BANGIN GEARS

Mopar Muscle - - Contents - BOB MEHLHOFF, ED­I­TOR

The name

Richard Petty is syn­ony­mous with NASCAR Rac­ing. We just re­turned from Petty’s Garage in Level Cross, North Carolina, and will have more on that later, but one of the cars there es­pe­cially caught our at­ten­tion. It was a ’71 Ply­mouth Road Run­ner, which rep­re­sents what Richard Petty won the River­side Race­way, Win­ston Western 500 with on Jan­uary 23, 1972. Un­der all day Satur­day over­cast skies, Bobby Al­li­son held the lead for most of the race, but Richard Petty pulled ahead to claim a win that af­ter­noon. In my early teenage years, it was also this au­thor’s first NASCAR race (af­ter I con­vinced my dad to take me there), and I re­mem­ber ex­pe­ri­enc­ing how much the crowd roared on Petty’s first lap as he raced his ’71 Ply­mouth by the stands. It was a re­cep­tive re­ac­tion like they all per­son­ally knew him. The year 1972 was also the last year that Petty would campaign a Ply­mouth race car. Half­way through the 1972 sea­son, Petty switched to a ’72 Dodge Charger, with its slightly more aero­dy­namic body the team found more win­ning re­sults. And the fol­low­ing year’s same body style ’73 Dodge Charger worked so well for Petty En­ter­prises, they con­tin­ued to run it until 1977, while other teams con­tin­ued to build and race cur­rent-year body styles. Although since that time, Petty has found per­for­mance across many do­mes­tic brands, the gen­er­a­tion of en­thu­si­asts who knew him through the ’70s, con­tin­ues to re­mem­ber his very suc­cess­ful years rac­ing Mopars.

That was then, and to­day Petty’s Garage stays busy build­ing cars for a long list of cus­tomers who may want their mus­cle car re­stored or mod­i­fied. This doesn’t just in­clude cars from the ’60s or ’70s, but mod­ern per­for­mance cars as well. While we were there we found Hell­cats, Demons, and sev­eral other late­model Mopars in Petty’s Garage be­ing worked on. On the vin­tage side, we saw a ’63 Dodge Po­lara con­vert­ible that was be­ing built to 426 specs, Charg­ers, Su­per Birds, Day­tonas, and many oth­ers.

One Charger that par­tic­u­larly caught our at­ten­tion was a stan­dard ’68 (nonr/t) with a 383ci and a four-speed. This par­tic­u­lar car was in def­i­nite need of a com­plete restora­tion. Walk­ing around the car, there was a good amount of body re­pairs and rust from decades ear­lier. The in­te­rior was well worn as was the en­gine com­part­ment. The cus­tomer had re­cently brought the car in, and it’s now await­ing a com­plete dis­as­sem­bly and restora­tion. Ob­vi­ously, like with many of us, the car holds a lot of mem­o­ries to the owner who wants to ex­pe­ri­ence the car again, as it once was.

And that’s largely what be­ing a Mopar en­thu­si­ast is about. Whether it hap­pens with a ’60s or ’70s Mopar or a late-model, it’s the bond that we all re­late to and thrive on. It’s the Mopar ex­pe­ri­ence.

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