Car guys have this odd affliction that acutely affects their vision when it comes to selecting a project car. What most people see as a rusted-out hulk, car guys see as a gleaming boulevard or dragstrip emerald. That image is also perpetually accompanied by the following qualifier: "All it needs is a little work."
So it was that Donnie Delmain came to suffer from this all-too-common car guy visual impairment. Donnie bought his first car, a '66 Dodge Dart, at the enthusiastic age of 14. It was a nice, original Slant Six car and the perfect cruiser. In fact, it was too good as daily transportation. Within a few months, Donnie wanted to upgrade the Dart with LA-engine power and all the accompanying Mopar accoutrements, but Father knew best and canceled all of Donnie's modification schemes. The hacking that Dad knew was coming would have to be performed on another car because dads have foresight younger car crafters often lack. While Donnie was disappointed, it set him off on a quest to find another Dart with which he could play the performance game.
His search led him to an overly oxidized relic that at one time had claimed to be a '66 GT Dart. It was sitting in a field, now operating as a luxurious mouse motel complete with interior shards the rodents had transformed into a penthouse suite. Donnie unearthed the hulk and dragged it home, but even with his warm, fuzzy, Mopar-tinted goggles, this had to be a rough lump for Dad to now find sitting in his garage. For $500, young Delmain had purchased a Dart mostly in name only, since as he puts it, "It was a mess. It had no floorboards, no quarter-panels, or trunk pan. Mice even had the front end all rusted out with seat cushion material."
Now reality set in and Donnie was faced with major sheetmetal surgery. This is when you find out who your friends really are. Donnie must be a good guy because his list of people who have assisted over the years includes family members and friends, along with what must be a car club going by the name of the Labadie Bottom Boys. We'll leave that backstory for another time.
A surprisingly short two years later (we have bathroom recaulking plans that are older than 24 months), the Dart was in primer, complete with a small-block and 727 trans. The plan was always the same: go fast at the dragstrip. The current configuration sports a bulbous 416 inches from the 340-based LA-block and on pump gas has tripped the timers at a stealthy 11.30 at 118 mph. Did we mention it only weighs 3,050 pounds?
This little Dart is the epitome of a homebuilt supercar with an emphasis on going fast and creature comforts coming in a distant second. There's a length of aluminum sheet with simple Auto Meter speedo and gauges for a dash accompanied by a pair of fiberglass bucket seats and a Hurst Quarter Stick shifter. There's no back seat, but there is a six-point rollbar. CalTracs bars support the Mopar rear leaf springs to help the 4.10-geared 8 3/4-inch rear hook. It's a minimalist machine that's fast, runs on pump gas, and can still hit the local cruise when necessary. And that's exactly the way Donnie likes it.