There are Hemi Darts, and then there's this Hemi Dart. You're looking at the one and only Dick Landy four-speed car. It's not a re-creation, tribute, fake, clone, or any other such illusion. One of two '68 LO23 Hemi Darts campaigned by Dandy Dick (the other one had an automatic transmission), this is the car he drove in back-to-back Modified Production victories at the '68 and '69 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Then there was the match-racing. This thing lined up against the likes of Ronnie Sox, Bill Jenkins, Dyno Don Nicholson, and hundreds of other heroes at tracks from coast to coast and quickly became a crowd-and magazine photographer's-favorite. More on that detail in a moment.
With such an illustrious competition history, you'd think its trajectory from Dick Landy's care to its present location in Pat Goff's St. Paul garage would be easy to trace. After all, vintage Ferraris, Alfa Romeos, Cobras, and Jaguars with significant racing history are marked forever and seldom slip into obscurity, so why would this car be any different?
The fact is, unlike the driving gloves and picnic basket set, we drag racers aren't always so diligent about preserving our historic machinery. All too many times, last year's race car is discarded like an empty beer can. Though this Dart served Dick Landy well, by 1970, Super Stock was rapidly evolving into Pro Stock, and he focused his most serious efforts on a new Challenger. Sure, he ran the Darts a few times-plus a few lower-class Hemi and wedge-motivated Chargers to boot. But the increasing focus was on Pro Stock, and Dodge factory sponsorship mandated use of the sexy E-Body Challenger.
All corporate marketing strategies aside, Dick Landy's duo of '68 Darts-despite being face-lifted to '69 specs-was suddenly obsolete and expendable. Around 1971 or 1972, this four-speed car was sold to Kenny Nichols, who stripped and sanded the trademark silver, red, and blue graphics off the body before campaigning it briefly himself. And so the former superstar began its incognito journey, floating around totally unrecognized for the next three decades. The amazing thing is how several hard-core Mopar fanatics owned the car over the years, and not one of them had a clue what it was.
Thanks to Daryl Klassen of Manitoba, Canada, the truth finally surfaced in 1996. He was inspecting the Dart's faded body when he noticed several small patches of silver, red, and blue paint in the crevices of the doorjambs and trunk lip. A Mopar drag race historian and collector, he noted how similar the traces were to the effect he'd seen on vintage photos of the Landy car. Could it be? And so he started the process of carefully stripping subsequent layers of paint off the factory-issue fiberglass front fenders and hood. That's where he hit pay dirt, as the black gelcoat showed signs where the original silver paint had chemically etched itself into the surface.
Plunging into his collection of vintage Car Craft, Hot Rod, and Super Stock magazines, Daryl noticed Dick Landy had a flair for personalizing his cars more than the norm. While most of the 80 racers lucky enough to get a Hemi Dart (plus another 70 Hemi Barracudas) applied fancy graphics and lettering over the factory-issue gray primer and black gelcoat body surfaces, he went several steps further-remember, he was the first to install a normal four-headlamp grille in place of the factory-issue, but awkward-looking, two-lamp grille on his '65 altered wheelbase A/FX Coronet.
Magazine sleuth work revealed the fact that while the Hurst-built Hemi A-Body Darts and Barracudas wore no external Hemi identification badges, Dick Landy applied rectangular Hemi emblems-of the type used on '68 Hemi Chargers-to the doors of his four-speed car and painted a simple Hemi Dart logo on the white bumblebee tail stripe. Photos show the automatic car lacked these details. Instead, its doors were emblem free, and he painted a Dodge logo on the trunk stripe. Armed with these tidbits, Daryl ran to the car and sure enough, inside each doorskin were two body-filler worms where the holes for the added Hemi emblem studs had been hastily plugged long ago.
But it takes a lot more than a single happy coincidence to establish true provenance. After all, maybe all he really had were original doors bolted to a non-Landy Hemi Dart. So Daryl kept going. Noting the Darts were often photographed with nonfactory-issued chrome wheel lip molding, he checked the car and found the telltale screw holes. Then he got wind that former team driver Bob Lambeck was holding the fender tags to two '68 Hemi Darts. A call confirmed one tag belonged to Bob's personal Dart, but the other was removed from one of Dick Landy's two Darts prior to its sale in the early '70s. Did the sequence number stamped into the metal tag match the VIN displayed on Daryl's Dart? When Daryl read the LO23M8B297859 VIN into the telephone, Bob happily confirmed a match, and full Bob status was confirmed. Yes, Bob sent the matched fender tag to Daryl for reunion with the car. Incidentally, the automatic-equipped Dart has also survived and is currently owned by a noted Michigan collector.
