The world of Mopars is ever-evolving and Mopar Muscle just made a lane change. With my longtime colleague and friend, Johnny Hunkins, taking the helm at our sister publication HOT ROD, and Douglas Glad editing generously in the interim (amongst his many duties), my name was recently selected here at TEN: A Discovery Communications Company to be the next official editor of Mopar Muscle. My name is Bob Mehlhoff, and I’d like to start off by saying I’m happy to be part of this great Mopar team that largely includes you, our readers, who we do all of this for. Longtime readers of Car Craft, Muscle Car Review, HOT ROD, Chevy High Performance, Mopar Muscle, and more of our TEN titles might even remember my name.
My interest in Mopars goes back to my high school years in the San Fernando Valley when I got my first car. As fate would have it, my mother’s daily driver was a ’63 Plymouth twodoor Savoy that she bought brand-new at Canoga Chrysler Plymouth. This new car had almost no options, except for a 2-BBL 318 (Poly engine, 230 hp) and a heater. The rest of the standard equipment included a three-speed on the column, vinyl floor covering, radio-delete, an ordinary 3.23 8¾-inch open rear end, and stainless steel button hubcaps. So by the ’70s when I was about to turn 16, and she wanted a new car, my parents decided that the “old” Plymouth wasn’t worth much so they planned to give it to me instead of trading it in on their new ’74 Dodge Charger they’d be buying in a few months. I was ecstatic as the ’63 Plymouth still wore its Ermine White original paint and had a straight and rust-free California body with just 53,000 miles logged on the odometer. And I knew that lightweight body that I saw the likes of Dick Landy racing in HOT ROD magazine would be the perfect candidate for a big-block Mopar someday soon.
To fund my first car build, I took an after-school job at a local restaurant. My initial plans included a pair of Thrush Mufflers, a factory four-barrel intake and carburetor from a 260-horse Poly 318, and moving the three-speed shifter from the column to the floor. I was still a few months away from turning 16, so I rode my 10-speed bike from Canoga Park to the local Service Center Speed Shop in Van Nuys to buy the two Thrush mufflers and a floor-mounted Indy Shifter kit. From there, I strapped my new treasures to my book rack and rode back home. For the fourbarrel and intake, I located the needed factory 260-horse setup at Last Stop Auto Wrecking. This wrecking yard dealt only in Mopars and some of you Mopar Valley guys from back in that era remember this place that was on the eastside of the San Fernando Valley near Branford Street and San Fernando Road.
It was an exciting time to be turning 16. Cruising nearby Van Nuys Boulevard on Wednesday nights was in full swing, and I soon had enough extra bucks to buy four Rocket Wheels and tires from Doug Lovegrove for about $275 and a Royal Blue Metallic George Gray paintjob for $175.
Although the various bolt-on mods probably improved the performance to put the 318 Plymouth into the low 16-second range, I had caught the speed bug and wanted even more performance. So a buddy of mine at the corner Shell Gas Station had a high-performance 383 engine for sale that was acquired from a wrecked Ventura County Sheriff’s car. After then adding a lumpy Racer Brown Cam, Doug Thorley Headers, and a New Process 833 four-speed from a ’64 Fury, and, with the help of some of my teenage car buddies, we were able to make the swap.
Since that great time in my teenage years I’ve been a fairly devout car guy and owned and built more than a few muscle cars. Many decades ago, we never imagined how the Mopar world would evolve and the tremendous performance cars from Dodge that would set the stage.
Today, we have a full line of new Dodges with the upper ends packed with 800-plus horsepower Demons and Hellcats, along with the almost endless performance options for late-model Chargers, Challengers, RAMS, and much more. The Mopar aftermarket for all years continues to push horsepower numbers upward, while vintage Mopar muscle cars and parts are the focus of almost any local car show or bench racing session. Whatever you like from the Mopar menu, whether it be a ’65 Dart with an LA small-block, a ’69 Road Runner with a 426 Hemi, or a later-model Charger with a 5.7 Hemi, you’ll find them all on the Mopar Muscle roadway ahead.