What happens to really good engine builders after they have tired of the rat race of competition? Longtime wrench Dave Weber sort of retired (to just 80 hours a week) on a horse farm in Virginia, where he found he couldn't shake the machinery bug and has recently started Modern Muscle, a company that is doing turnkey conversions on vintage Mopar iron to late-generation Hemi power. Dave was well known in NHRA Division 1 for years as part of the Ritter-Weber partnership that competed in the Comp ranks in the '80s and '90s. After a follow-up position in the Joey Arrington NASCAR Dodge truck series team as an engine builder/developer and eventually general manager, Dave has now made his expertise available to people wanting that late-model feel in classic iron for the street. Modern Muscle is equipped to handle almost any part of the fabrication required, with a paint booth, CNC milling machinery, and more on the property. Like a moonshine operation, though, he is up in them thar hills of Virginy, so we decided to show you what his place looks like.
A. Late-model engines use new-generation transmissions like this TKO-600 from Keisler Engineering; nearly every complete car Modern Muscle tackles will also get this sort of conversion.
B. Here is a '68 Barracuda notchback that was commissioned by Melvin Dunsworth of Kansas City, Missouri, for the full treatment. In addition to a 6.1L Hemi engine with a Comp Cam, TTI Headers, and revised digital tune-up, the car sports a just-developed Modern Muscle Hilborn-type stack electronic injection setup. Righthand man Larry McKinney handled much of this buildup.
C. In the background is a vintage 360 with a Six Pack; in the foreground is a fresh 6.1 Chrysler Hemi crate engine that will end up in someone's engine bay. Any number of changes will be made to the new lung as per the customer's request.
D. This is a fully prepped 6.1L Hemi casting done in-house on Dave's high-end five-axis CNC mill. How does somebody pay for one of these? Dave remains involved in NASCAR R&D projects. No, we can't tell you what . . . .
E. Another car that is just getting started is this '70 Challenger owned by John Jancic of Cleveland, North Carolina. When Muscle Motors is finished, it will sport a reworked 6.1L mill, a Keisler five-speed crash box, Classic Auto Air, a DTS 4.10-geared Dana 60, CalTracs split-mono rear leaves, and a Modern Muscle custom E-Body dash. It arrived here as a converted 318-inch Internet purchase.
F. Here is a late-model stroker Indy kit installed in a 6.1L by Modern Muscle making real 426 cid. Block machining was done by Glad Precision (former engine builder for Alan Kulwicki and lead man for Dodge Motorsports' short-block development), adding a Comp Cams stick and Modern Muscle's new CNC heads. To make sure it's right, Dave chooses to dial in all engines, controllers, and harnesses before shipping any parts. The final tuning is always done first on the chassis dyno, then on the track. Years of Comp Eliminator racing teach a lot.
G. This table is covered with hooks and markings used to create custom wiring harnesses for new Hemi installs. Also shown is a custom billet E-Body dash under construction for the Unique Performance/Foose Challenger. Modern Muscle patent-pending billet gauge bezels, designed and manufactured in-house by Modern Muscle, are being fitted and are a big enhancement to the process.