HARDCORE

How does a British born with West Indies heritage professional DJ living in Australia end up owning one tough American-built Plymouth Road Runner? Born in 1962 in Manchester, England to Barbados born and bred parents, Carl Cox always had an affinity for anything that was powered under its own steam.

“I can remember making a toy out of a cotton spool, two match sticks and a rubber band in the middle to drive it. We would wind it up and watch it go and that just intrigued me. My dad had a Ford Zodiac, Mk2 and 3, all sorts of amazing cars from the late 60s into 70s and he would put me on his lap and I would steer the cars and think that was fantastic! That’s what really got me into cars.”

As a teenager, Carl found himself torn between his love of music and his fascination with the automotive world.

“I also had the music pulling me in as well. Friends were into football, going out and at the end of the day, going to discos. While my profession now is as a professional DJ, behind it all I always wanted to be a professional race car driver. I got into bikes when I first had a license but too many motorbike friends were dying, so I decided to get a car instead. I didn’t just want any old car so I built my own that I could drive on the streets but also race on the drag strip. That was a MK1 Capri 3000E with a V6, the same as what I’m still racing in today! We never had Mustangs and Camaros in the UK. People who loved them would bring them into the country and you’d see them coming as they’d take up the whole road. Our own muscle cars were the V6 Capris.”

“I was always into American movies with cars in them; Bullit, American Graffiti, Duel, etc, anything with a car chase in it. Then Mad Max came out and that was it. I was curious what the Aussies were up to and discovered that what was muscle here (Australia) was also muscle in America. While I still have a car culture interest back home, living here has allowed me to expand my own collection and passion, more so here than anywhere else in the world. This is where I can have all my cars and bikes and get back into drag racing again and see how far I can take it. I also enjoy the cruise nights and meeting people of the same ilk. My car collection is based on what I aspired to as a kid and what I can afford now. Some are left original and some are modified, even if it’s just to be safer.”

While a far cry from the brutish presence of a road thumping Mopar, Carl’s first real muscle car that he purchased back in the homeland was a 1989 Mercedes Benz 560 SEC and, although it hails from Germany, to Carl the big saloon consisted of the three fundamentals that make up a muscle car; a front engine, a V8 and is a coupe. Carl still owns this car today.

Chasing down his ideal Mopar was proving to be a challenge as the highly sort after classics don’t come up for sale too often and when they do, they don’t stay on the market for long.

“I’d been chasing a ‘69 for a while and every time I’d find one, it’d either be really expensive or just been sold, so I thought I’m going to leave that car for now. About eight years ago, Milan Dokic, an importer brought it in and the boys knew I was after one. I was in Sydney at the time and on my way home when a friend of mine, Andrew Nissin sent me a video of himself in the car and letting me know it was for sale. He’s sitting in the car, revving it up and fat arming it and I said ‘Where’s that!?’ He told me where it was and I asked if it had been sold yet, to which he replied, ‘We’re waiting for you to come over to see it’. Once I got back into Melbourne, I went straight around to where the car was. I saw it sitting there with the Centerline mags on it and I was blown away with what I saw. It was black, it was big and it was me.”

Sporting a small block 383 c.i V8 in it, Carl took the black beauty for a spin and decided that this was the one for him. After fixing a few small things on the coupe, he set about cruising the black top for about two years before deciding she had the looks but didn’t have the go to match.

Carl has no qualms in admitting that while he loves his cars and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty under the bonnet, he is first and foremost a professional DJ and is happy to hand over the bigger construction challenges to his good friend and project manager, Rod Taylor. Discussing his thoughts with Rod about powering up the forty eight year old behemoth, they came up with a plan.

“We considered putting in a 440 or working the 383, but I wanted something that went beyond that. Rod and I were sitting around one night discussing the car and he suggested we put in a crate motor from the States and we’ll work it into the car. Rod ordered the motor and when the truck turned up with the crate, I’m looking at the massive size of the box and asked them if there was another car in there?! We opened up the box and I looked at the massive 572 motor and said, ‘Is that going in there’ (pointing to the engine bay)?!” laughs Carl.

I chatted with Rod regarding what was involved in getting the Hemi motor into the now dwarfed engine bay. According to Rod and despite what the journals said, nothing fitted and everything had to be fabricated from scratch. First to go was anything that could either be mounted in the boot or the car could simply run without. The battery and washer bottle found their way rearward while the brake booster and power steering were alleviated of their duties.

Solid custom engine mounts were fabricated from scratch by Rod’s long suffering friend, Dave Halls from Hally’s Headers, who also fabricated the snug fitting extractors and pipes.

“He’s a wizz when it comes to making custom pipes. I’m lucky he puts up with me because I always take him horrible jobs, but he just sees them as a challenge. There’s four mounting bolts to every pipe but they are all tucked up super tight.”

Putting out a tire shredding 630hp and 670 axle twisting ft.lb of torque, the 727 Torqueflite transmission has its work cut out for it. A manual valve body and reverse shift pattern help with the quick shifting duties while a transbrake helps with staging thanks to Pro Trans in Sydney. A TCI 4800 rpm converter was all that the 3880 pound vehicle required due to the low end torque.

A three and a half inch tail shaft held in place with Strange universal joints sends the power through to the 4.33:1 ratio 9 inch diff with its spool center. Another advantage to using the Ford diff over that from Mopar  is that the pinion on a nine inch is lower and allows the body to be dropped closer to the ground without contacting the transmission tunnel.

Calvert 90/10 adjustable shockers help keep her steady along with Caltrac rear springs with the bars removed for road use.

“They’re like traction bars. There’s a formula to using them, but it’s more about how they bolt on straight up underneath. That way the car can drive around and not be forced in the rear end due to the spool and the camber of the road. It was more about keeping the factory look to the car.”

Internally, everything looks very factory original which is how Carl wanted it to be.

“It still has the original radio and the small speaker which works if you can hear it. We tried to keep it as original as possible. We didn’t want all the extra gauges in it, so all the original gauges have been recalibrated with VDO senders to show the correct information,” explains Carl.

Carl put the Chrysler through some track action and reckons it’s got plenty of mumbo beyond what the racers can put it through without a cage.

“It’s a heavy car and you know it when you’re at the top end of the track, trying to pull it up. Especially at night as the headlights are shithouse and there’s no booster,” reports Rod. Carl confirms it’s a handful, even with the Wilwood master cylinder and front discs.

Carl is super impressed with its road manners and can’t speak highly enough of Rod and the guys who spent two years building this mighty American muscle car. This one is definitely a keeper in his eclectic collection and I’d say a bit of a favourite too!

BY GREG FORSTER, FEATURED CRUZIN MAGAZINE #210
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