BANGIN GEARS

Mopar Muscle - - Contents - BOB MEHLHOFF, EDI­TOR

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.

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