First on Bittle’s list of modifications was the removal of the engine and its old fuel injection system. Lance told PHR: “The fuel injection was some kind of Gen 6 DOS kind of thing. You could hardly get a computer that would run it. So we decided to redo the motor and put the new FAST fuel injection system in it.” Though high tech for its day, Gen 6 has gone the way of the buggy whip. The tune in it was poor enough that it actually fuel-washed the cylinder walls, leading to a rebuild of the engine. Bittle says, “The FAST system would not work with a standard MSD Billet distributor, so we converted to an MSD crank trigger and modified the distributor, like a late-model, to be a cam sensor, which has the added benefit of converting from bank-to-bank to sequential. Sequential firing gives the FAST system improved real-time tuning, and the immediate response to any change makes testdriving and optimizing the tuning easier.” The XFI system was also programmed so that when the icy cold air conditioning kicks in, the idle speed is adjusted to compensate. How cool is that?

JBA took the time to install an Indy Cylinder Heads stroker kit, bumping up the displacement to a tire-burning 464 ci via an offset-ground 440 crank spinning Wiseco pistons and Mahle rings.

Bittle also installed a hydraulic flat-tappet cam with just enough lift and duration to make it mean and nasty, but keep it reliable and driveable. This also axed the common single-bolt in favor of the safer three-bolt double- roller timing chain and gears. A set of Indy first-design Wedge heads, made for hot street and racing engines, was bolted on top and fitted to a single-plane intake manifold.

With the engine on track, they set about upgrading the clutch to handle the extra power. The Centerforce Dual-Friction clutch remains, but transfers power to something much nicer than the old A-833 four-speed. A Richmond six-speed ROD was originally shoehorned in by Yates to make cruising down the highway with 3.23 rear gears not such an ear-ringing, gas-guzzling chore. “When Mark put it in, he modified the tunnel a little, but it works fine. The Richmond is a great transmission, not over-the-top heavy duty, but a great transmission.” And, of course, the package wouldn’t have been complete had he not modified a true Pistol Grip shifter to row the gears. While under the car, JBA cleaned up the undercarriage with a pair of Spintech mufflers to quiet things down and revamped the whole fuel system to handle the 413 rear-wheel horsepower.

Since the additional power naturally produced more heat, an upgrade to the cooling system for cruising the heat of El Cajon in the summer was deemed necessary. Lance says, “The radiator was about eight years old, so we just redid the whole cooling system. It’s got two primary fans and two secondaries.” Finally the old E-Body was as reliable as a new Challenger.

As for the body, it has held up extremely well considering the 30,000-plus miles on the car. “The paint was done back in 2000-2001 and they did a stunning job. It’s held up really well. It just has a ton of clearcoat on it.” Rocky Frost of Custom Autobody freshened the FM3 Panther Pink up here and there, but was otherwise perfect.