Knowing Dick Landy was one of the first to suffer at the hands of unscrupulous rip-off artists who slathered his name-without permission-on completely bogus cars in the '80s, Daryl assembled all the details and clues and approached him for verification in 1998. After a brief time, he confirmed the fact that it was his old car and graciously granted Daryl permission to letter the body with his name. OK, you'd think Daryl would whip out the paint and that'd be the end of things, right? Remember we said this car bounced around for a while? Well Daryl sat on the car and even got started on the paintwork. But life got in the way and he sold it to its current owner, Pat Goff, as a semifinished roller.
Ironically, this was the second time Pat held the title. Let's rewind the clock a little bit to learn more. If you thought the Mopar Street Hemi collector world was close knit, you don't want to know about the guys who collect the Race Hemi cars. Produced in far fewer quantities (like less than 400 cars total), these cross-rammed '64 and '65 B-Bodies and '68 Hemi A-Bodies enjoy an elite status among Hemi collectors, and the guys who buy, sell, and trade them are the hardest of the hard-core about verifying the origins of their cars. That's why we were shocked to learn the Landy Dart passed through the hands of several well-informed fanatics without being detected.
Let's recap the roster of guys who should have caught it but didn't. Soon after Kenny Nichols got it from Landy around 1971, it ended up at Barnett Race Cars in Atlanta. Next, a Connecticut racer named Ron bought it from Barnett in 1974 as a rolling chassis with the paint stripped to bare steel and fiberglass. Ron delivered the car to Lindblad Race Cars in Massachusetts, where it was tubbed and caged. At the time, the Dick Landy connection was only four or five years prior, recent history worthy of notice, but not a reason to celebrate, so a coat of solid red paint was applied. For unknown reasons, Ron never completed the car and it sat in a Connecticut warehouse until 1986.
That's when Steven Siegel bought it. If you've been reading car magazines for a while, you'll recognize Steven as a former staffer for Mopar Muscle and a hard-core Hemi fanatic. If anybody would catch on to the Landy surprise, it'd be him, right? But Steven was likely focused more on his growing collection of B- and E-Body Street Hemis, so he sat on the car until 1989 before selling it to our man Pat-this being the first time he'd own the car.
Pat had owned a few legitimate Hemi A-Bodies and knew it warranted a restoration because it was-if nothing else-a real Hurst Hemi Dart. So he torched the 10-point rollcage and replaced the butchered firewall, floorpan, and massive tubs with stock sections sliced from a rust-free 10,000-original-mile Slant Six Dart. Then he lost interest and sold the semicorrected car in 1995 to Steve O'Neill of Worcester, Massachusetts.
Steve was involved with Gene's Speed Shop, a legendary Massa-chusetts speed merchant that campaigned a '65 Dodge A990 Race Hemi in the '60s (a car that's recently been restored and is making the car show circuit). Surely, he'd catch a whiff of Dick Landy's famous unlit cigar. No dice. Steve held the car for a year and a half before selling it in 1996 to our Canadian hero Daryl Klassen, who finally identified the car. On a mixed note, it was Daryl who added the minitubs and inboard leaf springs seen on the car today. Even though Pat untubbed the car a few years earlier, Daryl wanted to actually race it in sanctioned competition, so out came the torches. But as we've noted, Daryl never completed the car, and the rolling shell was once again reunited with Pat, its present owner.
When asked if he was freaked out by how his careful floor, firewall, and chassis restoration efforts were partially undone by Daryl, Pat laughs and says he can live with the modifications. "Heck, if it weren't for Daryl, the connection probably wouldn't have been discovered. I sure missed it. Plus, I can get enough tire under it now so it'll really hook if I ever decide to run it down the track." So that's the story of how this famous stick car fell through the cracks, only to be saved from obscurity by a sharp-eyed Canadian. As for the rest of you guys, now is the time to say it: D'oh!
Who: Pat Goff
What: Dick Landy's '68 Hemi Dart
Where: St. Paul, Minnesota
It's not the original 426 Hemi installed in the car back in 1968, but Pat's done a thorough job of replicating a '68-specification Race Hemi, right down to the date-coded block and iron heads. Unlike the '64 and '65 Race Hemis, Chrysler stuck mild (0.484/0.475 lift) Street Hemi solid cams in the '68 Race version and let racers take it from there. A magnesium cross-ram manifold mounts a pair of 735-cfm Holley carbs, and 12.5:1 J&E pistons match the OE slugs. Pat says the horror stories of cross-ram jetting aren't true; he's got box-stock jets in the carbs, and the car runs great from idle to full-throttle.
