Music store owner Nelson Wynn has a thing for Dodge Darts. As a youth he was enthralled by his older brothers' hot rods and longed to someday own one. The chance came early enough but alas the timing just wasn't right. "My brother had a '70 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 four-speed car, and he offered it to me when I turned 16, but the issue was that I was already playing music and making money doing it so I bought a van instead to haul gear around," he says.
Time passed, and Nelson and his wife, Gail, settled into life as the owners of a music store, supplying both budding and successful musicians with the instruments and gear that would perhaps allow the next generation of stars to take the stage. "As life calmed down and I got older, I told my son who was 13 or 14 years old at the time that I would buy a car, and we would build the car together. So I bought a '70 Dart. We spent some time putting that one together, but by the time we got it done, he had already turned 16 and wanted a car of his own," he says. Nelson kept that car for 13 years until he sold it in hot pursuit of a new project.
Though without A/C or a stereo,...
Though without A/C or a stereo, the car still has a strong current draw, thanks to an electric water pump, fan, and high output ignition system. An MSD alternator provides the amps necessary as well as the 13-plus volts specified by MSD for their ignition boxes. Quite often the old externally regulated Leece-Neville alternators that came as factory items on the Mopars only put out 35 amps, tops. That is barely enough to run the lights and wiper motor-not enough to correctly power a good ignition system.
A call from a friend lead Nelson to a $500 1969 Dodge Dart GT that was a little rough but otherwise a solid candidate. "It was a real good starter car. It had a little bit of rust but nothing major." The vision for a project car is different for every builder and Nelson's dream was a car that would be cleaner, faster, and nicer than what Detroit offered, but not an over-the-top, undriveable trailer queen. In other words, he wanted something that could sing as well as swing.
The foundation for his masterpiece was laid as he had friend and bodyman Fred Kralevanski Jr. replace the tattered front end with fiberglass front fenders and a Six-Pack hood. The remaining panels were rubbed and massaged until they were straight enough to pop a chalk line on. Kralevanski then squirted the body with several quarts of DuPont Lime Light Green treated with just a hint
of extra yellow to bring the color a little closer to Nelson's vision. A traditional Bumble Bee stripe was added to liven it up some more.
On the flip side, Nelson had Kralevanski make sure the chassis was able to dance to whatever tune the engine could turn out. That included back-halving the car with an RMS AlterKtion ladder bar setup and QA1 coilovers planting a set of Mickey Thompson Drag Radials. Though it took a couple of years for the general public to catch on, drag radials turned out to be the hot ticket for fast street cars, and with 3,000-pound cars now running deep in the 7s on MTs, hooking up is no problem for a ride like Nelson's Dart. Naturally, an 8 3/4-inch rearend was centered and fitted with a set of 4.30 gears. Nelson hinted that straight-line performance was the real goal with the combo. "It's got a spool rearend, so we don't go around corners very well. But it is mostly driven on the street. The car is a real good street driver."
Toward the front of the stage, a pair of Mopar Performance subframe connectors lead up to the lightweight RMS AlterKtion front K-member attached to a Flaming River rack-and-pinion. QA1 coilovers were also used on the frontend, allowing Nelson to easily adjust the ride height without fiddling with the usual torsion bar mess. The coilovers also give him the chance to loosen the front suspension up a little should the need for a little side-by-side racing action come up. In his decision-making process for choosing suspension components, Nelson laid out his philosophy: "I did a lot of research and tried to choose stuff that would last and that would take some of the street driving, not just the dragstrip driving. A lot of the tubular front suspension stuff is designed specifically for dragstrip racing and won't take the rigors of going down the street with all the bumps."