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Altered Wheelbase How-To

The inspiration for all this is Jack Sharkey’s “Rampage” (above). Based on a 1964 Dart, the “Rampage” started life with a stock wheelbase and 426 Max Wedge / 4-speed transplant in mid-1964. By early 1965, a Race Hemi, 727 Torqueflite and radical wheelbase surgery had transformed “Rampage” into a feared match race exhibition stocker. We dig the cool checkerboard paint scheme but could live without the funky grill and covered headlamps.

We’ve got funny car fever. Nope, we’re not talkin’ ‘bout John Force’s 8000 horsepower flip-top, we’re talkin’ ‘bout real funny cars. The originals with opening doors, steel shells and altered wheelbases. And while most Mopar fanatics assume the fleet of factory altered 1965 Coronet and Belvedere B-Bodies were the start of it all, it’s a fact that several altered wheelbase A-Body funny cars were assembled and run by independent racers (read: non-factory assisted) as early as September of 1964.

Numerous vintage magazine articles exist that depict funnied 1964 Dodge Darts like Jack Sharkey’s Chicago-based Esserman Dodge “Rampage”, Billy Jacobs’ “Kid Goat” and the Liberty Motors “Corruptor’s Pup”, both out of Alabama. The thing these cars have in common is they were first campaigned with Max Wedge power and standard 111-inch wheelbases. They were a sort of grass roots response to the 427 Ford Falcons and Thunderbolts. Before long, each of these Darts – and plenty more including Charlie Allen, Dick Landy, Bud Faubel, Gene Snow and the Ramchargers – sprouted Race Hemis and altered wheelbases as the wild run-what-ya-brung Southern-style match race circuit heated up.

If you’ve always wanted your own altered wheelbase Mopar but were afraid it’s too challenging, relax. We moved the rear suspension one-foot forward on this 1963 Dart in a mere three days. True, the process requires some basic welding skills and equipment, but it isn’t rocket science. Follow along and see for yourself. And remember, while the subject vehicle is a Mopar A-Body, the same principles and techniques apply to larger Mopar B-Bodies, or just about any unit-construction car, regardless of make.

Here’s the before shot. In L.A. you can still score rust-free cars like this 1963 Dart 270 Sedan for under a grand. Always start with the cleanest car you can as rusty cars drastically complicate the process and add a ton of work. The Dart’s Slant Six – 904 – 7-1/4 driveline will give way to a Max Wedge and pushbutton Torqueflite for this street and strip capable mauler.

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