Mopar Muscle - - Contents - BY JOHN MACHAQUE­IRO

Built to go fast, Marco Sandin Jr.’s 1969 Dart has evolved into an award­win­ning show car.

Hav­ing a fas­ci­na­tion with all things au­to­mo­tive is of­ten some­thing that’s in­her­ited, and in some in­stances even­tu­ally passed on. Many of our in­ter­ests are shaped at an early stage in our lives as a re­sult of what our el­ders in­dulge in. That was cer­tainly the case with Marco Sandín Jr., as his in­ter­est in the Mopar brand was some­thing that was be­queathed to him by his fa­ther. He ex­plains, “My pas­sion for Dodge was in­her­ited from my fa­ther, Marco Sandín Sr. He was a promi­nent pi­lot in the ’80s and ’90s in Sonora, Mex­ico.”

For the Sandín clan, it all be­gan in 1985 when the el­der Sandín pur­chased a ’74 Dodge Su­per Bee. Now, you might be scratch­ing your head be­cause the Su­per Bee was killed off after ’71, how­ever, in Mex­ico the Su­per Bee con­tin­ued through­out the early to mid ’70s

and was based on the A-body plat­form. Th­ese smaller Mex­i­can Bees were at that point equipped with a 318 four-bar­rels, so that was the foun­da­tion for his first foray into the rac­ing world.

Loy­alty to the Dodge brand also ex­tended to the fam­ily’s daily driver with the pur­chase of a 1973 Dodge Dart Sport for his wife. Marco Jr. re­calls, “That Dart Sport was used by my mom to take me to school, to visit my grand­par­ents, and for things like go­ing to the su­per­mar­ket.” It served their fam­ily faith­fully, and with the pas­sage of time, evolved into their first be­spoke show car. The sec­ond fam­ily project was yet an­other A-body, a 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger. From the out­set, this car was des­tined to serve dou­ble duty as both a race car and a show car.

In 1999, it was Marco’s turn to hit the track. Hav­ing in­stilled and nur­tured that Dodge loy­alty and the pas­sion for rac­ing in his son, Marco Sr. con­verted the 1973 Dart Sport from a show car to a race car for his son. Both ac­tively raced th­ese cars and ac­tu­ally faced off twice dur­ing that time, with each split­ting a win. In 2003, the 1972 Swinger went un­der the knife and re­ceived a num­ber of up­grades in the form of a new en­gine, trans­mis­sion, dif­fer­en­tial, and wheels, but was sub­se­quently sold off to a fam­ily friend. At this cross­road in life the rac­ing en­deav­ors took an abrupt end and the pri­or­i­ties shifted to fam­ily and busi­ness mat­ters. The 1973 Dart Sport was also de­tuned for street use and be­came Marco’s daily driver for a num­ber of years.

In 2008, Alex, the youngest mem­ber of the Sandín clan picked up the fam­ily rac­ing torch, and once again con­tin­ued the tra­di­tion when he started drag rac­ing a Chrysler Cross­fire. That had a rip­ple ef­fect that reignited the urge for the rest to hit the track again. Hav­ing been out of the quar­ter-mile game for a num­ber of years, suit­able cars were again needed, so they went back to a tried-and-true friend — the 1972 Swinger. It was bought back from their friend and treated to an­other re­build,

con­sist­ing of yet an­other new en­gine, trans­mis­sion, and dif­fer­en­tial. The 1973 Dart Sport was also given the same treat­ment, and both cars were once again hit­ting the track on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

In 2012, they de­cided to get an­other A-body to put on the track. After some search­ing, one was found north of the bor­der in Illi­nois. It was a 1969 Dart GTS they got track-ready rather quickly and ac­tively cam­paigned reg­u­larly in Ari­zona and Mex­ico. The GTS sol­diered on for two years un­til de­cid­ing “to run stronger.”

With that as the plan, the Dart was pushed into the fam­ily’s race garage in Her­mosillo and torn down to a bare shell, and a course plot­ted for its re­ju­ve­na­tion. The to-do check­list in­cluded a full rollcage, big cubes, and some fat tires. Marco and his good friend Fer­nando Gri­jalva were the sur­geons who per­formed all the work prep­ping the GTS for its new life. The un­der­pin­nings for the Dart were the start­ing point, and for that a Chris Al­ston’s Chas­sis­works Sports­man chas­sis kit was or­dered to serve as the foun­da­tion to sup­port the Dart’s outer skin.

