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Ramblings on Street Racing Shenanigans



I was having a conversation with one of our authors, Steve Magnante, the other day, and he mentioned to me that he just sold his Hemi Dart. Now, not knowing he had a Hemi Dart, I asked for a picture, which he promptly sent.

From an appearance standpoint, this Dart was nice, but unspectacular. I noticed the 273 emblems on the fenders, which reminded me of the old days, when you would try to sucker people into racing you on the street by having underwhelming or misleading badges on your fenders. Usually it was a 283 badge on a Chevelle or Chevy II, a 289 badge on a big block Mustang, a 290 badge on an AMX or, as displayed by Mags, a 273 badge on a Hemi anything. (6 cylinder badges never worked, for those of us with ears)

Seeing Mags’ badge chicanery brought back some memories. I had a 428 CJ 69 Mach 1 back in the mid/late 80s, and it was amazing on cruise nights. You would see a car coming up behind you in traffic, and you could tell it was a 60s car by the headlights/parking lights in your rearview mirror. You would see the guy jockeying in traffic knowing he wanted to get side by side with you at the next light to have a go at it. When they would pull up next to this Mach, you had no idea now many "Uh Oh" faces I got when they saw the 428 Cobra Jet emblems on the hood scoop, and to a man, everybody backed off. Almost every Mach had a 351 back then, and that was what they were expecting.

I used to joke with my friends that I won all my races with my badges. It was a good thing too. This was a car that I bought from a Vo-Tech student who assembled it with grand plans but little working knowledge. He started with 12.5:1 pop-up pistons, (fairly impractical even in the late 80s when some stations still had leaded premium), went with chrome moly rings, (which were notoriously hard to seat), a solid lifter cam, dual point ignition, and to top it off, dual Carter 500cfm carbs to provide plenty of fuel wash to make extra sure the rings would never even have a chance. Heck, he even put the thermostat in backwards.

The owner of the car gave up on it and went out west to work for Carroll Shelby (RIP) building Dodges, and sold the car through a liaison to me when he realized the reality of California apartment living and never being able to use this car in his future.

I should have known something was wrong when the oil pressure gauge starting blipping towards zero on the way home from my purchase, and pulling into a gas station showed that I was 5 quarts down on a 7 quart pan. Well, actually, I did know something was wrong. Over time, this combination of fuel wash and chrome rings resulted in me using about 4 quarts of oil per tank of gas, impressive when you are only getting 4mpg on a 20 gallon tank. In spite of that, it didn’t really smoke much, and it sounded really wicked at idle, but without those badges, I don’t think I ever would have won a race with it. All bark and no bite.

It was the exact opposite of a winter beater I had one year, a 66 Mercury Comet Cyclone GT with a 390 C-6 combo. It was baby blue, extremely rusty (weight reduction!), and had no engine badges on it. I think they may have rusted off. My 350 Nova kill list with that car was quite impressive, a true sleeper if not for the color and condition alone.

In this day and age of internet communications where everybody in your community knows who you are and what you got via YouTube smart phone video within moments of you popping the hood, and current law enforcement where street racing results in a possible loss of vehicle rather than a ticket and a wink, I would be inclined to put a Hemi badge on my Dart and win races that way, rather than actually trying to prove it. At least on the street anyway.

Of course, at the track, badges? We don’t need no stinkin badges.

What are your sleeper stories, or in this case, non-sleeper stories? Post em up below.

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