Built to Be Better

Modern Touches Add More

Geoff Stunkard - June 09, 2014 08:19 AM

ImagePhoto by Geoff Stunkard
ImagePhoto by Geoff Stunkard
ImagePhoto by Geoff Stunkard
ImagePhoto by Geoff Stunkard

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      The Trans Am pony cars of the 1970 model year are considered quite desirable on the collector market. Time and money, a lot of money, can be expended restoring one of these rarities. For Cincinnati, Ohio, resident Chris Volz, this Hemi Orange Challenger T/A was just another cool used Dodge when he first bought it in 1984.
      “I’d had a ’70 RT/SE 383 four-speed which was crashed into by a new driver, so when I needed a car, I liked the looks and price on this one, which was also a four-speed,” he recalls. “It was my everyday driver for about 3 ½ years, but I finally began researching it and found out what it was after having people stop me and asking me to sell or trade it to them!”
      That was in November 1987. The original 340 had been long gone. Chris had Mark Neumann at Precision Auto Body repaint the car back to an EV2 Hemi Orange equivalent and the car was more presentable by the summer of 1988. He also rebuilt a 340 engine and added KYB shocks. He drove a bit more sparingly nowbut when the car began showing sign of low oil pressure, he took the engine out for a second time. This time, it would get fortified.
      “It was apart for five years,” he said. “I was over in Iraq in 2005, and when I got back, I rebuilt it. This time, I added a stroker kit – 420 cubic inches.”   
 For Chris, this process used a Scat crank, Eagle rods, KB pistons on an .030 overbore, and a COMP K20-225-4 cam outfit in the bottom end. This is topped off with re-worked ported/polished J-series heads with hardened seats and Crane 1.6 Gold roller rockers. The engine retained the stock exhaust manifolds as well as the Six Pack intake, both of which are now port-matched to the heads.
      “The thing was really running lean at idle, and I did the jets, metering blocks, and throttle plates on it,” he said. “I called Holley and was on the phone with a long-time rep. He told me the air bleeds in the center carb are permanent, no amount of tuning will fix them. The solution to a stroker 340 Six Pack is to use the center carb main body off the 440 package to get enough fuel flow at idle and light throttle speeds.”
      Other changes included an electric fuel pump and electronic ignition to the engine, but the next step to upgrading the driveline was a TKO500 Kit from Keisler Engineering, which gave the new engine better breathing room at the top of the driving range with the fifth overdriven final gear (.68). Coupled with a SureGrip-equipped 3.55 ring gear, the car runs at just 1,800 rpm at 60 mph.
      “It’ll run a 13.10 at 109 mph, and I drove to the 2011 Mopar Nats at 80-85 mph with some full-throttle blasts, and the car still got 17 mpg. This car is very enjoyable to drive on the highway now,” he said.
      Inside, the car is pretty much stock. Vinyl seats and the factory rallye dash are augmented by a Sun tach, that all-important oil pressure gauge, and the Keisler shifter. The factory 15-inch steel wheels use sticky Yokahama 225/60-15 tires up front and 275/60-15 rubber out back. That stroker can easily remove layers of rubber at a moment’s notice.
      There will be some people who would have a coronary over doing mods like this to a car a scarce as a T/A. When somebody had owned a car as long as Chris has, and when that car was a daily driver, a former restoration candidate, and now the pinnacle of a street machine, all we can say is…MEDIC!