No one wants to work forever. Even Michael Schumacher and Jenna Jameson eventually called it quits in their vastly different yet equally glamorous professions. Regardless of your level of fame or fortune, when people get serious about retirement, they give guys like Devin Meucci a call. He's a financial advisor by trade whose counseling sessions emphasize shunning ephemeral pleasures for strategic long-term investments. In essence, he's a teacher of self-discipline, but like a doctor who puffs on stogies, he doesn't always heed his own advice. The product of his 1.5-year lapse of reason is this killer 500ci, 11-second '69 Dodge Charger. It's a car whose superb craftsmanship and subtle design cues not only emulate the Trepaniers and Fooses of the hobby, but come damn close to beating them at their own game. Granted, it's an act of inexcusable indulgence for a man of his profession, but the car's so nice, even his clients would understand.
Devin's reason for building the Charger was quite simple: stress relief. After a long day at the office, experiencing CIDs and rates of acceleration serve as a welcome escape from IRAs and rates of interest. "Since my senior year of high school, my Charger has consoled me through a bachelor's degree, a stressful career, and several relationships," he comments. "There is still nothing as therapeutic as looking out over the car's massive hood and unleashing a big-block Mopar." Ever since Devin picked the car up in 1993 for $2,800, he's had grand visions of what the car could be someday. However, it would take a series of events even more ridiculous than a cheesy ABC soap opera for the project to hit high gear.
On a cold winter morning in 2005, Devin awoke to discover that some social miscreants had stolen the Charger from the parking garage of his downtown Seattle apartment. He assumed the worst, and didn't expect to see the car again. "Some of my friends joked that maybe I was on Overhaulin', but I wasn't that lucky," he quips. Four weeks later, the car was recovered after a Washington state trooper chased down some suspicious-looking perps. Although Devin got a $15,000 insurance settlement out of the fiasco-a sum that at first seemed reasonable-it wasn't nearly enough to cover the damages. "Picture a couple of meth heads having the time of their lives in a musclecar for a month, and you can imagine what they did to it." Having been a getaway car linked to several local burglaries, the recently rebuilt 383 was toast, the quarter-panels were smashed, and the factory interior was uninhabitable. [Think of the Charger in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, and you get the idea.-ed.] What was once a mint interior was completely destroyed, and all the original trim pieces in a car like this add up quickly.
Having owned the car for so long, and then seeing it desecrated from the theft, inspired Devin to build one of the most badass Chargers of all time. Working in a profession where organizational skills are paramount, it was only natural for him to take more of a business approach to building the car rather than playing it by ear. The first step was establishing a thorough game plan, one that involved creating a mission statement that clearly defined the project's objectives. "The goal with the car was to merge classic Mopar heritage with modern performance and style, delivering the ultimate Pro Touring experience with practical streetability," Devin explains. Considering the caliber of car he aspired to build, Devin was humble enough to accept his limitations as a hot rodder. "Since this car is my therapy, I wanted to get it finished in the shortest timeline possible. I realized my time was most efficiently spent at the office earning money and researching parts, so I had to assemble the ultimate build team. My requirements were skill, creativity, and modesty."
He found all three qualities in car builder Chris Odom of Extreme Metal and Paint. After learning that this project wasn't just another plebian endeavor, Chris referred Devin to designer Jason Rushforth. The two hit it off like long-lost brothers, and the ideas started flowing. "I showed him some of my customers' cars along with various rides from Trepanier, Alan Johnson, and other top builders to open his eyes to the possibilities," Jason explains. "I then invited him to attend the Goodguys Nationals with me, and from then on he wasn't interested in building anything that couldn't be parked in the Pro's Pick area next to all of our heroes' cars."
Taking a less-is-more approach, Jason drew up 24 different designs for the Charger. "Throughout the entire design and build process, Devin emphasized that he wanted a very capable and functional car that he could drive and draw a crowd with while not being obnoxious," Jason says. "Think Aston Martin DB7 or Ferrari 599 instead of caged, twin-turbo Viper, and you get the idea." The duo settled on a two-tone paint scheme of silver topped by graphite gray. In conjunction with the black iForged wheels, the overall look is very unassuming, yet aggressive. Subtle touches that augment its contentious demeanor include a custom chin spoiler, narrowed and smoothed bumpers, shaved marker lights and mirrors, Hella driving lights, and a rear valance notched for the integrated Chrysler Crossfire exhaust tips. Moreover, the indents in the factory hood have been converted into functional heat extractors.
