(Photos by Dave Nutting) – This thing is so cool we can hardly stand it. For starters, the guy who built this awesome machine is no stranger to the pages of BangShift. After all it was about a year ago that we profiled the immaculately cool 1978 Dodge W100 Power Wagon that Jim Dayotas owns. While we were there shooting photos of that truck we saw this car, a 1934 Plymouth bodied hot rod on a 1932 Dodge frame in rough form. It was a multi-year odyssey for Dayotas to get this car to the point where it is now and when we get into the details of it, you’ll understand why.
By now you have already figured out that Jim is a hardcore Mopar guy but after you get through exploring what this blazing hunk of turbocharged orange awesome is about, you’ll see that he’s more dedicated to the cause than you can possibly imagine.
As most good hot rod stories do this one begins in a barn. The barn happened to be located in Michigan, far off from Jim’s Massachusetts stomping grounds. Having been captivated as a kid reading his dad’s old copies of Hot Rod, Dayotas was intent on building his own version of a wild 1970s styled rod that both harked back to those wild days and also fit Jim’s personal style. The plan was based around the rough 1934 Plymouth body and the 1932 Dodge frame that had been sitting in said Michigan barn since Jimmy Carter was in office. “The body had no firewall, no floors, and there was Bondo, chicken wire, and even tin foil used in places,” Jim said. “That was a new one on me, I had never seen tin foil used in bodywork before.”
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Leaving the roofline alone, Jim instead channeled the body eight inches down over the frame and the firewall was replaced with one from a 1934 Dodge truck. That channel job is one part of the car’s perfect look and ode to the ’70s. It should be noted that Jim did every inch of this car with his own two hands. Yes, guys like Donnie Lavin gave him assistance on the paint, but Jim was there and working as well. Speaking of that paint, it is one of our favorite parts of the car and one of the reasons we’re calling it “The Sucker”. Remember those hard candies that your grandparents had when you were a kid? Tell us this does not look like the orange flavored one!
The House of Kolors Candy Orange was sprayed over an Orion Silver base and was enhanced with the addition of a healthy dose of metal flake as well. Another element to the paint that you will notice in the photos below is the fact that there’s a bunch of subtle lace work in there as well. “I’m this big burly guy in a craft store buying up a bunch of lace,” Jim said with a laugh, explaining the process of coming up with the “right” stuff. “I wanted something that looked like the cool artwork used in the Rapid Transit ads of the late 1960s and early 1970s and it took me a little while to find it.” Those ads featured some psychedelic art and when you see the lace pattern you’ll know exactly what Jim was shooting for. It was the look of the tire smoke in those illustrations.
Under the body lies the aforementioned 1932 Dodge frame which was boxed for strength and painted jet black. The front suspension uses a single transverse leaf spring, hairpins, and a 1970s period vintage drop axle. The dude is a collector of cool and he’s the kind of guy that will hunt and wait to get what he wants. Front disc brakes are GM style and use that manufacturer’s hardware. The rear axle is a Ford 9″ and there are coil overs and ladder bars back there keeping things in check. Originally Jim wanted to use a leaf spring but he could never get the ride height where he wanted so the coil overs went in. Why a Ford 9″? He was given a center section with 4.11 gears and a spool by his buddy Chappy and that got him off and running for very short money. That’s plenty good enough of a reason for us!
The centerpiece of this car though is the engine and that’s the thing that really drew us to it. Yes, everything else about it rules the school but the Ray-Jay draw through turbocharged 440 that’s topped with a flipping Thermoquad is just so awesome it defies description. It is also the second half of the reason why we’re calling this thing The Sucker.
“I was very into the turbocharged Mopars having owned a CSX and a GLHS over the years so I was on a turbo Mopar forum when I saw this setup for sale complete,” Jim told us regarding the origin of his sweet induction system. Originally designed and sold by a company in Houston, Texas called RV Turbo, this system was intended for use on a 440ci powered Winnebago to bump the power of the thing to a more respectable level. They claimed a 33% horsepower increase in their factory literature so we’re not 100% sure what that means with regard to Jim’s car but when you see the whole combo you’ll be on board with our thinking that this is a mill that cranks well over 400hp at the flywheel.
The basis for the engine is a 1974 440 block. It is topped with cleaned up 906 heads, has a Mopar Performance “Purple” cam with .484 lift, and makes 9:1 compression with TRW pistons on stock rods being rotated by a stock forged crankshaft. The engine has an Edelbrock intake manifold on it and is basically the combo a 375hp 440 would have had back in the late 1960s. Then we add the boost!
