If we were in the car restoration business in northern Wisconsin and Fred Kappus decided to open his shop down the street from us, we'd have serious cause for concern. We'd need to assess whether our work was up to snuff or else he'd quickly put us out of business. Just look at this Dart he built-it's awesome.
After several years of working at Muscle Car Restorations in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, Fred and his dad began hatching plans for Fred to start a restoration business of his own. To showcase his talents, they agreed that he should build a car he could use as a promotional and marketing tool. This Dart is that car. We spotted it at the '10 Car Craft Summer Nationals in St. Paul and instantly knew we needed to run a feature on it in the magazine. From the glass-smooth Viper Red paint to the killer rake and stance and nasty-sounding stroker under the hood, this car just had way too much good stuff going for it.
Fred spent a little more than two years working on this car on nights and weekends. Originally, it was a brown-on-brown Slant Six commuter vehicle that no one would have looked at twice. Now it draws a crowd everywhere it goes. Though we said in the intro that Fred built this car to showcase his business, don't think for a minute that he is just out to make a buck and couldn't care less about cars. He's a diehard Mopar guy. "Yup, guilty," he tells us. "I was fascinated with the Hemi Dart when I was growing up. I loved the concept." Though he couldn't afford to build a Hemi Dart, he clearly had the big-power-in-a-light-car concept in his crosshairs when he put together his '67. "I took that idea and refined it," he says, referring to his desire to have a car that could turn corners well in addition to generating massive acceleration in a straight line.
Fred finished building the car in February 2009 and opened his business, Fast Freddie's Rod Shop, in late September 2008. He is happy to report to us that, though he is still a one-man show, his stunning Dart has earned him a shop full of business already, and he may need to hire a second guy to help keep up. Judging by the quality of the Dart, he may need to hire an entire crew pretty soon.
Who: Fred Kappus
What: '67 Dodge Dart
Where: Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Be sure to sample a pint or two of Leinenkugel's Big Butt Doppelbock while you're there.
Engine: A 400 is a B- (rather than RB) block with a 4.340-inch bore and, originally, a 3.38-inch stroke. Fred tells us he chose this platform because the blocks are less expensive than RBs, and the lower deck height means he can make bigger headers fit better inside the cramped engine compartment of his A-body. Bored 0.030 inch and with a 4.250-inch Eagle stroker crank, this mighty 503-inch engine was machined, balanced, and assembled by Jeff Fiala at Wheeler Dyno Service. Like the crank, the pistons and rods are also forgings from Eagle. They work in conjunction with a pair of Edelbrock Performer RPM heads, and the combination yields a 10.25:1 compression ratio. The cam is a hydraulic flat-tappet stick from Comp with specs of 231 degrees duration and 0.480-inch lift. Harland Sharp roller rocker arms take a little weight and friction out of the top end of the valvetrain. The intake is a matching Performer RPM, and it inhales through a Holley 950 HP double-pumper carburetor. TTI headers measuring 2 inches at the primaries and 3.5 inches at the collectors are shoehorned between the shock towers, and they empty to 3.5-inch intermediate pipes with a pair of Quick Time Performance electric exhaust cutouts. This combination is good for a dyno-proven 555 hp at 5,300 rpm and 650 lb-ft at 3,700. "It runs on 91-octane," Fred happily points out.
Transmission: Such high torque numbers tend to cause transmission problems, meaning they break. So you'd need a stout trans to stand up to this potent powerplant. Fred wisely bolted up a Keisler-built Tremec TKO-600 with a single-disc Sachs clutch in between. Keisler also makes the cool Pistol Grip shifter poking up through the floor.
Rearend: A steel driveshaft, also made by Keisler, connects to an 83/4 rear axle loaded with 3.55:1 gears on a Sure Grip differential.
Suspension: Looking to shed some weight while adding performance, Fred tossed the stock front K-frame in favor of a Reilly MotorSports' tube-steel AlterKtion subframe. That kit comes with VariShock coilovers, Mustang II spindles, tubular upper and lower control arms, a Flaming River steering rack, and a 11/16-inch sway bar. He upgraded the rear suspension with Split-Mono leaf springs with CalTracs bars and Competition Engineering shocks. To stiffen the chassis, Fred installed subframe connectors that tie into the car's four-point rollbar.
Brakes: Stainless Steel brakes are on all four corners. Tri-Power calipers grip 13-inch front and 9-inch rear rotors.
Wheels/Tires: We like Fred's choice of black-painted American Torq Thrust wheels. Measuring 17x8 and 17x10.5, they roll with 225/45R17 and 315/35R17 BFGoodrich G-Force T/A KD tires.
Interior: The cool-looking bucket seats are from Summit Racing. They were reupholstered in black vinyl by Auto Top Shop in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and G-Force harnesses keep Fred firmly strapped in place. From that vantage point, he grips a Grant Corsa steering wheel and peers over a set of Auto Meter Ultra-Lite gauges. The dashpanel is from Rocky Mountain Dash, and Fred had it finished with wrinkle-black powdercoat. He also added a cool, push-button starter, an Alpine stereo system, and A/C from Vintage Air for cool summer cruising.
Paint/Body: A stickler for details, Fred smoothed the firewall and fenders, cleaning up any of the nasty stuff that would distract onlookers from gaping at the gorgeous engine. We loved the way he routed the heater hoses and A/C evaporator lines, running them neatly through the inner fender and back into the heater box, rather than having a long bundle of hoses going to the firewall. His buddy Tony O'Meara took care of the bodywork and sprayed the killer PPG Viper Red. He also did the satin hood using Sikkens basecoat black with a flattened clearcoat on top.