By the grapevine, Matt found out about an M-code Super Bee in the sheriff's compound that would soon be parted out. He played "Midnight Auto," grabbing the 440 and the Dana axle for a steal. In a weekend, he and Harrel had the motor and axle in place. One week later, they fired up the welder and installed the eight-point rollcage and wheeltubs.
The Duster ran 11 flat at 121, right out of the gate, and stayed that way until 1988. Then, Matt heard about a stroker engine and couldn't get the thought out of his head. The radio station Cindy worked for couldn't pay her, but advised her to take it out in trade with anyone she could get to advertise. One 482ci engine with BS-B1 cylinder heads and two couches later, she called it square.
Matt tells PHR, "She was happy with the couches, and I loved my new stroker, but the best I could manage was a 10.78 through the exhaust and on street tires. Traction had become a major issue. Though the car had gone from 1.60 to 1.40 60-foot times, the suspension really couldn't handle it. For the first time in three years, I wasn't on top of the points chase. I ordered a Chassis Engineering four-link and drove to Dallas to have it installed. Afterward, I realized it wasn't such a difficult job, and vowed that I'd never back away from anything when it came to modifying my car. From 1988 to 2004, it ran consistent 10.40s at 130. But by 2004, I was knee-deep in building retro-mods at Auto Design. The Duster became a red-headed stepchild, and my time with it was limited to Saturday night cruises."
Then the entire complexion of the project changed. Matt attended the SEMA show that year and hooked up with the Whipple supercharger guys, who expressed interest in building one of their systems for a 500ci wedge crate motor. The one Matt happened to have in his warehouse was quickly on its way to Fresno, California, for the forced-air conversion. In February 2006, the blower motor arrived, and by this time Mother Mopar was peddling its big-block wedge-aluminum cylinder heads. Matt got a pair.
"I knew that going from a solid roller to a hydraulic camshaft would limit the rpm range," says Matt. "I decided to use the flexible gearing that a Gear Vendors unit would provide, so that I could make it to the end of the track without running out of rpm. The combination proved as lethal as we'd hoped. The car is considerably faster, yet remains streetable. It's capable now of mid-9-second elapsed times at greater than 140 mph. And therein lies the rub-well, a couple of them: traction and NHRA rules. The car launches well, but the tires break loose at mid-track. With the current safety gear, when you break 140, you're immediately sent home. Now we need to throttlestop it back to 10-flats."
In the matching-numbers universe of most Mopar enthusiasts, Matt's a red dog, a spoiler of the first magnitude. He loves the form and function of vintage musclecars, but will not tolerate their chuck wagon ride, abysmal handling, and driveability issues. Period. "Dream and be determined, and there's no telling where you can go," he says. "It all began with one car and a stick welder."