The Lone Mopar: A Visit With Street Outlaws’ “Dominator”

The cast of Discovery Channel’s Street Outlaws is, for lack of a better term, colorful. There are some wild personalities, and that covers the cars and the drivers. As the show has come into its own as the most-watched drag racing program on television, characters have been introduced, developed, and even forgotten.

Since the very beginning, there has been a strong core of racers that have been all over the 405’s Top 10 List, and most of them you’ve learned about in an intimate way thanks to their flashy personalities, on-screen antics, and even their televised fist fights. But one mainstay in the show’s cast that you might not know a whole lot about is Joe Woods.

Although he might be more recognizable to Street Outlaws fans as Dominator, Woods is a fabricator, car collector, and an incredible wealth of automotive knowledge, as well as an extremely accomplished street racer.

Joe "Dominator" Woods is a regular on Discovery Channel's Street Outlaws. Outside the show, Joe is a fabricator, car collector, and automotive enthusiast.

Joe “Dominator” Woods is a regular on Discovery Channel’s Street Outlaws. Outside the show, Joe is a fabricator, car collector, and automotive enthusiast.

“I grew up as the son of a man that never stopped working other than to eat, and then it was back outside working on cars and trucks to either make an extra dollar or just get to work the next day,” Joe explains. “I was the little runt that was hooked and wouldn’t get out of the way, so my dad or my uncle gave me a carburetor that he had the bolts broken loose on and they said ‘here, take this apart.’

In days I could take it apart and put it back together and take it apart again with my eyes closed; but then I had a list of questions about how and why it worked the way it did. From that point on, they were in trouble. I was also very blessed in the aspect that my dad and my uncle were part of a well-rounded group of guys that built engines and rearends, were painters, exhaust guys, and fabricators. So, I owe everything that I am to an amazing group of guys from Ark City, Kansas, and to this day I can’t thank them enough.”

Dominator's 1967 Dodge Dart is mainstay on the 405's Top 10 List.

Dominator’s 1967 Dodge Dart is a mainstay on the 405’s Top 10 List.

Joe’s automotive influences stem from the American iron of the early muscle car era. He came of age when coveted classics and the rare barn finds of today were abundant and cruising the boulevards looking for some action.

“I grew up in the backyard shade tree mechanic world of the 1970s where ‘60s model GTOs, Road Runners, Super Bees, Chevelles, and Camaros weren’t but 10 years old and the Tri-5 Chevys were being cut up and either slammed down low or getting straight axles — and slots were the must-have wheels,” Joe says, reminiscing in his more formative years.

Joe’s first car was a 1956 Chevy Bel Air that he had in high school. Its running gear was a solid combination by today’s standards, with a 12.5:1, 331 cubic inch small-block Chevrolet under the hood backed by a TH400 and 9-inch rearend with 4.56 gears — and he still has the car sitting in his garage today. And, as if that weren’t enough history, we stumbled across a set of fenders and a door of the same vintage in his shop with similar paint. As it turns out, he had a street racing incident way back when and mowed down nearly 20 fence posts with the car.

Dominator's first car was a '56 Chevy Bel Air, and he still has it! We stumbled across the beat up fenders and door and it turns out the damage stemmed from a street racing accident back when he was in high school.

When you walk around Joe’s property, there are cars and automotive artifacts everywhere. As a car guy, it’s always great to see a lot of old desirable cars and trucks, but Joe’s collection takes it to a whole new level. Not only does he have a slew of cars, but most of them have extremely interesting stories behind them — and Joe knows the ins and out of each one.

“I’ve owned 24 cars at one time,” he tells us. “Before you start thinking it’s because I’m rich, it’s only because they’re not finished and nowhere near it. I buy parts cars so that if I need them, I have them. I own Darts, Novas, Road Runners, even own a 1966 426 Hemi Satellite. My wife drives a 1968 Firebird, we have a 1968 El Camino and a 1956 wagon or two. I just pick them up when it’s a good deal with the intention of fixing them up and selling them. The problem is, I love cars and just can’t seem to sell them. So, my toy box is full. If I had money I would have a shop full of finished cruisers instead of a yard full of projects…but they’re mine.”

One particular car in his collection jumped out at us. It might have been because it came from an amazing period in custom cars, or it might be the patina, or perhaps it was the mural emblazoned on its doors.

