1969 Dodge Charger - Biohazard
Get too close to this ’69 Charger, and you’ll catch the bug real bad
From the September, 2011 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Johnny Hunkins
Photography by Author
We like the way Mike Williams thinks. When it was time to buy a house, he bought a big empty slice of farmland near Orland, California, and proceeded to build a huge garage on it. Oh, and he put a urinal in it, too. “I didn’t want to be sneaking around outside every time I had to use the bathroom,” says Mike matter-of-factly. And the house? Uh, there isn’t one, unless you count the trailer. We mention all this up front just to make sure you know Mike is a guy with his priorities clearly in order.
And like his castle, Mike’s 1969 Dodge Charger is perfectly prioritized. Marked on its voluptuous flanks with the universal biohazard warning sign, you might easily mistake Mike’s Charger as an homage to the boys from Hazzard county, but you’d be wrong. Mike is, in fact, a trauma nurse, and the familiar biohazard sign just seemed like a natural for a car with such a seductive carbon footprint.
The key to getting the stance...
The key to getting the stance right with any car is to choose the tires and set the rake, and work backward from there. After doing some research to find out the largest rubber that will fit, Mike built his brake setup, and established the hub position. Next, he got a Wheel Works Tire MountMate to calculate the right offset. Doing it this way allowed Mike to know with certainty that his huge wheels and tires were going to fit before ordering the custom wheels.
Mopars, and Dodge Chargers in particular, hold a special place in Mike’s heart. Growing up in Louisiana, Mike’s grandpa, Talbot “Snake” Guillot, would often pick Mike and his brother up in his ’66 Charger and drive to NASCAR races. “Actually, him and his buddies would sleep in the back, and I would drive! I was only 13. We used to go to races in Mobile, College Station, Talladega, and Atlanta. I used to stand up against the fence and listen to the engines roar by.” (Think this could be the reason Mike is also working on a ’74 Dodge Charger Petty-themed racer clone?)
Mike’s upbringing in Baton Rouge might seem a million years and a million miles ago from his California life, but it still informs every bolt and every weld he touches. The silent, strong call from Mike’s youth has reached out like a hidden magnetic force, in spite of seemingly random life events. Check it out: While working as an assistant manager at a Domino’s Pizza in Baton Rouge in 1986, he got the chance to move to Paradise, California, and help open a new franchise. “At 20 years old, you think you’re going to the beach or something,” Mike deadpans. Unknown to the new franchise owner, Paradise was a retirement community, so the place went belly up in three months. (More deadpan: “Old people don’t eat much pizza.”) A girlfriend worked in one of Paradise’s many nursing homes, so Mike decided to go to nursing school. Upon graduating nursing school, Mike worked in the local hospital’s ER, then rode ambulances. And like a moth to a flame, the first time Mike worked the ambulance for the local bullring racetrack, life’s crazy karma came back at him full force. All it took was one sniff of race fuel, and the fuse was lit.
“I started working the ambulances at the track and got back into it,” Mike says. It wasn’t long before he was racing pure stock. “You know, two-barrel carb, stock motor, stock body, limited on tires.” They raced Chevelles and Camaros mostly, but Mike started out with a ’67 Belvedere, and then a ’69 Coronet that he built into a Richard Petty Superbird clone. “They almost didn’t let me run that car because of the wing!”
The Budnik GTB 18-inch wheels...
The Budnik GTB 18-inch wheels have been custom powdercoated titanium and matte black by Budnik. Mike says the black rims are designed to make the sidewalls look taller. They also complement the satin black graphics on the hood and flanks. At the time Mike built his Coleman/U.S. Brakes/Wilwood brake combo, Wilwood hadn’t started offering the big caliper packages for Mopars that they now have.
Out of school and with a steady job, Mike was now hard on the throttle, but by 1998, racing was taking a mental toll. “I got tired of blowing stuff up,” Mike says. “You work on them all week just to go racing on Friday. You get 30 minutes of seat time racing, and another racer will use you as a guardrail. It got to be too expensive. I just decided I wanted a nice street car instead.” Then, while scouring a car show, he saw a ’69 Charger that he snatched up for $1,500. The primered 318 ex-rental car barely ran, but Mike saw potential—even if only momentarily. When he got wind of a ’69 Hemi Charger, he sold the 318 car to a local kid to raise the cash. Fortunately, Mike got the car back five years later in slightly better shape—and for the same $1,500—when the kid bailed on a stillborn Duke’s clone project.
