Words and photos by Geoff Stunkard
The stance the car has, even at rest, denotes its seriousness. It started out as an old pile of junk found in a field.
Bracket cars are normally built with the idea of being consistent. This is not talking about those national-event stutter-box Super class cars that run off of indexes, either; combinations used by weekend warriors also tend to gravitate toward easy-to-tune, easy-to-race single four barrel arrangements, and this type of racing sometimes becomes a tedious lesson in boredom as well. If winning isn’t the only thing, however, bracket racing leaves room for a lot of fun.
For metal fabricator Lenny Sliwa of Homer Glen, Illinois, the idea of building just another bracket beast was superceded by a more pressing desire for visual horsepower and a sort of ‘yeah, we can make this work’ attitude. Having a 392” Hemi T-bucket for the street (since 1975) and a vintage 426 Hemi-powered combination in an old rear-engined fuel dragster already at his disposal, he had other plans for this 1972 Duster that was sitting abandoned out in a corn field prior to its present incarnation as a blown wedge mover.
At 59, Lenny Sliwa says he’s getting ready for the fastest year of door car racing in his life.
“We found that old race car sitting out in the weeds and manure,” he says with a laugh. “It was missing some parts and the windows, but the cage was already in it and aluminum panels had replaced the original interior. Still, it took us a year of work before we got it on the racetrack.”
Riding on the stock 108” wheelbase, the car began its mad science redesign with new coil over shocks and disc brakes in all four corners. The rear suspension uses a set of ladder bars to hook up. After putting new Lexan windows in, a fresh fiberglass hood, deck lid and front fenders were added, and once the dieting had ended, the car was below 2600 pounds.
Inside is a typical spartan bracket-car ‘office,’ with aluminum panels and seats, a Cal Custom steering wheel and easy-to-reach controls. The tach and gauges in the fiberglass dash came from Auto Meter, and a Turbo Action Cheetah SCS shifter is used for the gear shifts. After Lenny finished the bodywork, friend John Sheppard got the call to lay down black paint on the exterior and John’s brother Todd handled the flames and graphics.
“I work for John, and we have a spray booth at the metal work shop, and I asked if we could paint the car there. Once he saw the project, he wanted to do it himself.”