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The Mr. Norm Re­bel­lion

“The Dodge Re­bel­lion isn’t en­tirely lim­ited to the fac­tory this year.”

You re­mem­ber the Dodge Re­bel­lion, right? The mid-1960s ad cam­paign en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to de­mand “more ‘hot’ in their hot cars”?

Dick Scritch­field, writ­ing in the Feb. 1967 is­sue of Car Craft mag­a­zine, was talk­ing about a dif­fer­ent in­sur­rec­tion, one tak­ing place at a deal­er­ship on Grand Av­enue in Chicago. “An en­ter­pris­ing young per­for­mance-minded dealer by the name of Nor­man Kraus (bet­ter known in the Chicago area and drag rac­ing world as Mr. Norm)” was do­ing “some re­belling of his own.”

Kraus had been try­ing to con­vince the pow­ers-that-be at Chrysler that there was an un­tapped mar­ket for “their big V-8s . . . in the small cars of their com­pact and sports-per­sonal line.” But 1966 came and went with no such model, and in 1967 the fac­tory by­passed Dodge and put a 383 in the 1967 Bar­racuda in­stead (which the com­pany felt “would com­pete more strongly against the Mus­tang,” Scritch ex­plained). So Mr. Norm took mat­ters into his own hands.

The Bar­racuda was re­designed for 1967, but so was the Dart. “The more Norm looked at the new Dart’s en­gine com­part­ment, the more he be­came con­vinced that the 383 cu­bic inch, 325-horse­power Coronet en­gine would fit,” wrote Scritch.

“It was now that Mr. Norm’s re­bel­lion got un­der­way full bore.” Grand Spauld­ing Dodge’s rac­ing spe­cial­ist, Frank Oglesby, per­formed the swap, us­ing a six­cylin­der/au­to­matic Dart GT as his guinea pig. As it hap­pened, Dodge was also work­ing on a V-8 Dart, which would be called the GTS. But Kraus and Oglesby got out of the gate first, with a Dart that had the Coronet’s 383, TorqueFlite, and rearend, with 4.11s swapped in for the stock 2.94 gears.

The swap was rel­a­tively sim­ple, though some cus­tom fab­ri­ca­tion was re­quired. Head­ers re­placed the stock ex­haust man­i­folds that wouldn’t fit the Dart’s en­gine bay, the shift link­age was re­vamped, and the frame re­quired a new boxed cen­ter­sec­tion to hold the trans­mis­sion.

The en­gine it­self re­ceived a

fairly mild tune—en­larged car­bu­re­tor jets, new spark plugs, dis­trib­u­tor ad­just­ment—but it was enough to show 390 hp at the rear wheels on Mr. Norm’s chas­sis dyno.

In the mid-1960s, Car Craft had a unique take on new-car test­ing: It would place the sub­ject car in the hands of a car club to get in­put from real en­thu­si­asts. To eval­u­ate Mr. Norm’s 383 Dart, Scritch en­listed three mem­bers of Mr. Norm’s Sports Club, a group to­tal­ing 1,500 mem­bers who qual­i­fied for the club by buy­ing “a new or used high per­for­mance Dodge.”

On a rainy and cold fall day, Scritch, along with club mem­bers Bill Piner, Bill Ro­man, and Al Smith, made the most of the con­di­tions by giv­ing the Dart “a good run cov­er­ing city streets, as well as the high­way, with­out any clocked dragstrip runs.”

“The car re­ally per­forms, even on wet pave­ment,” Ro­man said. “On the high­way there is lit­tle or no ten­dency for the rearend to get squir­relly, which sur­prised me since small cars are of­ten hard to keep on the road.” Ro­man, who owned a 383-pow­ered “street/drag” 1966 Coronet, felt the Dart “would give my Coronet a lot of trou­ble!”

Piner, who stood 6 feet 2 inches, was “amazed” at the room in the new Dart, par­tic­u­larly in the back seat, which gave him a lot more head­room than he had in his own Hemi Charger.

Al Smith, who Scritch said was “in charge of the Sports Club,” called the 383 Dart “an ex­cit­ing com­bi­na­tion. I wouldn’t have be­lieved the GT could have han­dled the 383 en­gine, but it acts like it was made for it.”

As for Mr. Norm, he quickly re­al­ized that if the 383 would fit in the Dart, then the 440 would, too. He told Scritch he planned to of­fer Darts with both en­gines. “The fel­las on the strip are de­mand­ing the light­est type cars with big en­gines, but not the max­i­mum in a rad­i­cal en­gine which con­sumes a lot of money ad­just­ing valves and car­bu­re­tion. In my opin­ion, if you want to sell vol­ume, you have to build for the guy who drives on the street, not the half dozen guys who race on the track. The 426 in a heavy car is def­i­nitely not the an­swer. We fig­ure the 383, prop­erly set up, should pull the Dart into the low 12s. It’s an ex­cel­lent en­gine and has a lot of po­ten­tial.”

By Drew HardinPho­tos: Dick Scritch­field, Petersen Pub­lish­ing Co. Archive

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