One lonely night in 2004 at his garage-mahal, Mike found himself gaping blankly at his welder, metal brake, Bridgeport, lathe, and his many boxes of tools. The silence was eerie. Then, the spirit of grandpa “Snake” Guillot paid a visit, hovering over the dormant B-Body. The inspiration of the Biohazard Charger emerged magically from the miasma as if Mike were staring into a crystal ball. The following day, Mike wasted no time and brought the car to Brian Dowdy at Golden Age Restorations, explaining his vision of Pepper Gray paint and contrasting matte black graphics with biohazard motif.
The 446ci Mopar Wedge that’s...
The 446ci Mopar Wedge that’s currently in the car is a temporary engine that Mike Williams yanked from his ’68 GTX—but it’s still plenty potent. Built by the defunct B&B Performance & Machine, it cranks out 563 hp with ported iron heads, an M1 intake, a 1,000-cfm Barry Grant carb, and a mild .540-inch lift hydraulic cam. Nevertheless, Mike has a more powerful 512ci stroker in the wings. He also built the custom radiator shroud and hinged cover in his shop, and used Dupli-Color engine enamel and—get this—graphite wheel paint for the valve covers and intake.
Back from paint, the empty roller reclaimed its silent corner of the shop, and over the next few years Mike gradually collected the parts to complete the Biohazard Charger. In the interim, he had built a ’72 ’Cuda for his niece, which played a small yet important part in the Biohazard’s completion. When the ’Cuda was unveiled at the 2010 Mopars At The Strip in Las Vegas, it was a big hit, especially on the autocross, where Mike had a blast. To his good fortune, he met autocross legend and Hotchkis consultant, Mary Pozzi. “Mary Pozzi was up there, and talked with me a lot about the Hotchkis stuff, and that made me want to finish my Charger that much faster,” Mike says. “In the meantime, I had a running, driving ’70 Firebird that had given me the autocross bug real bad.”
A project that had started in 1998 was now suddenly front and center, and subject to the full brunt of Mike’s resources. He vowed to have Biohazard ready for the following spring, where he would take it to Mopars At The Strip (now Moparty At The Strip), the Speed Fest at Willow Springs, and the Mopar Spring Fling in Los Angeles. To pull off this Mopar hat trick, he’d need to act fast.
Mike began by mocking up the engine, suspension, K-member, trans, cooling system, and brakes. He built a custom radiator shroud, seam-welded the K-member, and sent those parts, along with the engine accessory brackets, power steering cooler, and motor mounts to Platinum Powdercoating (Chico, California). With those items in hand, Mike worked on the brakes, combining Wilwood hubs, Coleman rotors, and U.S. Brakes calipers in a home-brewed system using caliper brackets Mike built himself. This was done early on in order to establish the wheel offset, which Mike nailed down, thanks to a Wheel Works Tire MountMate fitment tool. A gentleman’s agreement with Discount Tire allowed him to order just two Nitto NT05 tires (front and rear) in the sizes he wanted, with the caveat that he could exchange them if they didn’t fit. Thanks to the Wheel Works tool, Mike found that the huge 275/40R18 and 295/45R18 Nittos would fit, if he ordered just the right size and offset wheels. The resulting custom 18x9 and 18x10 Budnik GTB alloys were powdercoated titanium and matte black, and fit like a dream inside the Charger’s sexy fender bulges.
Mike liked what he saw from Hotchkis while in Las Vegas, so he decided to combine the heavy-duty Mopar Performance leaf springs and 1.125-inch diameter torsion bars he’d been collecting (“I don’t know the part numbers because I bought them third-hand”) with the Hotchkis control arms, strut rods, front sway bar, steering links, and Bilstein-sourced shocks. Mike also worked some upholstery skills in the mix, re-skinning the front and rear seats, and replacing the carpet with new stock.
With time running out, Mike realized he had to put his planned 512-inch Wedge on hold. That motor, which will get CNC-ported Edelbrock heads, a 440Source stroker kit, Holley Street Dominator intake, BCR girdle, and Mopar Performance STX22 .590-inch lift solid-roller cam, would have to wait. In the meantime, Mike “borrowed” the .030-over 440 from his ’68 GTX. This “little” Wedge makes just 563 hp with a stock crank and rods, JE pistons, C&A rings, ported iron heads, Mopar M1 intake, Barry Grant 1,000-cfm carb, and a mild .540-inch lift COMP camshaft. The temporary bullet has been attached to a workhorse A833 four-speed and Centerforce Dual-Friction clutch, which acts on a rebuilt Dana 60 with 4.10 gears.
