THE GRINCH

Orig­i­nally pur­chased for daily trans­porta­tion, Abra­ham Vega’s 1974 Valiant Su­per Bee evolved into an 11-sec­ond show car.

Mopar Muscle - - Contents - TEXT AND PHO­TOS: JOHN MACHAQUE­IRO

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.

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