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1971 Dodge Demon - The Super Demon

The Proposed Dodge 440ci A-Body Could Have Been a Killer in SS/CA

By Al Kirschenbaum, Photography by The Brunt Bros.

In the late '60s and very early '70s, endless waves of high-performance car-and-motor combinations cascaded off Detroit assembly lines and were engineered to outrun and hopefully outsell its rival's muscle-car offerings.

For gearheads, it always comes down to which car is quicker.

So for legitimate side-by-side comparisons, honest clockings, and some straight answers, hard-core muscle car fans (who were regarded by most upright citizens as social outlaws to begin with) looked to the mainstream sport of organized drag racing. Now, winning a side-by-side acceleration contest might appear to be a straightforward matter of beating the car in the next lane from a standing start over a measured distance to a finish line. But establishing fair competition between Motown's vast varieties of makes, models, and motors called for complex rule structures to accommodate all eligible entries. The tasks of developing and enforcing such standards fell to organized drag racing's sanctioning bodies, including the AHRA, IHRA, NHRA, UDRA, and NASCAR. Arguably, the most effective of these groups, the National Hot Rod Association, did a credible job of providing a somewhat level playing field for Detroit iron. And nowhere during that era was the brand-versus-brand action fiercer than it was in the NHRA's factory-supported Super Stock categories.

NHRA Super Stockers were (and for the most part still are) cammed-up Stockers running bigger slicks and intakes. They're classified for nationwide competition according to a pounds-per-advertised (but association-factored)-horsepower formula and by transmission type. Starting in 1967 and right up to present day, all SS class winners at national events face each other in a Super Stock Eliminator finale for full-on inter-factory bragging rights.

In this hotly contested factory-versus-factory scenario, the obvious end-game edge goes to the automaker badging the most class-winning entries in the Eliminator. Recognizing this, manufacturers were sometimes known to assemble limited-production and off-line runs of unique car and motor combos. Among the most memorable of the muscle car models factory- formulated exclusively for the drags were Ford's Fairlane Thunderbolts and Cobra Jet Mustangs, AMC's SS/AMX and SC/Rambler, and Chevy's COPO Camaros.

Chrysler Corp. was particularly effective at this build-to-suit, niche-filling drill. In fact, there were times the factory might have even given the impression that the thinking was: "If an advantageous body-and-powertrain combination doesn't come down one of our assembly lines, we'll find some way to get it built." Fielding notable short-run models like the '65 A990s, the '67 Belvedere/Coronet package cars, and '68 Barracuda and Dart Hemicars, the old Corporation made a science of stuffing Super Stock entry lists with tons of Eliminator potential. The company's race group approached these acceleration confrontations every bit as seriously as it did its NASCAR, Trans-Am, and Pro Stock campaigns. And after savvy group strategists detected a lack of national-event entries in the NHRA's Super Stock/C Automatic (SS/CA) class back in late 1970, Chrysler responded with this big-block Dodge Demon scheme.

As radical as this strategy might appear now, it did have precedents. Just a few model-years earlier, a 440-powered A-body Dart package was pioneered by Grand Spaulding Auto Sales, a Chicago-area Dodge store (run by Norm Kraus, now proprietor of Mr. Norm's Garage). The dealership converted a handful of 383 GTS Darts to into 440s for 1968, prompting significant factory interest in the big-motor/little-car combo. Not only was there sales-potential in the big picture, but Chrysler's Performance Product Planning department (aka, the race group), was aware of a soft spot in the NHRA Super Stock/J Automatic class that the big-block Dart slotted right into. As a result, Dodge Division contracted Hurst-Campbell to assemble a run of 48 auto-trans 440 four-barrel A-body Darts for 1968. Most of those new-car conversions were sold by Grand Spaulding Dodge as GSS models. Others were peddled through Dodge's network of 3,500 dealers nationwide, and some were sold to racers for customer pick-up directly from Hurst.

By Al Kirschenbaum
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