Originally purchased for daily transportation, Abraham Vega’s 1974 Valiant Super Bee evolved into an 11-second show car.
Have you ever heard of a 1974 Super Bee? Apparently no one at the 2016 Hot Rod Drag Weekend West did when Abraham Vega and his codriver Luis Corbala showed up with one. There were a few skeptical participants who doubted such a car was ever made, especially skinned as an A-body. What Abraham showed up with was indeed a legit Super Bee that was built in Mexico for their domestic market. The doubters were hanging their hats on the fact that in the states the B-body–based Dodge Super Bee was killed off after the 1971 model year; however, starting in 1970, you could buy a Super Bee–badged A-body in Mexico. That came about as a result of the introduction of the redesigned for ’70 Plymouth Barracuda. Chrysler de Mexico had
been building A-body–based Barracudas up until 1969, but with the advent of the third-generation fish, the costs to tool up and build the E-body in Mexico for the domestic market proved to be too costly. That year they opted to reshuffle badges and introduce a performance variant based on the Plymouth Duster, which in Mexico was officially known as a “Valiant Duster.”
Propulsion for these smaller Bees was initially limited to the La-based 318-cid engine, while transmission options were a three-speed automatic or four-speed manual. They came equipped with a fourbarrel carb and were rated at 270 horses, which was right on point with the 340cid engine offered in the states. These hopped-up 318s were able to rival the 340’s HP numbers as a result of Mexico’s less stringent pollution laws. Stylistically,
what Chrysler did with these A-bodies was mix Plymouth and Dodge parts to create something unique for the Mexican market. In 1970 and 1971, both versions looked the same with Plymouth sheetmetal. The hoodscoops used on the ’70 Dodge Coronet RT found their way onto these Super Bees, along with a tach mounted on the driver-side scoop, and stripes denoting what it was. In 1972, the front end and hoodscoop from a Dodge Demon were used. In 1973, the front clip was again changed to that of a Dart Sport, which also saw the introduction of the federally mandated 5-mph front bumper and 2 1/2-mph rear bumper found on the U.S. cars. In 1974, the only change was a switch from quad to dual Duster taillights. The A-body Super Bee continued until 1976 when the F-body was introduced.
Abraham’s Bee is of a 1974 vintage, but, as you can see, it’s far from what rolled out of the Toluca plant that year. As for his Mopar fixation, that started at an early age, which was influenced by his father, Abraham Sr. There was always a Chrysler product on hand in the Vega household, and at an early age he learned to drive behind the wheel of a Mopar. Over the years, he’s owned a number of Chrysler cars, and, in 2010, he added to that list when he acquired this Bee. The initial intent was to build a daily driver with only a mild cam with enough civility to run on the street. That was the plan — but it didn’t quite work out that way.
From the outset, it sat for two years until he was ready to start wrenching on it at his shop, V3 Ingenieria. What he had to work with was in rough condition, with rust the biggest culprit and any shred of originality a distant memory. The 318 was long gone, and in its place was a 360 that was destined as the de facto propulsion of choice. The body, originally painted Y2 Sunfire Yellow was in need of extensive metalwork and a fresh coat of paint, which he was planning on changing to white. Since his ambition was to leave no stone unturned in putting this car back on the road, along with his brother Alan and his friend Javier Madero, he tore it down to a bare shell and started building it back up by initially addressing the extensive rust damage.
At the time, he was also working on a ’69 GTX that was consuming some of his time and resources, so progress on the Bee kept moving forward at a moderate pace with the metalwork, until it was ready for paint. That spanned three years, and then the Hot Rod Drag Weekend idea happened. The prospect of building a car to take on that event really sounded
appealing; however, it was far from finished. He was looking for more than just a daily driver with a warmed-over engine to show up in. That was the point of a rethink on the whole project. Sitting in a corner waiting to be dropped into the GTX was a fresh, never fired 440 that could just as easily slide right into the Bee. With that epiphany, everything kicked into an accelerated pace on the car and a goal of making it to the 2016 Hot Rod Drag Weekend West event.
As with the idea of using the 360, the choice of color was also ditched at some point. White gave way to Viper Snakeskin Green, which he fell in love with when he saw it on a Hennessey Viper. Also planned before any paint was laid down were some custom touches to clean up certain aspects of the body. He didn’t like the single Duster taillights, so he had Madero modify the rear tailpanel to accept the dual units used in 1973. Another area that was cleaned up was the cowl vent. Perhaps the biggest sore point for Abraham was the hideous 5-mph front and rear bumpers. In an effort to make them more aesthetically pleasing, they were cut down and tucked into the body to minimize the ugly factor. Also looking ahead, he had Madero create an opening in the front bumper to allow additional cooling capacity when the induction system is upgraded. Alan was also responsible for some of the fabrication work with the addition of custom-made frame connectors, the rollbar, leaf-spring relocation, and the installation of the mini-tubs. When it was finally ready for that Viper shade, Madero was the guy who laid down the basecoat/ clearcoat PPG color. That color choice spawned the car’s name, “The Grinch,” for obvious reasons. It also became a running joke with Abraham’s children, who often reminded him that they wouldn’t be getting any Christmas presents because he was dumping all the money into it.
One aspect that was already sorted was the 440 originally destined for the GTX. Abraham had previously shipped all the pieces to Performance Engine & Machine in Tucson, Arizona, for the machine work, with Luis Cano and Luis Corbala doing all the assembly work back in Hermosillo. The 0.030-over 440 dates to 1969, but was updated with Edelbrock Performer RPM heads and Victor intake, and a Holley carburetor backed by a Hughes TF727 and torque converter. Also installed are a customground Comp Cams solid flat lifter cam and Speed-pro flat-top 10.2:1 forged pistons. At the rear, a 4.56:1 ring-and-pinion stuffed in a Strange S60 housing with 40-spline axles allow him to hook up off the line.
As with the exterior, the interior also received some modifications that were kept fairly tame with a mix of stock and custom
touches. It was suggested early on that he should ditch the rear seat as a result of the added rollcage; however, being a family man, going to Drag Weekend was the near term goal and enjoying the car with his family was the overall goal.
Everything that was in place when the car was purchased was in poor condition, so it all had to be replaced. Some of the needed items, like the seat covers and carpet were acquired from Yearone, while the door panels are custom made. Abraham also added a full complement of Auto Meter gauges and a B&M shifter. Wheel and tire choice was one of the last details to be sorted. For maximum stick on street and strip, Abraham went with Goodyear Eagle LS-2 rubber (195/60R15 front) and Mickey Thompson ET Street Radial Pros (315/60R15 rear) mounted on Billet Specialties wheels (15x4 front and 15x10 rear).
Many long hours were put in as the deadline for Drag Weekend approached, with the car being completed the day prior to the event. The paint on the hood was barely dry when they pulled in for the start of the festivities. After some last-minute wrenching on the car, that weekend Abraham clicked off consistent 11-second passes with ease. After that maiden outing, it has seen some more track action, and is often shown on both sides of the border, where it has racked up a number of trophies on track and on the show field. While those stroke the ego, for Abraham, the most satisfaction from this build is the time he gets to spend with his family driving around in the Bee.