birthday which included the addition of a 3000rpm stall converter coupled up to a B&M Quicksilver shifter with the trans cooler mounted up front of the radiator. The diff is a nine-inch Ford (sorry, you Mopar purists) which was deemed more suitable for ease of gear ratio availability come changes for future street/strip duties. The suspension is basically stock, apart from after market bushes.
“Although it was in reasonable condition Mike wanted to ensure the new boost wouldn’t do something silly, like push the pistons through the sump”
With the drivetrain now complete, the engine bay got a birthday present and the beast hit the road for its maiden voyage to the Palmy North swap meet in August ’07. Although they went prepared with a boot-load of tools, she ran like a dream, so the only thing opened was a beer. Unfortunately the combo wasn’t without issues, and soon after this Mike managed to run the big girl a bit lean, causing some minor damage that required the removal of the motor for repairs. Before slipping it back into place Mike delivered it to well-known engine guru Steve Hildred, in New Plymouth. Steve has an engine dyno and carried out performance and engine tuning, achieving an easy 550hp (410kW) with great torque at around 5000rpm, and boosting the street motor to 15psi with its 8.5:1 compression. Brakes were fully rebuilt stock with a disc front, drum rear combo hidden by 265/50R15s on 15 by seven-inch rims up front, and 295/50R15s on 15 by eight rears.
There pretty big all round, but the power fries the rears without hesitation!
The interior has been re-trimmed at some stage, but was completed in factory green leather. Mike fills the Challenger with the highest octane at the pump and tries to blend each tank with 20 litres of Avgas when possible, but reckons “she’s loves to drink.” Should you ever get tired of listening to the throb of this blown big block while cruising the black track (God, I wouldn’t!), you’ll need big sounds, and this car is well equipped, boasting Fusion components comprising boxed and covered twin 15-inch subs, a 1000-watt amp, six-by-nines fitted to the rear parcel tray complete with movement trumpets, tweeters and a mid range up front running from the single disc head unit.
Time To Play
This cool ride has managed the best of both worlds, not only venturing out to local hot rod events and cruises; the big Dodge has also seen duty as probably one of the best-looking tow vehicles at the strip. The car is definitely a street cruiser, but the drag racer in Mike beckons him to put the car on the quarter mile just to see. With teenage petrolhead kids in the family, there is a serious drag car in the build. It is, however, powered by a rotary engine.
The tubbed and caged RX-2 is a cool way to retain a father/son relationship, and there are no intentions of selling the Dodge any time soon.
Future goals include cruises such as the beach hop (when work commitments allow), and perhaps a new skin in that green, and the transmission will shortly receive another upgrade with the addition of a manual valve body.
Until then, though, the car can often be seen and heard around the streets of Wellington, doing what it does best, turning heads and turning tyres.
1972 Dodge Challenger
Engine: 440ci (7210cc) Mopar, Weiand blower manifold, Mooneyham 8-71 supercharger, Al’s Blower Drivers scoop, H-beam rods, ported heads, Kelford cam, balanced rotating assembly, two Barry Grant 750cfm carbs, Barry Grant King Sumo fuel pump, MSD 6AL ignition, 8mm leads, alloy radiator, 483mm fan, twin three-inch exhausts
Driveline: 727 transmission, B&M Quicksilver shifter, Ford nine-inch diff
Suspension: Nolathane bushes
Wheels/tyres: 15×7 and 15×8-inch Cragar Wheels 265/50R15 and 295/50R15 BF Goodrich tyres
Exterior: Factory Barbados green paint
Interior: Leather re-trim, two 15-inch subwoofers, Fusion components, CD player, six by nine-inch speakers
Age: 40 and change
Occupation: Plastic surgeon
Dream car: Any good Mopar Muscle
Length of ownership: Seven years
Build time: Four years
Mike thanks: His family, Dave (Rocket) Drew, Darren Hacche at Headmaster Engine Reconditioners, Steve Hildred