When we first saw this car, it looked to us like a basic driver with a minimalist interior and nice small-block. It wasn't until later that we saw it lining up and clicking off easy 6.80s at the Irwindale eighth-mile dragstrip with the wheels in the air. The prospect of a feature car got sweeter when we visited Rod McGregor's pit to check out his dead-simple combo and there wasn't a trailer in sight.
If you keep count, this blue '69 Dart is the fourth car on the list of A-Bodies Rod has owned since his street racing days. It's the only one he purchased for someone else, and the only one that currently runs. The first Dart was a '67 with a 440 swap that did some time at the street digs in Whittier, California, back in the day. The killer combo featured chunks of Bondo falling out of the quarter-panels, a dash of ugly, and some low-12-second speed. That one gave way to a much better-looking '68 that also ran low 12s, but Rod never saw any official timeslips. It came apart for some serious upgrades when Rod got married and had a kid. "I look back at the work I did, and it's all going to come out," Rod says.
The transportation car in those days was a factory 340/four-speed '72 Demon daily driver, but Rod couldn't leave it alone. First he added headers, then an intake swap, then more. "This used to happen to all my cars," Rod says. "Now I have an SRT-4 Neon, but I've only added a K&N air filter because I know where it ends." By that, Rod means it will never end and his commuter will also become a race car if he isn't careful. "I try to define my transportation cars and my fast cars," he says.
When Rod's son was old enough to show interest in the hobby, they cruised around and found the '69 Dart you see here. Was it love at first sight? "It was rough. The interior was totally trashed and it looked like monkeys had lived in it. The ex-terior? Well the roof was straight. It was an original 273/904 car with a 7 1/4 rearend. It was a grandma car that we bought for $900 about five years ago."
The original running gear was chucked for a solid-lifter 360 that went south shortly after breaking in the cam. The car ran high 7.40s without a bar. The next engine was a Mopar Performance 408 with Edelbrock heads that took the car into the low-7.30 range or about 11.40 in the quarter-mile. Rod was happy, but he wanted to go faster and happened to have a set of Indy cylinder heads and an intake sitting on the shelf waiting to be installed on the '72 Demon. Rod dropped the heads on the 408 and added a larger roller cam and a set of 1 7/8-inch headers. At the time, the trans was an A-500 overdrive from Pro Trans in Lancaster, California. It was tough, but it proved to be eating a little too much power and costing them a tenth at the strip. Rod switched to a 904 because it is lighter and uses less power to turn the driveshaft.
With the new parts, the car was going 6.80s at Irwindale. Then Rod started rubbing on it, adding a cold-air pan, and fine-tuning the combination to run a 6.68 on the night we met him.
Someday, Rod will get back to his '68 and '72 A-Bodies, but he doesn't know when. "I've been married 23 years, and my wife has never seen the ['68 Dart] run." When he does get it running, we'll be waiting.
Who: Rod McGregor
What: '69 Dodge Dart
Engine: The 408 is the third engine that made it into the engine bay. The original 273 "shook out of it" on the way home and was replaced by an Edelbrock-headed 360 that ate its own flat-tappet mechanical cam. It ate the bores and the block and wouldn't go 0.060 over, so it was junk. Rod replaced it with a Mopar Performance resto block with a 4.030 bore and dropped in an Eagle 4.00-inch crank for 408 inches. The Indy 360-1 heads have 2.10/1.65 valves and a 210 intake port volume. With a 63cc combustion chamber and a small dish in the SRP piston, he got a pump-gas-friendly 10.4:1.