In today’s world of turbocharged everything it is almost funny to think about how exotic the idea of turbocharging a V8 engine was not all that long ago. In the case of the draw through setup force feeding this engine, it was done in the name of performance but not in the way you are thinking. Lumbering RVs with pinging big blocks would wheeze their way up mountains and steep hills out west so when the guys at RV Turbo in Texas got creative and came up with setup that could boost that power with a bolt on kit, it seemed like a great idea. Not all that many of them were ever sold and very few of them exist today but Jim scored one and knew it was going to be the perfect touch for this car. “It does not make a ton of boost,” Dayotas said. “I have gone out on the highway trying to peg the boost gauge and you really run out of road before the needle stops creeping.”
The system is interesting because it uses a plate under the carb that essentially has a floor in it. On the ‘top’ of the floor the air gets sucked through the carb and then sent through the compressor where it is blasted into the engine on the bottom of the plate with the pipe coming in the opposite side. The plumbing of the exhaust is even an interesting aspect to these systems because they use the factory driver’s side manifold which crosses over to the other side and feeds into the passenger side manifold that was supplied with the kit.The turbo bolts directly to that manifold. Rebuilt, cleaned up, and with the polished tubing it is flipping sweet. The car sounds awesome because as you can see, the exhaust terminates RIGHT THERE. We can tell you that when the photos and video were shot it was about 25 degrees outside and the car wasn’t exactly pumped up about it. After getting warm it was more than happy but it takes a while to get it to build heat. You may be wondering about the carb and of course being the Mopar guy, the Thermoquad was the piece that needed to be on top, but what about tuning it for this application? Basically rejetting it, adjusting the floats, and working with the metering rods were the major adjustments. Because the carb is not being pressurized like a blow through it does not require all that much to make it work. We cannot imagine that this thing weighs more than 2,500lbs so with the power that it is making, the machine is like driving a big go-kart according to Jim.
Backed with a 727 Torqueflite transmission, the engine burbles away happily and roars strongly when the throttle blades are really cracked open. The Ray-Jay turbo on this particular setup was typically found on small airplanes as that’s been Ray-Jay’s primary business since 1962. It was rebuilt and it lives a much less adventurous life now at about two feet off the ground as opposed to 10,000!
With regard to the overall package here, there are a couple of defining points that Jim really crushed. Those would first be the wheels and tires which have a typically interesting spin on them. For starters, the very narrow front slot mags are a tough find these days because the gasser contingent has been snapping them up like crazy. Jim lucked out when he found the ones on the car with the proper 4.5″ bolt pattern as he wasn’t gong to settle for uni-lug ugliness. Out back then mags are 10″ wide and they wear M&H tires. How rad are those white letters, right? Go ahead and look for a pair like that. You’ll never find them. Jim is in the roofing business and to get the white letter look he made a tracing or impression on paper of the M&H logo then cut out the letters from a panel of rubber membrane roofing. Using some roofing adhesive he created the perfectly 1970s look on the back of the car you see here. Radical! Next up is the treatment on the front of the car. The front tires are little Pro-Tracs and they look as right as rain.
The Plymouth grill shell is a fiberglass piece and the insert was a tough find but a perfect one. Like we said, this dude has the patience of Job and won’t move ahead with a project until it is all correct in the way that he wants it. The headlights are reproduction Ford truck style buckets and we like their low placement and tightness to the grill itself. The Student Driver front license plate was bought from the estate sale of a policeman who apparently was pranked one day and drove around with that thing on the front of his cruiser for an entire shift. He pulled it off and tacked it to the wall…in like 1968. Jim was the next person to lay hands on it. The windshield was one of the most challenging pieces to find and Jim ordered it long before the car needed it. Luckily he did so because by the time it got to him he was ready. Note the lack of glass otherwise. We love that.
Inside the car, simplicity reigns supreme. There are a couple gauges present to keep an eye on stuff, a pair of basic bucket seats and some neat elements that deserve a little more attention. The vintage blue line Sun tach is neat in its bucket which reminds us of a Dixco Garlits tach and then there’s the fuel tank and the Schlitz cooler. The cooler was a trade deal with a buddy. Jim had a vintage Miller cooler and that guy is a Miller consumer. Jim wanted the Schlitz piece and a deal was struck. The gas tank is an even cooler story as virtually every member of Jim’s family has has their hooks on it at one point.His brother bought it and then after a while gave it to their dad for use on his project and after he didn’t use it for a long stretch he gave it to Jim and Jim promptly installed it in the car and put it to work. That thing was like a hot potato being passed around in slow motion but the buck stopped here.
To us, this car is exactly what hot rodding is all about. You had a guy in his garage with a vision of what he wanted and he chased it, dogged, it, and stuck to his plan. In the end the result is as unique a rod as you will ever find in your life and one that is cooler than 99% of the other stuff you’ll see out there. There is an impossible to describe element of fun and whimsy with this car that most people try way too hard to achieve and miss by doing stupid stuff. This rolling orange fun machine has power, looks, and soul like you would not believe.
When we grow up we want to be Jim Dayotas. That dude has the market cornered on cool.