By the time the ponycar wars were beginning, Keith Legar was following a family trend set by his father and brothers in developing a taste for Mopars. Keith remembers his dad owning nothing but Dodge or Plymouth station wagons, and his older brothers both had hot-rodded Plymouths as well. "Steve had a Savoy with a dual-quad 361 that we used to race, and Tommy worked on cars too," Keith says.
Keith purchased his first Mopar in the late '60s--a '63 Plymouth Sport Fury convertible with a 383 and a four-speed. He had big dreams for the car and even traded a Ducati motorcycle for a 426 Max Wedge that he planned to install in it. But then cruel reality reared its ugly head--somebody stole the seats out of the Plymouth. Keith gave up on the project and sold the car in frustration.
Thirty years later, Keith owns a construction-site clean-up business and has a son of his own. While he was working on a job site one day, he spotted a good-looking '71 Challenger parked in front of a neighboring home. He asked about the car and was told the owner didn't want to sell, so he went back to work and put the car out of his mind. About a year later, he ran into the homeowner at a hardware store and was told the Challenger was up for sale. Keith was soon back in the Mopar fraternity.
The '71 was an exceptionally clean 318/automatic car, and Keith drove it just as he bought it for a time. Then he started making some changes, adding an R/T hood and a 10.0:1-compression 340, and eventually treating the car to a full Alston backhalf kit with a 'cage and four-link rear suspension. Then a Six Pack hood was added, and to live up to the power it implied, the same 340 was recammed by Keith's pal John Gilbert, and treated to a D-1SC Procharger centrifugal blower; when the SD Performance blower mount wouldn't clear the downtubes of the rollcage, a custom mount was fabbed. But that didn't last long. Gilbert told us, "That 340 was just never built for blower power, and the bottom end fell out of it." So Keith scored a used R3 siamese-bore small-block at SoCal's Spring Fling Mopar show, and John loaded it with with billet guts and 8.5:1 compression for 427 ci of small-block Mopar that could withstand all the abuse the Motec-injected, intercooled Procharger could dish out. The end result is the car he now exhibits at local shows and drives a couple of times a week just for fun.
We joined Keith, his son Marty, and their friend Kareem Elsherif at a recent test-and-tune at Irwindale Raceway not far from his home in Redondo Beach, California. Elsherif, who is a Honda aficionado and has crewed for import racer Stephan Papadakis, served as the tuner for the injection system and eventually laid down the best numbers in the Challenger for that night. Without the transbrake, Elsherif posted a 6.86-second e.t. at 100 mph on the eighth-mile run, which means it should be good for high 10s in the quarter. But there's plenty more left, as the ribbed blower belt was slipping, allowing boost to drop from 8 pounds in First gear to just 4 at the top end. A cog beltdrive is in the works. Also, with 4.56:1 gears and 29-inch rubber, the engine spins 5,300 through the lights in the eighth-mile, so a set of 3.91s is being installed in preparation for estimated 135-mph trap speeds in the quarter.
So while the quest continues, Keith is still perfectly happy that he finally was able to build a car the way he wanted it and keep his family's Mopar tradition alive.
"Put the throttle down on this thingand it's like you're on ice skates!" Keith Legar
What: '71 Dodge Challenger
Owner: Keith Legar, a man with a Mopar past
Hometown: Redondo Beach, California, where the sun and the surf make car guys smile
Short-Block: The block was a used R3 race version that he bought at a car show, and Keith's friend John Gilbert took it to 427 ci with a 4.125-inch bore and 4.00-inch stroke. The holes are stuffed with custom JE dished pistons for 8.5:1 compression. The rods are Manley H-beams with Chevy 0.927-inch pins and they swing on a Moldex billet crank. Milodon provides the oiling, and the cam is a mystery solid flat-tappet grind.
Heads: The block shoulders a pair of Indy Cylinder Head 360-2 oval-port, W2-style heads with CNC-cut 230cc intake runners and 2.100/1.650-inch valves. They're fitted with Indy proprietary shaft rockers.
Induction: The D-1SC centrifugal Procharger supercharger is hung on a custom bracket and drive system with parts from SD Performance and The Supercharger Store. It's connected to the Procharger air-to-air intercooler with custom stainless-steel tubing. Boost runs 8-12 psi when the belt isn't slipping. The intake is an Indy unit with 83-lb/hr RC Engineering injectors and a Mopar Performance throttle-body with a hat from The Supercharger Store.
Fuel System: A Motec Systems USA electronic control unit controls the flow from a trunk-mounted JAZ 12-gallon fuel cell with twin electric Paxton fuel pumps and XRP braided stainless fuel hoses. A pair of nitrous bottles are also in the trunk, but he hasn't opened them yet.
Exhaust: Stock TTI headers feed 3.00-inch stainless tubing and a pair of Spin Tech mufflers.
Transmission: A Dodge 518 automatic transmission that was swapped in from a '92 pickup modified by ProTrans in Lancaster, California, with a reverse-pattern valve body, a transbrake, and a 3,200-stall converter from Continental Torque Converters. The trans is fitted with an electric overdrive that can be operated in any gear through a toggle switch, so the Challenger can be quite docile on the highway. It can also be shifted hard on the track through a Precision Performance Products air shifter. The bottle for the shifter is housed under the dash and can be adjusted with a chip to change the tranny's shift points. When launched with the transbrake, the stock cast U-joint yoke gave up, so the car is now fitted with billet yokes and an aluminum driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline Service.
Chassis: It's stock in front but has an Alston back-halved rear with a four-link and Koni coilovers. The rolling stock consists of Mickey Thompson 26x7.50-15 front and 31x18.50-15 rear rubber wrapped around Center Line rims. The rear wheelwells were opened to get the car low without feeding the rubber to the fenders. The power is passed back through an Alston Fab 9 rearend that carries a 4.56:1 ring-and-pinion set, a Detroit Locker, and Currie axles.
Interior: The interior reflects the car's street/track dual purposes. The 12-point rollcage heads up the safety gear and is supplemented by a pair of Recaro seats fitted with Simpson harnesses. The black door panels, carpet, and headliner are the work of Geisens Automotive Upholstery in Laguna Hills, California, and an aluminum instrument insert was added to the stock dash. It carries a host of Auto Meter Pro Comp mechanical gauges, including monitors for voltage, boost pressure, fuel pressure, and water temperature as well as a tachometer and a speedometer.
Performance: Keith has never run it down the 1,320, but it recently turned 6.86 at 100 mph in the eighth-mile. Rear-wheel horsepower is estimated at 700. With the upgrades being planned, high 9s in the quarter are expected.