If you’re a rogue nation looking for instantaneous street cred, you can’t go wrong with a covert missile program. It’s a time-honored strategy, proven by generations of international tyrants, that instantly puts your shenanigans on the big stage. Similarly, as the Big Three waged war over muscle car supremacy in the ’60s and ’70s, Chrysler never conquered as many subjects as its crosstown rivals, despite kicking out what was arguably the most diverse lineup of extreme performance machines. Not surprisingly, Mopar Nation went rogue by developing a potent yet little-known weapons program of its own. No, we’re not talking about Hemis stomping all comers at Daytona in 1964, or the Elephant motor’s dominance in Top Fuel. To the contrary, the Mopar Missile program of the early ’70s produced a triumvirate of legendary drag machines that dominated NHRA Pro Stock. Now the Missile is back, this time reincarnated as a cutting-edge, Gen III Hemi-powered, IRS-equipped Pro Touring machine that pays homage to its legendary forbear in unexpected ways.
To the typical smug Pro Touring enthusiast who associates drag racing with tooth decay and fashionably sleeveless T-shirts, the idea of state-of-the-art technology coexisting with straight-line machinery is a bizarre concept. Well get over it, because that assumption is pure bunk. Chrysler campaigned three different Missiles over the years, a ’71 Challenger, a ’72 Cuda, and a ’73 Duster. Believe it or not, modern data acquisition systems are merely an evolution of technology introduced more than 40 years ago in these revolutionary Mopars. As the story goes, the factory-backed Missile program hired NASA engineers to rig up a trunk full of data acquisition gear that logged everything from wheel speed and throttle position to shock travel and oil pressure. The team also used titanium brake rotors and suspension components to pare mass as much as possible. Consequently, although RPM Hot Rod’s (www.RPM-HotRods.com) ’71 Challenger is a Pro Touring tribute to a straight-line machine, both speak the same high-tech language.
There’s no farming-out here....
There’s no farming-out here. RPM designed and built the Challenger’s interior, including the custom dash, instrument panel, and center console. A Vintage Air A/C system, Kicker stereo, and power everything round out the list of luxuries.
In a yearly tradition that spans several decades, the Goodguys Rod and Custom Association hooked up with RPM to build a killer giveaway car for 2012. For creative inspiration, Goodguys opened up a design contest that allowed artists from all over the country to submit renderings of what they wanted to see built. The ’71 Motown Missile Challenger struck a chord with designer Steve Stanford, and his modernized rendering of this fabled machine (Chrysler renamed the ’73 Duster “Mopar Missile”) struck a chord with RPM’s Curt Ukasik. Having already built the 2010 Goodguys giveaway car, a shotgun-powered ’70 Mustang that we featured on the cover of our Oct. ’10 issue, Curt was well aware of the tedious task at hand, but forged ahead anyway. “With the Mustang, we were really under the gun to get the car done in a very short time frame. I wanted to take another stab at it to see what we could build if given some more time to dedicate to the project,” Curt says. “My kids come by the shop and see these cars coming together in various stages. Taking them to the giveaway ceremony is great, because they get to see how you can make someone’s day by giving back to the community.”