He could be blowing smoke up our booties, but it really wouldn't matter. Kevin Whitt says that his '70 Duster runs 10.70s in the quarter on a budget of under $14,000. That alone is grounds for some well justified skepticism, but the most outrageous claim of all is that someone supposedly donated the 440 motor to his go-fast cause. But wait a second. Even if the 440 wasn't a freebie and cost-for argument's sake-$10,000 to build, you've still got one seriously quick street brawler that can be duplicated for under $25,000. So whether Kevin's a lying sack or one resourceful SOB is irrelevant. The prosecution rests its case, Your Honor, for there are no legitimate charges to bring to trial.
Let's start with that freebie 440. It's a rudimentary though effective setup, featuring a factory block, forged internals, and ported stock head castings. With a mild 232/242 at .050 hydraulic roller cam, it kicks out 530 hp on the pump. Even though it's nothing fancy, why would anyone just give it away? "My good friend Phil Cook owns C&C Performance Engines [Duncan, Oklahoma], and we've known each other since high school," Kevin explains. "He was one of my sponsors back when I used to race NHRA Super Gas and Super Stock. Phil probably has a million dollars worth of junk laying around his shop, so he built this motor for me from spare parts." Having scored a free motor from intake to oil pan, Kevin was already way ahead of the low-buck game. Now all he had to do was drop it into a lightweight chassis.
A Mopar fanatic since purchasing a 383-powered '71 'Cuda when he was 16 years old, Kevin's weapon of choice this time around was an A-body, which he bought three years ago for $2,000 from the original owner. At 2,940 pounds, it's the consummate counterpart for the worked 440. It was garage-kept for 34 years and had just 89,000 original miles on it, so only the bottom of the quarter-panels were rusted. Since the Duster is a bit more plebian than a 'Cuda or Road Runner, Kevin had the luxury of straying from period-correctness without being rebuked by the Mopar camp. "I basically took a '70 and built a '71 clone, which to me is a more desirable body style," he says. "That's why it has side stripes and a shark-tooth grille." Other visual enhancements include a Go-Wing rear spoiler and a custom fiberglass hood, which was never available on Dusters from the factory. "If I did this to a high-end car like an E-body, all the Mopar guys would go crazy," Kevin says.
As a former competitor in the upper ranks of NHRA racing, Kevin owned a tube chassis Super Gas Charger that ran 9.08 at 144 mph, and a Super Street Dart that ran 10.0 at 132 mph. While he recognized that his fastest days were behind him, he wasn't quite ready to retire from racing altogether. He still needed to get his fix somehow, and he had to get it cheap. "Since I'm getting up there in age now , I wanted a car that I could drive on the street and take to shows, in addition to racing at the track," he explains. Like most grassroots hot-rodders, the low-buck part of the equation came out of necessity. "I just don't have the kind of money where I can spend $30,000 on building a car. I have a lot of friends who have a lot of their own friends, and they're all willing to lend a hand. That's the only way I could ever build a car like this."
Like the motor, having the right connections made it possible for Kevin to pinch a few pennies when it came time to paint the Duster. He happened to know a fellow by the name of Jason Wolfe, who happened to own Wolfe Custom Paints (Mustang, Oklahoma). The result is show-car-quality paint for little more than the cost of supplies. "I got a $10,000 paint job for $4,500," says Kevin. "Jason basically slid my car into his booth between jobs, and got me a great deal." Kevin's a loyal Mopar guy even in his choice of colors, as he had his car sprayed in DuPont Viper White. In addition, the wheelwells were stretched a bit to accommodate taller tires.