Getting the right look inside...
Getting the right look inside and out was important, but so was keeping cool during a hot, summer cruise. Brandon solved the dilemma by hiding the Vintage Air control panel inside the glovebox.
The 440 block was an old race motor, which once pushed another car into the high 11s and produces about 375 hp. The factory cast-iron heads were completely rebuilt several years ago, but were languishing on a shelf in Ball's garage until they were pulled for this project and worked over pretty heavily.
Brandon and Ball knew they wanted the look of Hilborn injector stacks popping through the hood, but the historically correct mechanical fuel injection option seemed like an unreasonable choice for any use other than racing. Many builders have opted to go the EFI route in these applications, but they balked at that option on two fronts. Cost was one consideration, but the fact that EFI is simply not period correct for this car also played into the decision to go with an Edelbrock 750-cfm carburetor.
"We went with the 440 and the Carter-style setup, because it's really streetable and really reliable. It's a proven combination we've done in about 15 Mopars over the last five years," claims Brandon.
The period-correct Max Wedge cast-iron exhaust manifolds flow into dual 3-inch exhaust pipes, crafted from dairy-grade stainless steel tubing. "I do all my exhaust systems with that stuff," says Brandon, "because it's thicker and maintains a really bright, machined look at all times. I can also use the nicer ferrules and clamps on it, instead of that muffler shop crap."
When Brandon finished up school in 2003 and completed his ASE-certification process, he and his father decided to go out on their own. "We spent the next six years building this car on and off, while trying to start a business," says Brandon. The car was nearly complete, when Canadian, Walter Phillips, gave Ball an offer on the Coronet that he couldn't refuse.
At the time the Dodge changed hands, it had the motor and drivetrain in it, but the shell was still in primer and the rolling chassis had no interior. "Phillips had a crate Hemi and we actually thought about putting that in, but ended up not because he said he wanted to drive the car too, so we stuck with the original plan," says Brandon.
Bell finished up a spot-on interior, right down to the A990 seats and a heater/radio delete dashboard, while Phillips asked Brandon to make some changes in preparation for the Dodge's trip North of the border. "It has wipers and a four-headlight system. That was the only thing on the outside of it that wasn't cosmetically correct, but we had to do that for Canadian DOT regulations," says Brandon.
After finishing the car, Brandon and his dad drove it to shows for a few months and claim that their goal of building a driver was met. "It handles great; it's purely a driver," says Brandon. "That's why it's got that tall gear in the ass end, because we just wanted to drive it."
As much as he prefers working with EFI Fords, Brandon will always have a soft spot for altered cars and he certainly isn't closing the door on future projects. "The Mopar market was really big for about five or six years and from what I've seen in the Nostalgia race car scene, the Thunderbolts, Willys, Dodges, and Max Wedge clones are all bringing good money for what it costs to build them," says Brandon. "Everybody wants an old race car, man!"
Apparently, the economics of building these cars also has some appeal for Brandon. "For the money Gary had in the Coronet and the time my dad and I had in it, this car was built relatively cheap for an altered car. Those cars will bring anywhere from $75,000 up to $150,000, depending on the correctness of the car and if they're the real deal."
In fact, Brandon's current projects include a '40 Willys Coupe with a 392 Hemi, a '37 Chevy straight-axle Gasser, and a Thunderbolt clone he's working on with Ball. As for the Coronet, the only thing it's missing now is a traditional name, like the Dandy Dodge and Color Me Gone. "We never named it, because it ended up going to someone else," says Brandon.