A Strong Work Ethic Pays Dividends for This Racer

May 16th, 2011

Text by Pete Ward

Photos by Travis Noack

Cameron Monefeldt is a hardcore drag racer and a stalwart Mopar guy; any more so and he’d have an image of Dick Landy tattooed on his chest and Walter P. Chrysler on his back. All you Mopar guys know this is a recipe for heartache. Parts are more expensive and harder to come by, the tech and build-up information is sparse, and at the track you’re awash in a tidal wave of GM and Ford products.

Even though this story is about Cam’s ’69 Dart, it actually starts with his ’69 Plymouth Road Runner. He obtained the Road Runner from the southeast, and had it hauled back to California. Upon arrival he discovered it was severely rusted, but complete. Countless nights and weekends were spent in his two-car garage loving on his Plymouth.  The final product was a beautiful, numbers-matching, 383-powered restoration.

Cam, his wife Lisa and the Dart, two of the most important parts of his life. Cam, we hope you have the order right!

But like I said, Cam’s a drag racer, so it wasn’t long before he began flogging the Runner at the track. Soon one of his buddies grabbed him by the lapels and shook some sense into him, pointing out that it was much too nice to be abused in such a manner.

Cam reluctantly parked his Plymouth and began a search for a proper drag vehicle. Now here’s the twisted part of the story. He just happens to be the lead service advisor for Selman Chevrolet, one of Southern California’s largest Chevy dealerships! He could have easily snagged one of the billion dirt cheap GM G-Bodies begging to be sold, grabbed a GM Performance Catalog, checked all the right boxes, and voila he’d have himself his racer. He might even have been able to use an employee discount to buy the parts!

Fittingly, a Chevy pickup being a “slave” to the Mopar, hauling it to the races.

But nooo, Cam just had to have a Mopar. Amazingly, in July of 2007 he came upon an unmolested, amazingly rust and dent-free, slant six-powered ’69 Dart. He hauled it to back to his two-car garage, gutting the interior and stripping it to the shell. Cam parted out all of the good stuff, but when it came to the engine, well the slant six is useless, except perhaps as a boat anchor. Cam and his buddy Chris Crisalli decided to send the six-shooter out with a bang. They drained all of the fluids and cruised the neighborhood for a couple of hours…still running. Next came a series of brutal burnouts…still running. Finally the two-man wrecking crew got bored and headed back to Cam’s garage.

In a toast to the remarkably durable engine, a beer went into the carb, with that, it finally fired its last shot.

The guys who braved the elements and insanely early hour to assist Cam (Right to Left): Jason Mayo, Jimmy White (Cam’s next, lurking in the back) and Dave Watson.

Instead of scouring the Internet and local speed emporiums searching for the latest (and expensive) trick parts of the week, Cam, being the crafty backyard builder he is, went another route. When examining the accompanying tech sheet you’ll see “stock” used extensively. Well, the parts are stock in the sense of being stock Chrysler items, but not original to his Dart. He hooked up with local Mopar guru Jason Mayo of Mayo Performance in Pomona, California, to pick his brain and pick through his extensive inventory of used equipment.

Some examples of his low-buck strategy: The rear leaf springs are Super Stock units from a larger B-Body instead of an A-Body. They give the Dart a better stance and position the tires better in the wheelwells. The rearend is a heavy-duty 8 ¾-inch Mopar unit. A Mopar adjustable pinion snubber provides plenty of traction and no tire spin.  The front suspension is later model Dart, which provides better header clearance. The shocks are stock. The transmission is a Chrysler 727 Torkflight. You get the picture. Cam’s Dart hooks hard and goes straight without the expense of high-dollar aftermarket equipment.

The interior is very austere but very cleanly finished. It features an eight-point cage expertly welded up by Dave Watson of Circle City Hot Rods, Orange, California, vintage lightweight seats from a Dodge A100 van and Auto Meter gauges.

After a 16-month build, Cam was ready to race, but a small item was missing—an engine. Sitting next to his new racer was the Road Runner. A cherry picker and several hours later, and the void in the Dodge’s engine compartment was filled with the transplanted 383. This combination proved plenty potent, recording a best E.T. of 11.74.  With a taste of nitrous, he was running in the high 10s at more than 120 mph.

