HIGH SCHOOL SWEET­HEART

Don Sch­wenker’s love af­fair with this 1968 Dart GT be­gan in 1975 and it’s still go­ing strong.

Mopar Muscle - - Contents - BY RICHARD PRINCE PHOTOGRAPHY BY THE AU­THOR

In the months lead­ing up to his 17th birth­day, Don Sch­wenker had his sights set on a sec­ond-hand Mus­tang. To that end, he and his fa­ther went to visit a used car deal­er­ship, Col­letti’s in Baby­lon, New York. He didn’t find the Mus­tang he en­vi­sioned, but a Dodge Dart GT caught his fa­ther’s eye. “He said to me, ‘Buy this, it has a V-8 and you can go fast with it’,” re­mem­bers Sch­wenker. “My fa­ther gave me $100 to put down, and Mr. Co­letti, the owner of the deal­er­ship, al­lowed me to pay it off $50 at a time. By Novem­ber 15, 1975 it was mine!” Sch­wenker paid a grand to­tal of $454.25 for the Dart, which had 71,317 miles on the clock. Though bone-stock when ac­quired, it didn’t stay that way for long. While it would be decades be­fore sub­stan­tial modifications were made, like just about ev­ery other teenager in that era, Sch­wenker did what he could af­ford, dress­ing his ride up with Cra­gar mag wheels, Hooker head­ers, and air shocks.

A few years later, the Dart was hit pretty hard from be­hind and though his friends thought he should just scrap the wreck since it would have been easy to find and buy an­other one, Sch­wenker had al­ready de­vel­oped an at­tach­ment to the car and was de­ter­mined to have it re­paired. Af­ter get­ting it back from the body shop, he had his 340-cid en­gine re­built with new W-2

Dodge heads. Be­fore even driv­ing the car with the new en­gine how­ever, he wanted to make some rad­i­cal changes.

“It was a Satur­day af­ter­noon in 1980 when I watched the movie Mad Max, and saw the blower on the car he was driv­ing. As soon as I heard the blower whin­ing, I was hooked. Then, right af­ter the movie ended, my friend pulled up in front of my house with his blown ’32 Ford coupe and yelled, “let’s go cruis­ing.” Af­ter 5 min­utes in his car I went home and called my brother, who had a 1970 340 he was get­ting ready to re­build for his 1970 Cuda. I had $3,500 into my newly built mo­tor and told him to give me his mo­tor and $1,500, and he could have my mo­tor. He said OK, and I had the en­gine re­built for a blower, and the blower has been on my car ever since.”

In 1989, Sch­wenker got the itch to make more changes to his Dart, start­ing with new quar­ter-pan­els and back-half­ing the chas­sis, so he brought it to Su­per­pro Per­for­mance Chas­sis. Su­per­pro is owned by Tommy V, a mas­ter fab­ri­ca­tor and welder with decades of ex­pe­ri­ence. Tommy V knew the where­abouts of NOS quar­ter-pan­els, put Sch­wenker in touch with the seller, and that got the ball rolling.

Af­ter the quar­ters were in­stalled, Sch­wenker pre­sented Su­per­pro Per­for­mance

with a huge chal­lenge. “Don wanted a true Pro Street look,” Tommy V ex­plains, “but he in­sisted that I not touch the new quar­ter-pan­els, and mak­ing it even harder, he wanted to re­tain the car’s orig­i­nal back seat!” Tommy V thought long and hard about how to fit su­per-meaty tires with­out al­ter­ing the quar­ters or elim­i­nat­ing the back seat, and came up with a vi­able plan. He mod­i­fied his time-tested four-link sus­pen­sion sys­tem by re­design­ing the front mount brack­ets and then fab­ri­cated com­pletely new fram­erails us­ing .120-inch wall 3x2-inch steel tub­ing in or­der to ex­tend the wheel base by a full 3 inches. He also dis­as­sem­bled the Dart’s orig­i­nal back seat and mod­i­fied the springs and frames so they’d fit per­fectly be­tween the 42x24 wheel­tubs he made. He even man­aged to squeeze a six-point roll­bar into the car with­out im­pact­ing the back seat.

Once the fab­ri­ca­tion work was done, Sch­wenker turned his Dart over to An­thony De­domenico for a com­plete re­paint. Af­ter mas­sag­ing the body to per­fec­tion De­domenico ap­plied two-stage ure­thane in the car’s orig­i­nal shade of green. Ev­i­denc­ing just how good De­domenico’s work is, the body and paint look ev­ery bit as fan­tas­tic to­day as they did 28 years ago.