With just hours to spare, Mike hit the road this past April, making all three of his planned events. In the period between April 8 and April 17, the Biohazard Charger hit the Moparty At The Strip, where it ran 12.85/113 down the quarter-mile (“spinning First and Second”); the Speed Fest at Willow Springs, where it hit 135 mph on the straightaway; and the 25th Annual Mopar Spring Fling in L.A., where it wowed showgoers with its bombshell looks.
But don’t think that the Biohazard’s early success is making Mike complacent. The spirit of “Snake” Guillot is still present, urging Mike to take things up a notch. There’s a fresh 512ci Wedge waiting in the wings, along with a Hemi-spec A833 and Gear Vendors overdrive. Gramps is also concerned about Mike’s safety, and has telegraphed his preference for some supportive racing seats and harnesses, just like the “King” would use. We know he’s got to be looking down on Mike real proud!
Mike Williams, 45 • Orland, CA
Best quarter-mile: 12.85 at 113 mph
Type: ’69-vintage 440 Wedge big-block Mopar
Oiling: Moroso deep pan, Melling oil pump and pickup
Rotating assembly: stock, shot-peened and polished stock rods, JE forged pistons
Cylinder heads: stock 452, bracket race port job, Manley 2.14/1.88 stainless valves
Camshaft: COMP Cams, .540-inch lift, 260/268 degrees duration at .050, 108 degrees lobe separation installed at 104 degrees
Valvetrain: Crane ⅜-inch chromoly pushrods, Crane ductile iron rocker arms, COMP lifters
Intake manifold: Mopar M1, port matched to heads
Carburetor: Barry Grant 1,000-cfm Silver Claw
Ignition: MSD 7AL3 box, Mopar Performance distributor
Fuel system: Carter high-volume mechanical, stock tank, ½-inch pickup, -8AN fuel line
Exhaust: Doug’s 2-inch long-tube headers, custom 3-inch exhaust, Flowmaster 40 Series mufflers
Cooling: Mopar Performance water pump and housing, Northern aluminum radiator, dual SPAL 12-inch electric fans, custom shroud, overflow, and cover
Output: 563 hp at 5,600 rpm
Built by: B&B Performance & Machine, Redding, CA
Transmission: A833 23-spline four-speed manual, Centerforce Dual-Friction clutch
Rear axle: ’68-vintage B-Body Dana 60 rearend, 4.10 gears in stock carrier, custom reinforced spring perches
Unibody: front K-member welded up and reinforced, custom skidplate
Steering: Firm Feel Stage 3 power steering with fast-ratio pitman arm
Front suspension: Hotchkis TVS upper control arms, strut rods, sway bar and steering links; Mopar Performance 1.125-inch torsion bars, Bilstein shocks
Rear suspension: custom heavy-duty rear leaf springs (five leaf), 2-inch lowering blocks, Bilstein shocks
Front brakes: Coleman 14x1.25-inch rotors, U.S. Brake calipers, Wilwood hubs
Rear brakes: Wilwood 12.19-inch rotors with U.S. Brake calipers
Wheels: Budnik GTB, 18x9, 4.5-inch offset, front; 18x10, 5-inch offset, rear; matte black and titanium powdercoat
Tires: Nitto NT05, 275/40R18, front; 295/45R18, rear
Mike refurbished the Charger’s...
Mike refurbished the Charger’s interior in his garage, re-skinning the seats, replacing the carpet, and repairing the dash. He loves the way the stock seats look, but they are simply incapable of holding him in place while autocrossing and road racing. For now, Mike has been holding onto the wheel and the roof, but he’s starting to come around to a safer point of view. When the bigger engine goes in, the 23-spline A833 four-speed will soon be upgraded to a Hemi-spec box with a Gear Vendors overdrive—for those long weekend road trips!
Only recently did Mike discover...
Only recently did Mike discover that his ’69 Charger was once a rental car. While displaying the B-Body at Moparty At The Strip, Mopar expert Galen Govier examined the vehicle order number on the fender tag and revealed to Mike that this was a rental car. How fitting that this Charger has literally been beaten since the day it was born!
[Image by Cali Photography]...
[Image by Cali Photography] Mike has been autocrossing, road racing, and circle track racing for years, but his first road course outing in the Biohazard Charger was a major milestone. On April 14, he opened her up at the Speed Fest at Willow Springs, clocking 135 mph on the straightaway. This is no “stock car with big wheels,” as one magazine mistakenly opined.