Whether scanning the weekend cable TV car shows or leafing through hot rodding magazines, you’re likely to come away with the opinion that “pro touring” cars are the only modifieds being built these days.
And while there’s no denying the trend, it’s all too easy to forget that not everyone is building a pro tourer. This is especially true in the heartland of North America, where the Midwestern work ethic that values substance over flash continues to serve as the driving philosophy behind many enthusiasts’ projects.
Such is the case with Jeff Friesen’s pro-style 1969 Dodge Dart. It exemplifies all of the first-class construction and performance qualities of the top pro touring machines, but does it with a decidedly drag-race look.
Friesen, who works at Ed Belfour’s Carman Custom restoration shop in central Michigan, was a Chevy guy until his now boss turned him on to Mo-power. Since then, he’s had a thing for Dodge’s compact muscle car and this supercharged version is the realization of his vision for the ultimate streetable hot rod Dart. It was project that was long on vision, time and, of course, money.
Friesen started with relatively straight and clean, Slant 6-powered ’69 Dart Custom. The car was stripped of everything to make room for a supercharged big block and the requisite chassis mods. The rear frame rails were narrowed 3.5 inches. Leaf springs and a Slide-a-Link traction system help hold down the rear tires. Scratch-built subframe connectors were added and, up front, torsion bars from a small-block V-8 car were installed. The interior received a 12-point roll cage.
The engine is 471-cube B1 monster – a 440 with 4.375-inch bores and a 3.915-inch stroke – that was mostly assembled by Friesen in his spare time at Koffel’s Place, the respected engine shop in Michigan. Beneath the big B-1 heads is a set of blower-friendly 8.3:1 forged Venolia pistons. The rest of the rotating assembly uses forged components, too. A Crane hydraulic roller cam designed for use with a supercharger provides valve actuation.
Atop the big block is a BDS-supplied 8-71 Airloc supercharger and electronic fuel injection system. The EFI setup (with F.A.S.T. tuning) gives the engine a vintage drag race look, but offers modern drivability. Freisen admits some frustration in nailing down the tuning on this admittedly rare combination, but after some trial and error, the pressurized B-1 delivers crisp, immediate throttle response while whistling that classic Roots-blower tune.
Exhaust exits through TTI stepped headers, with 2.125-inch primaries-to-2.25-inch tubes. They were custom-fit to the B1 heads and blow into a 3-inch exhaust system. A custom motor plate and a three-row Be-Cool radiator that uses a pair of 13-inch “puller” cooling fans also support the engine.
A built 727 automatic backs the blower motor and features a reverse valve body, a 10-inch converter from Joe’s Transmission, a line lock and a trans cooler. A Cheetah shifter actuates gear changes. The transmission channels torque back to a bulletproof Dana 60 that’s filled with 4.10 gears. It may seem like a lot of “screw” for a supercharged engine, but Friesen doesn’t like to wait long for the rear tires to turn to mush.
Speaking of the tires, they’re chubby drag radials out back and skinnies up front, all mounted to Convo Pro wheels. Braking action is delivered via a Wilwood four-wheel disc system.
While it is easy to fixate only on this Dart’s blower and drag-ready stance, the custom fabrication work is what really sets this car apart. A Dart GTS hood was added and the rear fenders were stretched 2 inches to accommodate the big tires, while the leaf springs were relocated and the frame channeled, too.
In the trunk, mini tubs house the tires, while the spare tire well was cut out and replaced by a smooth, polished 16-gallon custom-made aluminum fuel tank. The roll cage tubes also extend into the trunk area and, because there was no room for them with the narrowed rearend, the original trunk springs were ditched in favor of hydraulic struts.
The interior is completely custom, with GTS door panels and a custom dash from Rocky Mountain Dashes. It’s filled with Auto Meter Ultralight instruments. The rear seat was chucked and the original seats were swapped in favor of Summit Racing seats, with Teamtech racing harnesses.
All of the car’s steel – from the dashboard and trunk to the engine compartment and exterior surfaces – was painted a House of Kolor Brandywine hue, with a hand-painted GTS-style tail stripe.
A close examination of Friesen’s Dart reveals craftsmanship that is second to none. So, regardless of opinions on through-the-hood blowers and pro-style stances, this blown Mopar street machine demonstrates the very best in workmanship and attention to detail.