To make sure the Charger would be appreciated for decades to come, Devin made a concerted effort to avoid things that he felt were too trendy. Hence, under the hood is a big-block Chrysler of the non-Hemi variety fed by a Barry Grant carburetor. "I'm all Hemi'd out," Devin comments. "Hemis are everywhere. I initially planned on stroking the original 383, but realized that for a little more money I could buy a 440 block, punch it out to 500 inches, and build a really stout yet streetable motor." Don Gould of FBO Systems spec'd the big wedge motor with a Mopar Performance crank, Manley rods, and Diamond 10.3:1 pistons. During the build, Devin got hooked up with Jon Clark of Mopar Performance who happened to be looking for a high-profile vehicle to feature a new set of aluminum heads and intake manifold. That relationship eventually led to a spot in the Mopar Performance booth at SEMA 2006. "It was a dream come true to have my car in the Mopar Performance booth next to cars I looked up to, like Bobby Alloway's Challenger." Make no mistake, this is no show-only car. Its best quarter-mile pass to date is 11.99 at 113 mph, which came after swapping to some sticky Mickey Thompsons. He says low 11s are in the cards once he hits it with the Edelbrock nitrous system.
Although Devin is extremely pleased with how the car turned out, what he's most proud of is how well the entire build team worked together. "I appreciate working with people who are humble and open-minded," he says. "What are the odds of putting this much time and money into a project without anyone having any hard feelings toward each other in the end? Every day there were a hundred different decisions to make, but the level of communication was so high that everything fell into place." That's fine and dandy, but those of us with more modest incomes will always question if any car is worth more than six figures. "More than anything this car is a story about friendships. Jason is someone I didn't even know two years ago, but he just asked me to be the best man in his wedding. It's hard to put a price on the car because I can justify it with the friendships I've made."
By The Numbers
|’69 Dodge Charger |
|Devin Meucci, 32 |
|Lynnwood, WA |
|Total cost to build: $180,000 |
|Best e.t.: 11.99 at 113 mph |
|Type: ||Chrysler 500ci big-block |
|Block: ||factory Mopar bored to 4.380 inches |
|Oiling: ||Melling high-volume pump, |
| ||Mopar Performance pan |
|Rotating assembly: ||Mopar Performance |
| ||4.150-inch forged crank, Manley steel rods, |
| ||forged 10.4:1 Diamond pistons |
|Cylinder heads: ||Mopar Performance aluminum |
| ||with light port work |
|Camshaft: ||Racer Brown 238-at-.050 |
| ||hydraulic roller, .517/.485-inch lift |
|Valvetrain: ||Schubeck lifters, |
| ||Smith Brothers pushrods, |
| ||Racer Brown rockers |
|Induction: ||Mopar Performance intake manifold, |
| ||Barry Grant 825-cfm carburetor |
|Ignition: ||Mallory Hyfire 6 ignition box, |
| ||Comp S/S distributor and plug wires |
|Power-adder: ||Edelbrock Performer |
| ||RPM nitrous system |
|Fuel system: ||sumped factory tank, |
| ||Aerospace pump and regulator |
|Exhaust: ||TTI 1 7/8-inch long-tube headers, |
| ||Spin Tech 3-inch H-pipe and mufflers |
|Cooling: ||Be Cool radiator and dual electric fans |
|Built by: ||Don Gould |
|Transmission: ||built TorqueFlite 727 trans, |
| ||Dynamic PIA 3,200-stall converter, |
| ||Gear Vendors overdrive unit, B&M shifter |
|Rear axle: ||narrowed Chrysler 8 3/4-inch rearend, |
| ||Dutchman axles, 3.55:1 gears, |
| ||Sure Grip differential |
|Front suspension: ||Reilly MotorSports K-member, |
| ||tubular control arms and sway bar; |
| ||QA1 coilovers, Flaming River steering rack |
|Rear suspension: ||Calvert Racing split monoleafs |
| ||and traction bars |
|Brakes: ||Wilwood 13-inch discs, front; |
| ||12-inch discs, rear |
|WHEELS & TIRES |
|Wheels: ||iForged Sprint 19x10, front; |
| ||20x12, rear |
|Tires: ||Michelin Pilot Sport 275/35-19, front; |
| ||335/30-20, rear |