Ever since he was a boy of just five years old, Ken Riddle has been filled with a love for all things Mopar. His prized possession now is a 1969 Dodge Dart known as “Enemy.” The Dart is the culmination of many painstaking hours spent in the shop building the street car to run hard at every dragstrip and to look good cruising the countless miles in between.
Growing up in the early 1970s, Riddle was inspired by his father and his father’s employees to start a life of drag racing and, ultimately, entrepreneurship of his own. The first car he ever owned was a 1968 Dodge Coronet, and that car led him to later acquire several 1968 and ’69 Darts, various Plymouth Roadrunners, Dodge Daytonas and Super Bees, and Chargers. “I always seem to go back to the body style that I have now, though,” he reminisces of the Mopars he maintained over the years.
Riddle obtained his latest 1969 Dart through a friend. “He did drag-and-drive events back in the early 2000s, and the ’69 Dart has always been a favorite,” Riddle details of what prompted the purchase. “It’s been a work in progress ever since. I’m always changing it and continuously trying to make it faster and more competitive.”
Although Riddle’s Dart has seen drag use on and off for several decades, he has only been competing in drag-and-drive competitions for the last 10 years. Originally, he ran the Dart with a generous dose of nitrous oxide onboard, then swapped it to a blower configuration before finally settling on its current turbocharged setup.
“It got its name, ‘Enemy,’ because it blew up three weekends in a row due to a tiny crack in the block that took forever to find,” laughs Riddle, who even has a custom Arizona vanity license plate to match the moniker.
Thanks to his day job – owner of Kenny’s Exhaust Works in Arizona – Riddle is more than capable with pipework and welding. He built the big tire, back-half car and handled almost every part of the process himself.
Riddle assembled the Mopar LA cast iron 360 small-block and bored it out to accommodate a displacement of 408 cubic inches. A Mopar Performance 4-inch stroker crank slings JE piston-topped Eagle H-beam connecting rods to a compression ratio of 8.5:1. The Edelbrock cylinder heads hold a plethora of parts such as 160/202 Edelbrock stainless-steel valves, Harland-Sharp rocker arms, and Edelbrock springs and retainers.
He buttoned up the bullet using ARP fasteners and capped each bank of cylinders with classic Mopar Performance valve covers. Next, Riddle installed an Edelbrock Air-Gap intake manifold in the valley and a Quick Fuel Technology 650cfm blow-through carburetor that sits atop the showpiece
Putting his exhaust fabrication skills to work, Riddle custom-built a set of headers to feed and expel the hot air from the single 76mm turbocharger system. Ancillary components, including dual Precision wastegates and a TiAL blow-off valve, keep boost levels in check whenever Riddle gets a little rowdy on the go pedal. Finally, he repurposed an intercooler from a Dodge truck to complete the forced induction system.
Riddle took care to ensure the engine would receive proper amounts of oil and fuel so that it would be able to withstand the grueling punishment that drag-and-drive events put on performance vehicles. He did all of the plumbing with Earl’s fittings and hoses and took care to ensure that a Melling high-volume oil pump was included. For fuel, the Dart was outfitted with two separate fuel pumps, one for race and one for street, along with a 12-gallon Jaz Products fuel tank, Aeromotive regulator, and an MSD 6AL-2 ignition control system to assist in combusting the contents.
Rounding out the powertrain, Riddle backed the engine with a Gear Vendors overdrive-equipped Turbo 400 automatic transmission from Hughes Performance and ProTorque converter. Power is transferred to the Moser rearend housing by way of an aluminum driveshaft, and the Strange aluminum thirdmember and Moser axles help it finish the journey to the pavement.
When it came to upgrading the Dart’s suspension, Riddle chose to keep things mostly stock and pay homage to the muscle car’s original form. “I’m running a stock front suspension and only lightly modified the rear with Strange double-adjustable coilovers,” he notes of the setup. “I’ve also got Strange brakes in the rear and factory discs up front.”
Inside, Riddle once again stuck with a no-frills style for his Dart. “I chose stock black upholstery and factory floors with Jaz bucket race seats,” shares the owner, who has everything he needs to run 8-second passes well within reach.
An Autometer Pro-Comp race dash, matching Autometer gauges, Grant steering wheel, and performance shifter were minor additions while still staying true to the car’s original vibe. Even the sun-beaten and weather-cracked dash add a subtle ambiance that contributes to the legitimacy of the Dart’s street-legal status.
Outside, the “less is more” theme continues. The rear deck has been accented with a subtle drag-style wing, but it’s the shorty wheelie bar setup and Deist Safety single parachute that hint at the performance capabilities of the deceptively unassuming street-legal Mopar muscle car
Finally, Riddle had his good friend, Gary Goodrich, spray the Dodge Forest Metallic Green hue over his handiwork. “It’s still a steel body but I added a fiberglass hood and front bumper,” he states.
A veteran drag-and-drive competitor who has raced all over the country and at prestigious gatherings such as Drag Week, Riddle ran in the inaugural Sick Week event in 2022 and handled the tune up of his 1969 Dodge Dart himself. “I always run Pro Street and I feel the biggest victory is to be competitive with a small cubic-inch motor,” says Riddle, who enjoys producing big, smokey burnouts with his Hoosier rubber-wrapped Weld wheels.
Impressively, he finished fourth in class with an overall average of 9.639-seconds and 138.74 mph, although he has previously run as quick as 8.77-seconds in the 1/4-mile at 152 mph. “My ultimate goal is to run in the 7-second zone, and I’ll hopefully make that happen at the next Hot Rod Drag Week or Sick Week once my 426 ci Hemi goes in,” affirms Riddle.
Regardless of what he winds up running, Riddle’s street-legal 1969 Dodge Dart is the result of many years of hard work, dedication, and help from those closest to him including his wife, everyone at Don’s Hot Rod Shop, and the team at Chuck Hawk Automotive.
Car: 1969 Dodge Dart
Chassis: Ken Riddle back-half
Engine: Ken Riddle 408 cubic inches
Cylinder Heads: Edelbrock
Crankshaft: Mopar Performance 4-inch stroker
Rods: Eagle H-beam
Power Adder: Turbocharger
Transmission: Hughes Performance Turbo 400
Torque Converter: ProTorque
Fuel Management: Fast 650 blow-through carburetor
Suspension: Strange Engineering double-adjustable coilovers
Brakes: Strange Engineering
Tires: Hoosier (rear) and Goodyear (front)
Quickest E.T.: 8.77-seconds
Fastest MPH: 152 mph