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.
In 1966, Dodge offered a dealer-installed option called the D/Dart that was intended for N
Who: Donnie Delmain
What: '66 Dodge GT Dart
Where: Cedar Hill, Missouri, the Show Me State
Engine: This is really the car's focal point. Donnie started with a 340 iron block, boring it 0.040 over to 4.070 inches and then adding an arm-stretching 4.00-inch Eagle 4340 steel crank producing 416 ci. Muscle Motors in Lansing, Michigan, did the machine work, also adding the 11.5:1-compression forged pistons and their own custom grind solid lifter, flat-tappet camshaft that specs 284 degrees at 0.050-inch tappet lift, producing 0.580 inch of maximum valve lift. The 2.05/1.60-inch stainless steel valves are located in a set of ported Edelbrock aluminum heads that Donnie says flow 295 cfm. A Mopar Performance M1 intake mounts the 850-cfm Demon carburetor, Hooker 15?8-inch headers take care of the exhaust, and an MSD 6AL box lights it all up. The simple exhaust system is little more than a length of 3-inch tubing with a pair of two-chamber Flow-master mufflers and turndowns.
Transmission: In the '60s, some Fuel Funny Cars used 727 TorqueFlite transmissions until the Lenco made its debut, so an updated version with a reverse Cheetah valvebody and custom 3,800-rpm 8-inch converter all detailed by Tach Transmissions makes Donnie's Dart fly.
Rearend: At barely 3,200 pounds with a driver on the starting line, a Dana would be overkill, which is why Donnie went with a simple 8 3/4-inch rear out of a '69 Dart complete with 4.10:1 Richmond gears and a Detroit Locker differential. The axles have also been redrilled from their tiny 5x4-inch arrangement to the fullsize Mopar 5x4 1/2-inch pattern.
Chassis: Besides the enormous amount of work that went into the body, the plan also called for framerail connectors to stiffen the entire body along with a homebuilt six-point rollbar with side bars. The frame modifications were made by Matt Williams.
Suspension/Brakes: Donnie retained the stock front crossmember but added drag shocks up front, replacing all the bushings and ball joints. The rear suspension got a little more attention with a set of stock rear leaf springs, adjustable Rancho shocks, and a set of CalTracs bars. For stopping, he added a set of '75 Dodge Dart discs, while a pair of 10-inch drums bring up the rear.
Bodywork: It might be a shorter list to detail what pieces Donnie didn't change or repair on this field Dart. You can safely assume that everything from roughly the lower body line and down was rusty, but we also have to include both rear quarter-panels. That's a '69 Road Runner 6BBL hoodscoop, if you're wondering. The color is "just green."
Interior: It's drag racer sparse on the inside. Donnie eliminated the stock dash, choosing to go with a length of aluminum sheet that houses an Auto Meter speedometer and gauges and a race car rocker set for the necessary switches. The Auto Meter tach sits on top of the dash. The seats are a simple pair of Jaz fiberglass buckets, while the door panels are also aluminum. There are no frills here--and don't bother looking for a stereo.
Performance: Here is where the little A-Body shines, with its best pass an 11.30 at 118 mph on 93-octane pump gas. Our techsheet asked for gas mileage, and Donnie's response was "Who cares?"
Crew: Matt Williams, Kevin Otty, Donnie's brothers, his dad--and Donnie wanted to give a shout out to Clayton, Dan Jr., and, of course, the Labadie Bottom Boys.