During the 1980s and early ‘90s, before a category in drag racing known as “Pro Street” had ever been devised, there was a movement — one featuring muscle cars of both the classic and late-model varieties, with outlandish style. They were racecars, but on the street, tubbed with massive rear tires, skinny front wheels and tires, and over-the-top engine packages, often supercharged. They had wings, wheelie bars, roll cages, and all the fixings of a thoroughbred racing machine. As history will reflect, those cars eventually did compete on a racetrack, birthing a whole genre of outlaw-style, street-car drag racing that continues to thrive today.
In the midst of that period in the ‘90s, Missouri narrative Wally Elder constructed a 1969 Dodge Daytona in the very vein of Pro Street styling — the big tires, the supercharged engine, slammed to the ground and going 200 miles per hour sitting still. The car had an antiquated (by todays’s standards) 2×3 box mild-steel, tig-welded chassis, and a blown and injected 392 Hemi for power. So wild was it for the day that the Daytona graced numerous car magazines and is so etched in the memory of many that this new Daytona is both highly recognizable and at the same time oft-confused for its earlier counterpart.
“A lot of people see this new car and think it’s the old car, but it’s not….totally different build,” Elder says.
In 1993, Elder sold the Daytona, a fact he quickly follows up with, “I really wish I hadn’t…I was young and at the time I needed money and just turned loose of it. I always wished I could have gotten it back.”
Fast forward more than 20 years, and Elder set out to find the one that got away. He knew he had sold the Daytona to a man in Arizona, but had little else to base his search on. A friend of his took the scorched-Earth approach, placing Craigslist ads all over the state with pictures of the car and contact information for Elder. Lo and behold, a year later, a man called and informed Wally that a friend of his had the car in his garage. The engine had long since been blown up, but the basic car was still intact. Wally, in his words, pestered the owner to sell it, to no avail. Eventually, the man stopped responding to his emails.
“I thought, ‘well, I guess I really pissed him off.’ So all my friends were telling me I should build another, just build another one. So I decided that’s what I was going to do. So I started building it, and here I am, six years later.”
The new car is everything the original was and then some — thanks to significant advances in technology. The foundation is a double-framerail Pro Modified-style chassis, all 4130 chrome-moly sourced from Tim McAmis and hand-built by Elder and friend Brian Raymond custom to his machine.
The power — and the menacing, race looks — come compliments of a 526 cubic-inch Hemi, built upon an aluminum, water-jacketed Indy Maxx block with Stage 5 Engineering cylinder heads assembled by Bullet Racing Engines. A Bryant Top Fuel-grade crankshaft and rods sling JE 11:1 pistons, and T&D shaft-mount rocker arms were utilized. A 14:71 Littlefield high-helix blower and a JBR carbon-fiber injector hat protrude from the hood. Elder estimates the package produces 2,500 horsepower.
A three-speed Lenco transmission with a Bruno’s converter drive deliver that power and torque to a “heavily modified” Dana 60 rearend housing. Elder is utilizing a 4.10 gear on a 33-inch tall tire and no overdrive unit, so much of that 2,500 horsepower is going directly to the driveline and into the pavement during its short cruises to car shows and back.
The Daytona body is concoction of original and reproduction steel panels and fiberglass components. The roof is the only truly original part, and along with the quarter panels and cowl, are the only steel items. The doors, fenders, hood, and trunk lid are all fiberglass. Elder, an auto body professional by trade, put all of his skills to work in seamlessly crafting all the pieces together.
Under the cloak of the Daytona body, the chassis sports Strange Engineering struts and brakes up front, and a four-link rear suspension with Strange shocks and coilovers. The Dana 60 likewise features Strange internals and a spool.
Two 16-gallon fuel cells in the rear send methanol via an electric pump to a 10-gallon fuel cell located up front, for a total of 42-gallons of fuel onboard. A Waterman Lil Bertha pump siphons the fuel from the forwardmost tank. Elder’s ultimate plan is to operate two fuel systems — one methanol, one E85 — and many of the parts are in-hand to accomplish that. For now, though, it burns methanol to the tune of around a cringe-worthy one mile per gallon. With the move to E85, he hopes the fuel mileage may increase well enough to go 65-75 miles, which is plenty for his purposes, unless, he says, “I get the wild hare to go and do Drag Week…which I’ve thought about.”
Despite building not one, but now two Pro Modified-style racecars — this one unquestionably with racecar-level horsepower — Elder has never been a drag racer. “I was just into show cars over the years. I stepped away from it and had kids and all that, and kind of got back into it and always wished I hadn’t got rid of that car. I wanted to do it again, and I have a very supportive wife who let me do it. I don’t know if she would support it again after knowing what I went through with this one, though.”
Despite its status as a show car, Wally is intrigued enough about its potential that, once it’s sorted out and he’s comfortable with it mechanically, would like to put it in the stage beams and see what it can do in a straight line so he can quell the naysayers. “The question everybody asks is, ‘how fast is it, what does it run in the 1/4-mile, how much horsepower does it make, are you ever going to run it?”
“I’m a little afraid to do it, because I have so much time in this thing, and it’s one of a kind,” he continues. “If anything goes wrong, that’s it. I’m not one of these big-budget guys that can come back a week later and have a new car. If anything ever happens to it, that’s pretty much going to shoot me down. But if I go to the track and don’t give it all it’s got, people will say, ‘that’s all you’ve got?’ I’d like to get a really nice time out of it and be able to say definitively what it’s capable of, and have a time-slip to show. And I would like to get it on the dyno so we know exactly what kind of power it makes. And then I just want to have some fun with it.”
The response to his prized machine, as you’d guess with something this over-the-top, has been resoundingly positive.
“You can’t believe it, “Wally says. “People just freak out. Some people, I think maybe they’re having an epileptic fit or something. I’ve had guys at a couple shows who just can’t believe what they’re looking at. Everybody says it’s the baddest Pro Street car they’ve ever seen.”