Clifford “Buckshot” Cake from Madera Ranchos, California, was working on stuffing a 440 cubic-inch engine under the hood of a 1967 Dodge Dart when he got an interesting call about a 1969 Dodge Charger.
The owner, a friend of his, was ready to part ways with the car and asked if anyone would be interested in taking it off his hands for a few hundred dollars.
Cake, in a previous life, worked as a tune-up and line mechanic for several Mopar dealers from 1970 to 1982 when he decided it was time to do something a little more serious than test driving Hemi ‘Cudas and Road Runners all day.
“I got to work on muscle cars when they were new,” Cake said, adding that he developed a love for Mopar that’s stuck with him. “There’s something about them I am not able to resist.”
Cake was intrigued by the call and expected he would find a car that had been neglected, stored outside with its windows down for decades, rat-infested and something that would resemble more of a rust bucket than a car. Much to his surprise, he found a unicorn: a one-owner, numbers-matching car in a very solid condition.
The Charger had 190,000 miles on its original 318 cubic-inch engine and transmission. The Charger still wore its “day two” slot mag wheels and its original Polyglass GT tires still held air.
The car had sat in a shed since 2000.
The original owner was the seller’s wife, she loved the car and refused to sell it. Once she became too ill to drive it was parked in the shed where it remained until she passed.
The car went home with Cake and his Dart was pushed off to the side, in part, because Cake gave the owner all the money he had set aside for his project car. The Dart had been a work in progress after it was purchased sight unseen with the intention of turning it into a hot rod.
According to Cake, the Dart had a cracked engine block and lacked a transmission when it came into his possession, but the floors, trunk, and undercarriage were rust-free.
Cake had already rebuilt the front suspension, converted all four corners to disc brakes, and upgraded the rear end to an 8.8-inch Ford rear fitted with 3.73 gears.
Additionally, Cake already had relocated the leaf springs and added sub-frame connectors.
Under the hood of his Dart-turned-hot-rod is a 440-cubic inch engine that’s been bored .030, decked, line bored, balanced and blueprinted, with Keith Black 11:1 pistons, a steel crank, and Comp Cams ‘bump stick.’
Dave’s Performance in Fresno, California performed machine work on the Dart’s block while Cake did the heads and assembly. The cast iron factory heads have been ported, with Manley valves.
Other highlights include a Weiand tunnel ram intake with dual Edelbrock 750 carbs that stick proudly out of the hood. A four-row aluminum radiator with custom shroud and dual electric fans keep it cool. A Mopar A-833 four-speed adds the fun quotient.
The Dart sits on a set of Wheel Vintiques “steelies” sized 15-inches in diameter and 10-inches wide. A 6-inch negative offset allows for 12-inch tires to sit within the stock wheel wells.
Cake had just started adding a full roll cage in the Dart when the 1969 Dodge Charger came into his garage.
It took a fuel system flush, major tune-up, and carb overhaul to have it run well but everything on the chassis was worn – although the hide-away headlights and factory A/C worked. Cake serviced the transmission, rear end, and replaced the carpet as well as seat covers and dash pad.
Rust was found in the usual places and resulted in some pannel replacements which included the lower quarter panel behind the passenger side rear wheel and a small area over the driver’s side rear wheel. The frame rails, floors, and trunk were in great shape, which made work go much faster.
Cake is nearly finished with the project. The body is undergoing its final guide coat and block sanding before paint, and a new black vinyl top is slated for install. A date-coded engine and transmission are ready to be dropped in.
Cake promised the former owner a ride in the car when it is finished. Cake says once it’s done he will focus on the Dart and get it ready for some fun at the Eagle Field Runway Drags next spring.
What do you think about Cake’s project cars? Let us know in the comments below and send us an email if you have a project of your own.