Brand loyalty runs deep, but it's hard to deny that the other guys make some good stuff from time to time. Why else would hot rodders bolt Ford rearends beneath Chevys, GM transmissions behind Ford engines, and Chrysler Hemis into AMCs? With all due respect to the competent GM 12-bolt and legendary Ford 9-inch, Chrysler's Dana 60 is the mother of all rearends. This absurdly robust driveline specimen was originally designed for heavy-duty military vehicles during World War II, and was adapted for street combat in the '60s by Chrysler to endure the fury unleashed by its Hemi- and 440-powered muscle cars. We're currently busy putting the finishing touches on a built 455 big-block for our '65 Olds Cutlass project car, but its projected 500 hp is respectable rather than incredible. As such, our original plans called for replacing the factory 10-bolt rearend with a 12-bolt, but when Strange informed us that it offers a big-inch Dana 60 for GM A-bodies, we were more than intrigued.
Without question, nothing embodies overkill more than installing a Dana 60 in a 500hp street machine. Nonetheless, its benefits over both a 12-bolt and 9-inch made the decision a no-brainer. What makes the Dana 60 so good are its massive 9.75-inch ring gear, 35-spline axles, heavy-duty cast centersection, and 3.125-inch diameter axle tubes. In comparison, factory GM 12-bolts incorporate 8.875-inch ring gears, 30-spline axles, and 3-inch axle tubes. Stock Ford 9-inch rearends, on the other hand, make do with 9-inch ring gears, 28- or 31-spline axles, and 3-inch axle tubes. Granted, bigger aftermarket axles can be easily swapped into the 12-bolt and 9-inch, but bigger ring gears cannot.
Consequently, even in stock trim the Dana 60 can handle nearly 1,000 hp. Despite its strength, it's actually more efficient than a 9-inch, and only takes slightly more power to turn than a 12-bolt. Of course, there's a weight penalty that goes along with this stout of a rearend, but it's entirely reasonable considering its indestructible nature. The Dana 60 weighs just 15 pounds more than a 9-inch, and 25 pounds more than a 12-bolt. The real kicker, however, is that Strange sells complete ready-to-bolt-in Dana 60 rearends for $1,995, which is actually less than a comparable 9-inch or 12-bolt. Strange offers them for GM A-, F-, and G-bodies as well as GM and Mopar leaf-spring muscle cars.
As good as a stock Dana 60 may be, Strange has figured out how to make it even better. With core rearends in short supply, Strange came up with its own proprietary housing design called the S60. It's essentially a new and improved Dana 60 rearend that doesn't use any original Dana 60 components. The S60's centersection is cast from rugged nodular iron, and features main caps that are much larger than stock. Other enhancements over a factory Dana 60 include fully welded axle tubes and adjuster nuts for easy backlash adjustment. In addition to the aforementioned features, every S60 rearend assembly comes equipped with either 35- or 40-spline axles, 3.150-inch housing ends, 1/2- or 5/8-inch wheels studs, a differential cover/brace, a 1350 pinion yoke, a ring-and-pinion set, and your choice of a limited-slip differential or a spool.To get a closer look at the S60 rearend, we spent a day with John Kwas of Strange Engineering as he put one together for Project Olds. We then made a stop at D&Z Customs in Kewaskum, Wisconsin, where Randy Johnson performed the rearend swap on Project Olds.