His Dart’s performance was strong, but after a year, Cam was lusting for lower E.T. slips. What’s a racer to do? More motor! Which translates to more money! So, reluctantly, Cam put the aforementioned Road Runner on the block, which meant the 383 had to be yanked out of the Dart and returned to its original residence.  The Runner soon found a new home in of Australia of all places.

With more jingle in his jeans, in the summer of 2010, Cam started the new engine project. Returning to Mayo Performance, he foraged through a mountain of 40 to 50 Mopar blocks before finding just the right 400-ci building block for his project. As with the chassis, Cam used Chrysler parts when possible, including a forged 440 Six Pack crank. The block, basically a factory bored version of the 383 with the new crank, ends up at a sizeable 451 ci. Cam’s horsepower estimate is around 550.

On New Year’s Day of 2011 at 5:00 a.m. and 15 degrees (yes, it does get that cold in SoCal, in spite of what the chamber of commerce would have you believe) Cam headed out on the maiden voyage of his new combination. I told you he was hardcore! He wasn’t alone in this madness. Two high school buds, Dave Watson and Jimmy White of Circle City Hot Rods (Jimmy’s the owner), and Jason Mayo all pitched in to help, and of course, his wife Lisa wouldn’t have missed the adventure. Cam makes it very clear that this whole project would be dead in the water without her encouragement and hands-on assistance.

Unfortunately, race conditions were less than ideal. In addition to the cold, California had been experiencing record rainfall. The track officials, in a nod to safety due to some potential drainage issues, cut the distance to an eighth-mile. Additionally, Cam experienced the as-to-be-expected new combo blues. Ignition and carb issues hampered performance. He was shooting for elapsed times in the 6.90s for eighth-mile. After three passes, one qualifying, two in competition, his best was a 7.18, which would have equated to an 11.20 in the quarter.

Cam was a bit disappointed with the end result. On the bright side, all of the rods and fluids were still in the block, the chassis and transmission handled the additional power, and the Dart, true to its nature, hooked hard and ran straight.

Bottom line, it is possible to build a strong, reliable race car in your garage with a normal array of tools and without having to sell a kidney. Cam’s $13,000 investment, including the $3,000 vehicle purchase price proves it.

P.S. Since there were some mechanical questions that went unresolved and the deadline for this was issue fast approaching, we’re going to do a follow-up to give you the scoop on the true potential of Cam’s Dart, so stay tuned.

Tech Sheet

Engine: Dodge

Year: 1977

Cubic Inches: 400

Horsepower: 550

Torque: 500

Built by: Mayo Performance

Crank: 440 Dodge

Rods: RPM

Piston: Ross

Comp: 10.5-1

Oil pan: Milodon

Oil pump: Melling

Cam: COMP Cams

Lifter: Solid

Valves: Ferrea

Valve springs: COMP cams

Rockers:  Crane

Valve covers: Edelbrock

Headers:  TTI

Gear drive: No

Cylinder heads: Edelbrock Performer RPM

Intake: Edelbrock 383 Victor

Carbs: Holley 950 hp

Fuel pump:  Holley

Ignition system: MSD

Ignition wires:  Taylor

Hoses/fittings:  Earls

Trans type:  Auto

Built by: Mayo Performance

Converter:  Hughes

Valve body: Pro Trans Manual

Shifter: Hurst

Driveshaft: 3 inch

Rr end housing: 8 ¾ A-Body

Axles: Strange 35 spline

Case and gears: 489 Case Strange gears 4-30

Rear suspension type: Super stock leak springs, Mopar

Rear shocks: Stock

Front suspension type: Stock

Front shocks: Stock

Steering system:  Stock

Steering linkage: Stock

Wheels front/rear:  Weld

Wheel size front: 3.5 x 15

Wheel size rear:  10 x 15

Tire/size front:  26 x 7.5 x 15 Micky Thompson Sportsman

Tire/size rear: 30 x 12.5 x 15 Mickey Thompson E.T. Street

Front brakes: Wilwood

Rear brakes: 10 inch drum

Chassis: Stock

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