Back From The Brink: Kurt Tevault Dodges Adversity With 1964 Polara

Kurt Tevault spent five long years building his beloved 1964 Dodge Polara wagon. So, when an accident relegated him to a wheelchair, he feared he might never race again. His determination to drive, though, brought him back from the brink and back to drag racing.

It was his father who piqued Kurt’s interest in Mopars, as the man raced in the Stock class in the 1960s and early ‘70s. “He bought and sold muscle cars but was a Ford man, so I grew up riding around in Shelby Mustangs,” remembered Tevault, now 58, who took a different trajectory with his make of choice. “My father mostly raced a 1969 Ford Torino Cobra Jet, but he bought a Plymouth Superbird in 1970 and I’ve been in love with Mopars ever since.”

Kurt bought his first Mopar, a Dodge Charger, when he was 15 and the car inspired a lifetime love for the brand. In the late 1980s, he started his bracket racing career and knew he had found his niche. Since then, he’s owned multiple Mopars. “I have a Dodge Charger that I drive to car shows, and another 1965 Plymouth Belvedere that I used to race in Nostalgia Super Stock (NSS) before the station wagon. Now, it’s a backup car for NSS but I still bracket race it,” he added.

The car is a blast to drive. It goes wheels up and I lose sight of the track every time when taking off.

Based out of Newton, Illinois, Tevault had always liked the 1962-1965 Mopar factory race cars. In 2008, he read an article about a Hemi-powered ’64 station wagon and was inspired to have one of his own. So, he headed to eBay where he quickly found – and bought – his unique Mopar.

Tevault spent half a decade piecing the beautiful piece of muscle car history together, and was careful to make sure each component, from powerplant to paint, was perfectly period-correct.

Under the hood, a 541 cubic inch Mopar Performance Hemi hums flawlessly while pushing out a generous 880 horsepower and 757 pound-feet of torque in a naturally-aspirated configuration; the Dodge’s spent exhaust gasses are sent back out into the world via a set of 2.25-inch headers from TTi Performance Exhaust.

Built by Best Machining, Inc., the 15:1 compression ratio V8 engine features 4.375-inch bore and 4.5-inch stroke cylinders, each of which is filled with CP pistons atop aluminum GRP connecting rods. The slugs rotate around a Callies crankshaft, while a Comp Cams solid roller camshaft ensures the valvetrain stays in synch. Aluminum heads from For Hemis Only (FHO) flank each bank of the legendary engine, and the entire setup is lubricated by a Milodon oil pump which picks up fluid from a Charlie’s Oil Pans reservoir.

Given that Tevault had planned to race in the Nostalgia Super Stock category, he mostly kept the engine in its tried-and-true configuration. Dual factory Holley 770 cfm carburetors were massaged by Ray Barton Racing Engines, and Ray Barton also supplied the magnesium cross ram-style intake manifold. The ignition system, though, has a slightly more modern twist on it, as an MSD 7AL-2 ignition control unit was paired with MSD’s finest coils, distributor, ignition wires, and NGK spark plugs.

With plenty of power on tap, he also knew he would need a strong transmission to hold up to the repeated abuse that the Polara would face on the dragstrip. So, Tevault contacted Rick Allison at A&A Automotive and ordered one of their Ultimate A-727 TorqueFlite units.

Tevault coupled the gearbox with a 5,700 rpm stall speed 9-inch Transmission Specialties torque converter and B&M flexplate, then installed a Precision shifter, B&M Transmission cooler, and a 3.75-inch billet steel driveshaft from Dennis Mothershed at Victory Performance Parts.

“The front end suspension components must be stock for the Nostalgia Super Stock class,” noted Tevault, who added only a set of AFCO shocks to compliment the factory odds and ends, but did install modern Wilwood brakes all around for safety. “In the rear, I have QA1 shocks and a ladder bar setup built by The Mod Shop, and a Dana 60 rearend with 4.30:1 gears, a Moser spool, and Moser 41-spline axles.”

Inside, Tevault equipped his 1964 Dodge with a paint-finished, mild steel roll cage from Millennium, tasteful S&W gauges, and Factory Super Stock-style seats and door panels.

“The car was originally red, and I got it rust-free from Montana,” shared Tevault of his eBay prize. “I’ve since added a Sled City bumper along with a hood scoop to the stock steel hood, and had the car sprayed with PPG paint.” Additionally, some cool art was incorporated to pay homage to the old school Hemi’s “elephant engine” nickname.

To complement the Mopar’s classic chrome-accented appearance, Tevault got a set of polished Weld Racing Magnum 2.0 wheels for all four corners from Larry Hodge Racing, and upgraded the rears to include double beadlocks. Up front, Tevault has selected a set of Moroso tires, but opted for iconic Mickey Thompson rubber in the rear, sized 29.5 x 10.5W.

Tevault finally finished the build in February of 2013 and expected to have tons of fun racing it, but disaster struck just one month later.

“I had a really bad accident in March of 2013 that should have killed me. I broke my neck and sat in a wheelchair for months,” lamented the man who struggled through years of physical therapy and doctors telling him he would never drive again. “It was the hardest thing to go out to the shop and see this car sitting there, but it gave me the motivation to get well enough and to never give up.”

Finally, Tevault was blessed with a great physical therapist that refused to accept the doctors’ prognosis. Together, they got him on the right track to begin racing again and – after seven long years of suffering – Tevault finally got back into his 1964 Polara project in the spring of 2020.

He wasted no time returning to the track, and loves having a unique ride that most people have never seen. In 2021, Tevault picked up a win in the Nostalgia Super Stock class at the Annual World Series of Drag Racing event at Cordova Dragway in Illinois. “I was runner-up at the 2022 race, which is the biggest race for the Victory Performance Nostalgia Super Stock Series (VPNSSS),” he added, rightfully proud of his long-awaited and hard-earned accomplishments. “I also made it through six rounds to the semi-finals in NSS at the NMCA finals in Indy in 2022.”

It was the hardest thing to go out to the shop and see this car sitting there, but it gave me the motivation to get well enough and to never give up.

Tevault truly loves Nostalgia Super Stock racing for how much fun it is to drive a car with no electronics and to leave the starting line off the footbrake. “The car is a blast to drive. It goes wheels up and I lose sight of the track every time when taking off,” laughed the driver, who trusts his wheelie bars will do their job and who is also grateful for the support that the VPNSSS receives from the likes of Doug Duell, B&K Trucking, Stanke Motorsports, and Lingenfelters Brackets. “As it comes down, I’m shifting to second gear by hand, and once I hit high gear, the Hemi pulls really hard to the finish line.”

Thanks to Mike and Scott Schaefer of The Mod Shop who supplied him with a great suspension setup that prints nearly-identical 60-foot times of 1.28-seconds over and over, Tevault never has to worry as the Mopar always runs straight and true. To date, Tevault has clicked off a personal best 1/4-mile elapsed time of 9.78 seconds, and a top speed of 137 mph – an impressive feat considering his car weighs 4,250 pounds.

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“It’s been amazing to be able to race again,” said Tevault, appreciative of his second chance at life and at campaigning his 1964 Dodge Polara. Although he plans to run his 2023 Nostalgia Super Stock season with his current Hemi, he’s got bigger, more ambitious plans for 2024. “I just picked up a new Keith Black aluminum block and have been gathering parts to build it. The car is going to get lighter and have many more cubic inches and it’ll be a lot faster for sure.”

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Ainsley Jacobs

P.TEN Marketing's Ainsley Jacobs is a freelance motorsports marketing professional with extensive experience in marketing and communications, website development, social media management, photography, journalism, and more.
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