Pleasure Cruiser

Choosing the Dart to Show

John Gunnell - June 11, 2014 10:58 AM


Ray with his Dart at the recent Manawa show.

Courtesy of John Gunnell

The Slant Six is long gone, replaced by a powerful 340 engine.

Courtesy of John Gunnell

It had its time at the dragstrip, but Ray is too busy to chase the 1,320 these days.

Courtesy of John Gunnell

Image 1 of 3

      Speedy Ray’s car is a speedy race car—a ’65 Dodge Dart GT with a 416 stroker motor that runs 10.16 quarter miles at 132 mph. The Dart is heavy on horsepower and casual about cosmetics.
      That might surprise the customers of Motion Products, Inc., where Ray Ruggiere works restoring classic Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Jaguars.
      Ruggiere owns a late-model Ferrari, but the Dart is the car he brings to cruise nights in Manawa, Wisconsin and shows all over Wisconsin’s Fox Valley. The stroked 340 block cranks out 476 hp at the wheels with a Mopar 727 trans with a 9.5 Turbo Action converter with a 5,400 rpm stall speed. At the rear is an 8.75-inch differential with 3.73:1 gears stuffed inside.
      Even though it has a roll bar and a race car look, the Dart is street legal and gets 17 mpg at 70 mph. Ruggiere hasn’t raced the Dart in a couple of years.
      “When I was drag racing, it was not so much a hobby as it was, let’s call it, a leisure time activity,” Ruggiere says. “Now, the shop is so darned busy I don’t have any leisure time.” He has another bone-stock Dart as well as a “fish bowl” rear window Barracuda, but the ’65 Dart GT hardtop gets driven the most.
      “I gained possession of the car around 1984 and I built it all myself,” Ruggiere documented. “I learned about cars when I was a little guy about eight or 10 years old working around cars with my brothers and I’ve always worked as a mechanic.” He started his tenure at Motion Products in July 2006 and though he spends his days working on million dollar cars for big-time collectors (and even the Ferrari factory), his Dart GT is the car you see him with at area events.
      “The car was originally powered by a Slant Six,” he says. “The previous owner blew that engine up and it had a big hole in the block. I was 19 years old at the time and it was the perfect car for me, so we towed it home and I started working on it.”
      Today, the car has a gigantic black hood scoop to contrast with its faded white paint. Billet wheels, racing slicks and the interior roll bar give it a purposeful look. While it is not going to win the “Best Cosmetics” trophy at its next show, the compact Mopar muscle car will probably blow the doors off any Italian exotic that Ray spends his working hours restoring to like-new condition.