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Hello from N.E. Wisconsin

1115 Views 2 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  MoparNorm
I am a 3rd generation Lifetime Mopar owner. Both of my grandfathers owned Mopar vehicles and my father also owned several Mopars.

As a way of introduction, I decided to tell you about one of my Mopar projects. So, read and enjoy the victories of an early Mopar muscle car (well before the GTO).

When my brother and I were in High School, we put a 1958 Chrysler Spitfire engine into the family's 1953 four door Desoto Firedome which my brother bought from my parents after blowing the original Hemi engine.

It was quite a job putting an engine from a 12 volt auto into a body that was wired for 6 volts. We ran two 6 volt batteries in series to provide voltage for both systems.

The original driveline setup included what was then called a Tip Toe Hydraulic transmission and required a clutch for all shifting except for the shift into the high forward gear. So it was well suited for the 3 speed racing standard transmission which we installed.

Hooking the tranny to the rear end was quite the ordeal though. We had to get parts from three different vehicles and have them welded together and balanced by a machine shop. At that time (1959) the price was $300.00 which was quite a bit of money. If I remember correctly, the engine out of the one year old Chrysler was about $30 and we paid about $7 for the used but retired racing transmission.

After the changeover was complete, it was possible to spin the tires from a standstill in any one of the three gears without giving it much gas. So we had to put on oversized tires and load the gigantic trunk with bags of sand to get the tires to bite and move the car.

In the town we lived in, there was a one mile strip of road that was used for dragging as it was one mile from a traffic light controlled intersection to a teenage (beer only) bar. The tradition was to drag from the light to the bar where the winner ordered a case of his favorite beer and the loser paid for it and all involved consumed the case of beer. Rather low bet (no titles involved) but all great fun.

The first car that we took on and beat by quite a length was a car owned by the son of the Chevy dealer in town. His car was a fairly new 1958 Chev Impala with the biggest engine available. The guy must have been quite embarrassed as he didn't stop to pay for the beer so we ordered and paid for our own beer. He never knew that our engine was the same year as his and most likely well matched. Except for the fact that our car could develop much greater torque due to the rear end gearing allowing the engine to windup faster, he should have been able to keep up with us. But he could not so I guess it embarrassed him that he was beat by a 1953 four door sedan.

Just to give you an idea how powerful the setup was and how much torque it developed I need to say that the custom fabricated driveshaft could not stand up to the torque. All components were heavy duty and the main section came from a large Dodge truck (dump truck). But it twisted in half like a beer can under all the abuse of a drag race. I was in the Navy at the time and my brother got another center section and had the driveshaft rebuilt. He drove it until he twisted the driveshaft one more time and decided to sell the car. He sold it to a guy that had another driveshaft built to the same specs and we lost contact with him so we never knew what happened to the car.

Several years latter (around 25 years) my son and I were going through a bone yard that was crushing all the cars in the yard. All were 1958 or older (that was the latest model of car that we found) and most of them were Mopars. The guy that started the yard had died and it was sold to a company that was only interested in the license to scrap metal. As we were looking for parts for our cars, we came across a car that was the same model and color scheme as the '53 Desoto. We decided to find out if it was the same car and we had to pry the hood open as it was all rusted up. Sure enough, there were two 6 volt batteries and a Chrysler Spitfire engine under the hood. This was all too coincidental to be a different car. So, we pried the doors open and found a twisted off driveshaft on the back seat floor. When we pried the trunk open, there was another twisted off driveshaft which we assumed was the second one twisted off by my brother as the first one was used for its front and rear yokes.
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Welcome to Allpar. What a great story. My Dad owned a couple of Desotos when I was a kid and my brother that is 15 years older than me also had one. Dad favored the four doors with seven kids, but Jim had a two door Fireflite with the 361. It was a pretty fast car.
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