Joe's Dominator moniker came from this classic custom sedan delivery.

Joe’s Dominator moniker came from this classic custom sedan delivery.

“I got the name Dominator because of a Sedan Delivery from the 1960s and ’70s that was called Dominator,” explains… well, Dominator. “My buddy has a website for old-school nostalgia stuff and when my wife set up an account for me, I needed a name. Well, we used Dominator, and when I found the Midwest Streetcars web site I just used the same name, and it just stuck.”

The Sedan Delivery graced the pages of many magazines, appearing in Hot Rod, Street Rodder, and Van Craze, to name a few. The car was built by Wild Child's Body Shop in Missouri and unveiled at Starbirds car show. The over-the-top paint, body work, and interior are original. Although extremely weathered, you can still get a real sense of the amount work that went into this classic custom.

Which brings us to the other star of this show—Dominator’s Dodge Dart.

The car is a 1967 Dodge Dart that’s all steel, except for the front bumper, hood, and deck lid. It has a bone-stock Mustang II front end with Santhuff shocks, and the motor is now a Brodix aluminum 10.2 deck block with 18-degree Big Chief heads. It has a Crower crank from 1990, a set of Carrillo rods, and CP pistons wrapped with Total Seal rings and King bearings. The valvetrain is a little Crower solid roller with 0.735/0.750 lift, Crower 903 bushed lifters, Trend pushrods, and T&D shaft-mount rockers with a Jesel belt drive.

The car now has Haltech engine management system that controls the fuel injection, as well as all of the cdi ignition duties. The system uses Fuel Injection Development injectors that are fed methanol at 100 psi by a belt-driven Aeromotive fuel pump. In place of the nitrous oxide combination Street Outlaws viewers are familiar with, it also now feature twin Turbonetics 88mm turbos, with the boost is controlled by Turbosmart wastegates and blowoff valves. All of the headers and piping were completed by Woods himself, and all flanges and piping came from Woolf Aircraft Products.

A PTC TH400 transmission with a reverse valve body, a PTC bolt-together torque converter, and a PST carbon fiber driveshaft comprise the driveline. The rearend is a fab-9 style housing that Woods built with Moser axles and center section, with Wilwood 4-piston calipers.

The Dart rolls on stylish Billet Specialties Comp Series wheels. The car has no problem hooking on the street and Dominator tells us he recently got down the road with 37 pounds of boost.

“Scott and Scotty McCubbin handled all the body work and painted my car at GW & Sons. As soon as we make some changes to the body, Auto Body Reconditioning of Edmond will be repainting the car, which is run by the McCubbin family.”

Dominator plans to have two different sets of doors and front ends. The new body work will be lightweight components specifically designed for when he’s racing the car. The original steel bodywork will simply bolt on the same way the lightweight stuff does, but it will be meant for street outings and cruise nights. This will allow for the original roll-up window functionality and fitment of the original panels. It will all be interchangeable with six bolts and the swap will take less than five minutes.

The interior is all business.

The interior is all business. Creature comforts are kept to a minimum, and Dominator has easy access to everything needed for tuning and driving duties.

Being the only Mopar on Street Outlaws, and knowing how dedicated and fanatical the Mopar faithful are (your author once received death threats over some magazine shenanigans with a junk Dodge Charger parts car), the fact that this Dodge has Chevrolet power has struck a chord with some purists. Woods defends his choice, however, telling us it’s easier and significantly cheaper to make power with a bowtie engine compared to equivalent Mopar powerplants. But can a big-block Chevy really be better than the mighty Hemi?

I do catch a lot of grief from the purists — my uncle included — about the fact that the car doesn’t have a Mopar engine in it.

“I do catch a lot of grief from the purists — my uncle included — about the fact that the car doesn’t have a Mopar engine in it,” Joe states. “Sadly, the only major development in today’s advanced world of Chrysler-based cylinder heads is in the Hemi or a Predator head. Variety is just not there, and when you spend $10,000 on cylinder heads and $5,000 on rocker arms alone, it doesn’t take long to understand that if you’re on a small budget, the Mopar isn’t in the budget for now.

“However,” Joe continues, “this is a touchy subject for me, because not one single part of my engine is genuine from GM, and if it ever gets that big Mopar engine, that will all be all-aftermarket, as well. Sadly, no matter what engine it has, it will always be attached to a GM transmission and a Ford-style rearend. That’s the funny thing about the diehards: they don’t care what transmission and rearend the car has, but it better have a Mopar under the hood.”