A super-rare Prestolite blue box transistorized ignition fires platinum-tipped points inside the cast-iron tach drive Race Hemi distributor. That light blue coil might look disco, but it's the real deal.
Then as now, the car runs Hooker headers. But because the original 13/4 primary size is out of production, Pat settled for the 2-inchers Hooker sells today. Pat didn't bother with the original Hurst-supplied dual-swizzle-stick straight pipes and glasspack bullet mufflers. That stuff was just for show anyhow, and racers junked it before hitting the strip.
To situate the 700-pound mass of the all-iron Hemi lower in the chassis, Chrysler placed 1-inch-tall spacers between the K-frame and body. To restore factory suspension geometry, Hemi A-Bodies use hand-fabricated extra-length upper control arms. You can see where they were patched together by Hurst back in 1968.
NHRA Super Stock rules forbade postfactory wheeltub and fender tire clearance modifications well into the early '70s. So all Hemi A-Bodies came with special offset spring shackles and hangers, which gained 3/4-inch of sidewall clearance. You can still buy this kit from MP. At present, the Dick Landy car exhibits minitubs, a narrowed axlehousing, and leaf springs moved in-line with the rear frame longitudinals. We say bring it back to stock. The Dana 60 rear axle packs 4.10:1 gears; originally, equipment cogs were 4.88:1 (4.86:1 in automatic cars equipped with the 83/4 rear axle).
While four-piston Kelsey Hayes disc brakes were a regular factory option on '68 A-Bodies, they had the small 5-on-4-inch bolt pattern. Hemi A-Bodies got specific 11-inch Bendix 5-on-4.5-inch-bolt-pattern discs from the fullsize C-Body parts bin. The rear brakes are 10-inch drums with the big car 5-on-4.5-inch bolt pattern to match the front. The master cylinder mounts to a specific 1-inch offset aluminum block to make room for the Hemi. Clearance is so tight, flexible brake hoses connect the master cylinder to the body so the valve cover can be removed for valve lash adjustment without breaking into the hydraulic brake circuit.
As delivered to the customer, original Hemi Darts came with an unusual blend of 14- and 15-inch rollers: 14x5.5 black steel wheels with D70-14 tires up front and skinny, 7.75x15 tires mounted on oddball 15x6 rims out back. The rear hoops had a ton of inboard offset and look like-but are not the same as-later Dodge Dakota pickup truck rims. Dick Landy was a Cragar S/S man, and that's what Pat has on the car now. The front tires are vintage Goodyear 6.70-15, just like the originals. The slicks are 30x12-15 Goodyears-way bigger than anything ever used on the car. The surviving automatic Dart is not tubbed-let's make it a pair!
An original Hemi A-Body cast-iron four-speed sits under the floor. This is one special transmission because it combines the short A-Body tailshaft with the Hemi-specific 18-tooth input shaft and case. All other A-Body four-speeds used the weaker 23-spline input shaft. Wayne Brewer supplied a bunch of N.O.S. Chrysler clutch and flywheel parts under there, too. A vintage Hurst Competition Plus shifter with remote reverse lockout sprouts between the buckets.
Bostrom bucket seats mount to factory-issue aluminum seat brackets. A textured cardboard panel covers the space left by the rear seat deletion. Speaking of deletes, the dash face has the super-rare heater and radio delete panel. Daryl Klassen kept the original wood-grain steering wheel, so Pat installed a restored duplicate-minus the Landy DNA.
Chrysler told Hurst to spritz gloss black paint in the trunk compartment (and engine bay) for its ability to hide stains. A massive 135-amp Super Stock battery occupies the right rear corner. Its 105-pound weight helps offset the Hemi's impact on front-rear weight distribution.
Body and paint:
Hurst Hemi Darts have standard-weight steel body shells with no sound deadener or undercoating. The rear-wheel openings of the Plymouths were large enough for slicks without trimming. The smaller Dart openings were radiused with a reciprocating saw and template. Because the cutting was done by the manufacturer, it was NHRA legal. The front fenders and hood are fiberglass replicas, and the front bumper and doors are chemically milled (i.e., acid dipped). Remlinger & Son applied the '67 Mercedes Silver, '65 Mustang Poppy Red, and '67 Dodge blue to the body.