Up front, the chas­sis rides on Chas­sis­works spin­dles and Varispring coil springs and shocks, while at the rear lies a fourlink setup with Koni springs and shocks, and a nar­rowed Ford 9-inch rear with 4.56:1 gears. This beefed-up hard­ware

was put in place to sup­port the mas­sive power up­surge that was go­ing to be dropped be­tween the fenders. That stout bit of kit came in the form of a 572ci Hemi. Marco had Den­nis Mau­rer, the owner of Mau­rer’s Per­for­mance in Tempe, as­sem­ble the mighty ele­phant with a Keith Black alu­minum block as the start­ing point. Lots of cash was thrown at this mill to stuff it with the best parts for the job.

The bot­tom end con­sists of a Cal­lies Ul­tra bil­let crank, Veno­lia forged pis­tons, and Oliver Rac­ing bil­let rods. The top end is capped with a set of Indy Stage V alu­minum heads, a Ho­gan’s Rac­ing alu­minum tun­nel ram in­take, and a pair of Quick Fuel Tech­nol­ogy 950-cfm car­bu­re­tors. Power trans­fer to the rear is chan­neled through a 727 Ul­ti­mate Com­pe­ti­tion Torque­flite built by A&A Trans­mis­sions in Camby, In­di­ana. This com­bi­na­tion, when run on the dyno, pumped out a healthy 866 horses and 700 lb-ft of torque.

The ex­treme makeover also car­ried over to the ex­te­rior as well. In the process, the skin of the Dart shed a few pounds with the ad­di­tion of a fiber­glass hood, deck lid, bumpers, and fenders. Since the goal was to cre­ate some­thing cus­tom with­out wor­ry­ing about orig­i­nal­ity, when it came time put the body back to­gether a bit of mix and match took place, and it all came down to per­sonal tastes. The Dart was born as a 1969, yet Marco pre­ferred some of the styling cues on the 1968 model, so he added a 1968 grille and side marker lights, but left the 1969 tail­panel and lights in place.

As work pro­gressed, the body was slowly prepped to re­ceive its new coat of paint. That task was en­trusted to Efrain Sepúlveda in Her­mosillo, who laid down five coats of black basecoat/clearcoat paint. Be­yond the smooth gloss black fin­ish, a red 1969 Dart Bum­ble Bee-in­spired stripe was also in­stalled around the tail, de­not­ing what was lay­ing un­der the hood. That red theme from the stripe was one that car­ried over to the in­te­rior and the en­gine com­part­ment as well. The tube frame that adorns the in­te­rior is decked out in red as well as the mas­sive Hemi valve cov­ers and tube frame un­der the hood. The last part of the build was choos­ing some new wheels and tires. For that, he opted on some Weld Rac­ing wheels skinned with Hoosier tires at all four cor­ners.

Work on the Dart was pretty in­tense and all the pieces came to­gether in only six months. The plan was to start rac­ing it as soon as it was fin­ished, but in the best-laid plans. Marco notes, “When I fin­ished the whole restora­tion process, I made the de­ci­sion to use it only as a show car.” Now, if you’re won­der­ing just how stout this Mopar is, Marco has taken it down the track, and that was right after it was built, and it laid down a 9.20 pass. There have been sub­se­quent up­grades since then, which should eas­ily prop it into the 8-sec­ond club. Since the Dart was rel­e­gated to show du­ties, Marco was still left with that need “to run stronger.” That was, how­ever, ful­filled with the ac­qui­si­tion of Scott Ge­of­frion’s ex Pro-stock 1993 Dodge Day­tona in 2016.

The Dart has taken home a “Best of Show” two years in a row at the Mus­cle Cars at the Strip show in Las Ve­gas, where we had the op­por­tu­nity to shoot it for the mag­a­zine. One thing was clear, whether it’s rac­ing or show­ing their cars, it all comes down to en­joy­ing them as a fam­ily.


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