Twin-turbo injected 451/6-speed ’67 Charger is just the ticket for daily transport.
By Scott Longman Photos by TheBruntBros
Randy Barrett is one squared away guy and has been for a long time. Actually, since the age of ten. His ten-year-old-self had three critical characteristics: 1) good character – he knew about education and work ethic, 2) good judgment – he knew about deferred gratification and 3) good taste in old Mopars, which is fortunate, because we here at Mopar Action don’t know anything about the first two. One day, Randy was pedaling his bike by a junkyard’s “maybe salvageable” car lot in his hometown of Helena, Montana. In the middle of it was a ’67 Charger 383 car. It was painted three shades of yellow and had hail damage, but against that group of forgettable ‘70s transport boxes, it stood out like a redwood growing out of a Chia-Pet. It was big and long and low, its giant slab sides defined by a missile imprint, and the fastback looked like it was already through the sound barrier. His ten-year-old-self made a note to grow up and buy that car, then pedaled off to play baseball, hang out with his buddy Neil Bowlds, and flirt unsuccessfully with a girl named Tasha.
Eight years of hard work later, Randy was a solvent 18-year-old. And he discovered, against all expectation that the Charger was still sitting in exactly the same spot. Since Helena is a halfway decent climate, it hadn’t succumbed to massive rust. Of course, his ten-year-old-self fired right up, was delighted, and promptly ordered him to buy the thing, which he did. He drove it home on maybe 7 cylinders and got to work.
Randy got some help from his dad, Bruce, who had misspent his own youth wrenching with a Mopar factory Super Stock racer named Dave Wren. What followed was a lot of hard work and trouble with the car. And to add to the headache, since it was his daily driver, Randy ran into a problem with the jobs that would leave the car out of service for weeks. Randy’s ten-year-old-self stepped right in with the answer: drive it in the winter, do the big, tough jobs during the summers and go back to the bike to get around. During those four long years, Randy kept up his wildly unsuccessful efforts with Tasha. He concluded that she was causing him as much trouble as the Charger was. So he short-circuited the process by naming the Charger “Tasha” and finding another girl.
Eventually, Randy not only got Tasha running, he managed to put the car on special driver status when he got a ’73 Dart for commuting. It was just as well, because sometime shortly after that, he got a job offer halfway across the continent, where he would continue to use his ten-year-old virtues by making a huge success of himself. After a few years of that, he pulled the Charger out of storage in Montana, and brought it to Hoosierland.
In that process, he met another wonderful girl and dated her in the Charger. He decided that she was The One, and he got her to marry him. She must be great, because she has the confidence and the humor to approve of him still calling the car Tasha. The couple even used the Charger to bring their first-born home from the hospital.
Well, one day, his ten-year-old-self was upending the cigar box where Randy keeps the legal tender, and noted that he was just beating the hell out of the old paper-route days. Which, of course, got him thinking about an engine swap. And Randy thinks big.
We’ll admit it. We were so late to the turbo party that the sun was rising and somebody had already called the carpet cleaners. For years, we thought turbos were invented by Lee Iacocca. We were vaguely aware that they had something to do with the HVAC system, like maybe blow air on you to keep you from going into a decade-long coma starting in about ’79. Nope, when we thought of performance, it was two words: “big block.” And if you wanted more, it was “bigger block.”
Well, Randy is an ideas guy, the kind of guy who can revolutionize things by thinking “hey, what if we feed the mayonnaise directly TO the tuna fish?” Same concept: “what if we put the turbo ON a big block?” Then his ten-year-old-self reminded him that it had been a long time coming, so why not make it TWO turbos? And an intercooler. And a Spiderman comic book. And maybe some other cool stuff.
So he did. In various stages over several years, Randy got a ’77 400 block, and threw in a 440 crank with machined journals. To keep from punching craters in his nice, Indiana roads, he went with billet caps, ARP hardware, a block girdle and 9.5:1 forged pistons. On the top end, it got Edelbrock heads with a Hughes Engine Stage II port job, and an Edelbrock Victor intake. The next big step was figuring what turbos to use. A buddy of Randy’s was deep into Government Motors units, and he ended up recommending T3-T4 hybrids, using a Buick Regal style housing. He decided to set ‘em up for 10 pounds of boost and an intercooler.