With the back half of the chas­sis, body­work, and paint all done Sch­wenker drove and thor­oughly en­joyed his high school hot rod for an­other 25 years be­fore get­ting the urge to bring it to the next level. Once again, he turned to Su­per­pro Per­for­mance Chas­sis. Tommy V in­stalled a com­plete Reilly Mo­tor­sports front end that in­cluded tubu­lar con­trol arms, Vik­ing coilovers, and a Mus­tang Ii–style rack-and-pin­ion. Com­bined with the cus­tom four-link rear, the car’s over­all ride height is now low­ered by a full 3 inches. Tommy V also fab­ri­cated a new, 10-point roll­bar setup from 304 stain­less. Kevin Storms at S&L Metal pol­ished the bars to a chrome-like fin­ish, and Tommy V com­pleted the pol­ish­ing af­ter all weld­ing was fin­ished.

For stop­ping power that far sur­passes this Dart’s fac­tory brak­ing sys­tem, Tommy V turned to Wil­wood. Up front, six-pis­ton Dy­nalite calipers forged from solid bil­lets of alu­minum squeeze 12-inch drilled and slot­ted ro­tors. At the rear, four-pis­ton Dy­nalite calipers grip 11.5-inch slot­ted and drilled ro­tors.

While up­dat­ing and up­grad­ing so many other parts of the car, Sch­wenker de­cided to build a new, more pow­er­ful en­gine. Since he wanted to re­tain a blower, he en­trusted the work to forced in­duc­tion spe­cial­ist Andy Jensen at Jensen’s En­gine Tech­nolo­gies in Nescopeck, Penn­syl­va­nia. Though there’s no deny­ing the mag­i­cal al­lure of a big­block, Sch­wenker was fo­cused on pre­serv­ing the orig­i­nal feel of his Dart, so opted to stick with a 340-cid en­gine. Jensen started with the block that came out of Sch­wenker’s brother’s Bar­racuda back in 1980, but con­verted it to four-bolt mains for in­creased strength and dura­bil­ity. To com­plete the bot­tom end, he used a fac­tory-forged crank sup­ple­mented by a host of high-qual­ity af­ter­mar­ket in­ter­nals, in­clud­ing forged Crower rods and forged JE pis­tons. For

in­creased breath­ing and re­duced weight, Jensen went with Edel­brock Per­former RPM alu­minum cylin­der heads in place of the fac­tory’s cast-iron heads.

A Big & Ugly hat caps the BDS 6-71 blower and Indy man­i­fold setup atop the en­gine. BDS pul­leys spin the blower fast enough to gen­er­ate 12.2 psi of boost and a Big Stuff 3 EFI com­bined with Hil­born in­jec­tion de­liver the needed fuel. The Hil­born setup uses a to­tal of 16 in­jec­tors, with eight on top of the blower, where the fuel spray helps cool the ro­tors, and eight mounted into the Indy man­i­fold. Tommy V took care of the en­gine’s elec­tri­cal needs and fab­ri­cated throt­tle linkage us­ing ¼-inch di­am­e­ter, .065-inch wall stain­less tub­ing drilled and tapped for 10-32 rod ends from FK Rod Ends.

Wiring-meis­ter Larry Feyn­man ex­ten­sively re­worked the Dart’s fac­tory har­nesses to make sure all elec­tri­cal com­po­nents get the juice they need. A plethora of elec­tri­cal items, in­clud­ing the MSD ig­ni­tion coil and box, MAP sen­sor, and var­i­ous re­lays mount on an alu­minum panel that Tommy V made to in­stall out of sight un­der the dash. The blown and in­jected en­gine sends its twist to the Moser 9-inch rear end via a beefed-up 727 Torque­flite. The trans­mis­sion was built by Tommy Derych, a Mopar fa­natic as well as a mas­ter trans­mis­sion tech­ni­cian.

Since com­plet­ing the car about two years ago, Sch­wenker con­tin­ues to do what he’s been do­ing through­out the 43 years he’s owned it, which is to say he en­joys driv­ing it at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. “This was my first car,” he re­flects, “and that is, of course, very spe­cial. It’s been a part of my whole fam­ily, some­thing that I’ve shared with my par­ents, Marie and Don Sr., my wife and daugh­ters, and my broth­ers Tommy and Fred. And be­yond that, it’s also been a big part of my friend­ships with all of my car buddies, in­clud­ing Tony Palmieri, An­thony De­domenico, Vic­tor Leal, and Tommy V. All of these guys have been a huge help along the way, and I owe them all spe­cial thanks!”

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