Dominator's Dart is motivated by a twin turbocharged 632-inch big-block Chevy engine. He's taken some flack from the Mopar faithful for his vehicle and drivetrain combination, but he says this is what he needs to do to make power on the budget that he has.

“To me it’s crazy when it’s not an all-Mopar drivetrain. But my main goal is to eventually have the Mopar engine, because I do get it. It’s just that, without sponsors covering the debt, this is what I have had to do to go this fast. Some have even said that I should sell my car and buy a Chevrolet, and I’ve thought about it after years of the same old argument, but the reality is that I like my car and I didn’t build it to make everyone else happy,” he says emphatically.

The engine is backed by a Reid case TH400. This trans handles all the power from the Big-Block and Turbonetics twins.

The engine is backed by a TH400 housed inside a Reid case. This transmission more than adequately handles all of the power from the big-block and Turbonetics twins.

With such an extensive car collection and an incredible race car, you might wonder what Joe does for a living. The correct answer would be just about anything racecar related. Dominator’s main building is a full chassis and fabrication shop. It houses some of the cars that he’s stashed away for a rainy day, but also his racecar (which was completely pulled apart for service while we were there) and a slew of customer’s cars that range from tubbed street trucks to full-blown drag radial cars.

This was one of the most interesting parts of our time with Woods, as no matter where you looked, there was something you wanted to see, and if you asked about it, there was probably a compelling story behind it. There were engines, transmission, odd headers, body panels, interior pieces … you name it, and Joe probably has it. But the cars, they really steal the show.

Dominator's shop is full of awesome projects. We love this big-block Chevy S-10!

“My shop is full of a wide variety of cars being built,” he tells us. “There’s a blown, back-halved, shortbed pickup, a big tire stepside with a roll cage, and even a wild 25.2/25.3 drag radial car that will be a very serious contender next season.”

This third-gen Pontiac Trans Am is being built into an all-out race car for the drag radial ranks. Joe tells us the car is going to debut next year and should be extremely competitive.

Our favorite car being built, though, was a 2012 Camaro that’s getting a 25.2/25.3 back half and keeping all of the factory interior. The attention to detail is incredible, and all you need to see is the work put in to how the dash bar runs through the factory dash to really understand this.

Our favorite car was this back-halved 25.2-spec 2012 Camaro. The will have all of the racecar chassis, yet retain all of the factory Camaro amenities. We can't wait to see it when it's finished!

“I do anything and everything except transmissions and paint work,” Joe explains. “I’ve installed headliners and interior, done plumbing and wiring of nitrous systems. We do headers and turbo piping to complete exhaust systems in aluminum, stainless, or titanium. We build everything from pieces for customers to turn-key cars.”

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With everything he’s got going on in the shop, maintaining his race car, and filming the show, it’s a wonder that Joe has time for much else.

The show has slowed my work down, as now we have a complete racecar to maintain. Normally this isn’t any big deal, but when we film two and three days a week, it does get overwhelming.

“The show has slowed my work down, as now we have a complete racecar to maintain,” he explains. “Normally this isn’t any big deal, but when we film two and three days a week, it does get overwhelming. I truly wouldn’t change it for the world, though, as we’ve been a big part of getting people back out in the streets and cruising, racing, and just building cars. Hopefully, they’re teaching the next generation. I’m part of a group that’s managed to push one another every day, and it never stops.

“When we get downtime, if you don’t already have a plan to make your car faster, you’re not going to go up the list, you’re going to go down it. It’s been a crazy ride, this show, to say the least.”

While Street Outlaws has made Woods — or the Dominator moniker and his familiar Dart, rather — famous, it’s his passion for racing and race car building, not the show itself, that truly defines him. It’s what got him where he is, and it’s what will take him beyond the lifespan of the show, however long that may be, of the show.

“When the show does come to an end, I’ll do the same thing that I’ve done all my life — build cars,” he says in closing. “Street rods, cruisers, drag cars, it doesn’t matter. That’s just what I love to do.”

About the author

Pete Epple

Pete Epple has been an automotive enthusiast for the better part of 30 years, and a racer for nearly as long. He's been writing about cars for nearly 10 years.
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