So far, so good. But here’s where the ten-year-old boy really shows up. Picture if a space alien handed a hypertech box to a ten-year-old, and explained that it could immediately bring about world peace, provide unlimited energy, and could desalinize water on command. Of course, the first thing the boy would do is take it apart to see how it worked. Same thing here, only in reverse: there was no way he was farming this out – he was going to make it work. So he got one buddy who machines things, and he called up his old bud Neil, who knows about EFI. They took some time off to nail a squirrel with a BB gun and build a treehouse, and then they set about making it work.
Turbos mean piping, and custom turbos mean custom piping, and twin custom turbos would make us say the hell with it and install a nitrous system instead. There are up-pipes and down-pipes and sideways-pipes and flanges and exits and valves and solenoids and there’s even a secret passage to the old Executive Office Building which was probably put in during the Truman administration. Amazingly, Randy and his dad fabbed all of it themselves. And of course, all that takes room, so they took the power brake booster and stuffed it in the treehouse, then came up with a remote master cylinder. While he was at it, he stuck the battery in the trunk.
After some work with the Autronic SM2 controller and establishing an incomplete baseline tune, they gingerly drove Tasha around for a year or so without ever getting into boost which, come to think of it, seems to be pretty much what’d happened with the carbon-based Tasha, too. Anyway, finally this year, Randy got the car to a good chassis dyno, and they got it almost completely dialed in.
Right. So this turbo thing actually works. It’s kinda like blowing on a campfire, if your campfire was in a coffee can and you channeled Hurricane Katrina into it, but with less looting. On 93 octane and a conservative tune, the new setup produced a whomping 729 rear wheel horsepower, which more or less translates into about 850 at the flywheel. Or to put that another way, it’s like he’s running TWO second generation Hemis.
Although a good, healthy driveline explosion can be more fun than slingshotting frogs at your sister, Randy opted for a beefy Spec Stage III clutch from Keisler, which he splined onto an equally beefy Viper T-56. That, in turn, whips around an Inland three-inch aluminum driveshaft, which keeps things from blowing up with the T-56’s 0.50 overdrive. However, Randy didn’t want to completely foreclose the prospects of at least one good Bikini-Atoll ka-boom, so he left the stock 8 ¾ rear end, with 3.23s and Sure-Grip – although his to-do list does have Strange’s phone number on it.
All the good judgment that he showed at age ten meant that Tasha got a serious brake upgrade, with a Viper conversion up front, even though the car weighs the same as it did with the 383/auto setup. The good judgment further extended to a set of welded subframe connectors and a six-point rollbar. He put the rollbar in early in the process, when he went to cut the 18×24 inch hole in the floor (and the crossmember) that the Viper trans needed – he was afraid that without it, the car would go all origami on him. The suspension is stock torsion bars up front, and a set of new superstock springs at the opposite end. Randy left the wheelwells stock, which means the tires can’t get too outrageous, which means that their traction will always be limited which means he don’ need no pinion snubber or Caltracs or even a trunkful of Mopar Action back issues.
On the inside, Tasha’s dash is stock, with the exception of the tach and some extra gauges. He even left the original gear selector, to compliment the new clutch pedal and floor shifter. The door panels, headliner and brightwork are original. In his early work on the car, he put black crushed velour on the front seats, which we think is as good an idea as leaving the 8 ¾” stock. For the cargo area under the fastback, he went with new carpet sporting a Pentastar and Charger logo. It puts Bill Clinton’s El Camino with Astroturf to shame.
So: has he run it in the quarter? Not yet. There’s a little more tuning left to be done. Plus, he’s got to make some really big thank-you phone calls to Bruce, Dave and Neil. But there’s no question he will eventually pull some timeslips: his ten-year-old-self wouldn’t have it any other way.