Whoever coined the phrase, “it’s all about the little details,” was most likely not talking about building cars. But it certainly holds true today in the performance automotive world with one caveat, “it’s all about the improved little details.” Recently, we’ve featured tech stories about aligning sheetmetal, performing high-quality bodywork, and installing a new set of AMD quarter-panels, just to name a few.
On a recent visit to one of our local body shop stops, we found the shop owner doing some fine-tuning on door gaps that were part of this same recent AMD quarter-panel story. The candidate, a ’63 Plymouth, is coming along great and now wears laser-straight body panels and a deep luster of glistening paint. And although the door gaps were already really closely aligned, the body shop was looking to just tighten up the front fender-to-door gap by removing just another 1/16 of an inch from the fender-to-door gap.
As we look for cars to feature in Mopar Muscle, one of the usual criteria is the attention to detail throughout the entire car. Obviously, a lot of barn finds, unique performance cars, or survivor cars may often lack this trait, but for the most part it’s the execution of details that sets one car apart from another. Of course, engine building falls into this category as well. With any high-performance engine build, it’s critical to check a host of little details from main bearing journal clearances to push rod lengths.
The same holds true throughout the drivetrain and suspension. Take, for example, the latest offerings from Dodge, and you’ll immediately see the huge performance gains. Many of the late-model V-8 Mopars are making over 700 hp and even the V-6 has great performance. What’s the difference from decades ago? Well displacement is generally the same, and the vehicles actually often weigh about 750 to 1,000 pounds or more than they have over the years. The use of superchargers is nothing new to the automotive world, as they’ve been in use for about 100 years. And Chrysler first attempted electronic fuel injection (Electrojector) in the late 1950s with impressive horsepower numbers, but lacked good driveability and performance. What’s changed today? Again, it’s the improved little details that make up the vastly better air/fuel management and ignition systems, the use of more modern transmissions with additional and optimal ratios, superior airflow both into and out of the engine, and, of course, suspension improvements, including turning angles, handling, and braking to name a few. And, of course, notice the very consistent and minimal sheetmetal gaps on late-model cars that a few decades earlier were much larger and inconsistent from one new car to another.
The performance aftermarket has also embraced improving little details with enhanced technology pursuits that deliver improved power and driveabilty components. Recently, we visited with the folks at several aftermarket performance manufacturers — including Procharger, Gforce Engineering, and Aeromotive — where we witnessed the latest improvements in power enhancing components and stronger drivetrain systems. Here again the automotive enthusiast continues to be the beneficiary.
All of these improved little details may not seem like much at first, but in total they set one car and its appearance and power capability apart from the others. And that’s a big deal.