The name Kevin Wesley is no stranger to BangShifters. Wesley is the guy who owns and drove the famed “Autocross Taxi” 1970 Plymouth Satellite. The car has transported hundreds of passengers in glee around autocross courses all over the country and it did so in a manner that made people question the laws of physics once they got out of the huge machine. While all of that was fun and exciting, Kevin decided that his next Chrysler needed to be a much sharper tool than the big Satellite was. Enter the team at Hotchkis Performance East and one unsuspecting 1976 Dodge Dart Lite.
The Dart Lite was Dodge’s answer to the Plymouth Feather Duster. Using aluminum components and deleting any shred of luxury from the car, a flyweight machine was created that was EPA rated at a pretty astounding 36mpg on the highway. Being a Mopar guy to the core, we think it is cool that this is the body shell Wesley and crew started with. Keeping with that Dart Lite ethos, this is not a pro touring car that has a lot of luxury built in. The car is as ragged edged a handling machine as we have seen and as mentioned in the title, the cage and other aspects of the car were constructed to FIA specifications. Why? Places like the Pikes Peak require them and Kevin plans on going there along with Optima events, the Targa Newfoundland, and other hardcore competitions that will put every inch of the power and engineering behind this car to the test.
It should be made clear that the true intention of this car is to be a very versatile racer for tarmac and gravel rally events, ice racing in the winter, maybe some drag racing if the spirit moves Wesley and great pains were taken to make the car adaptable. What do we mean? Wesley told us that the entire drivetrain and suspension can be pulled within an hour by two people with no air tools so in the event you need to get something fixed during a race, you’ll have a fighting chance. The planning and execution elements are what really make a car like this cool to us. LOTS of thinking here.
Recently we had occasion to drop by Hotchkis Performance East, a multi-purpose wing of the Hotchkis Sport Suspension company that does everything from manufacturing of components to upgrading customer cars for safety, to full pull builds like this one. The two guys who have poured their time, blood, and sweat into this car and the men who operate the shop are Kevin Bryde and Ron Thiel who both have extensive background in the NASCAR world and who have the skills necessary to pull off the work you will see below. Later this week we’re going to give you a full tour of the Hotchkis Performance East facility but for now we’re concentrating on a car that is going to hurt some feelings, both home and abroad.
Chrysler fans will be happy with how this car was built because it isn’t a Dart shell with a bunch of “stuff” stuck under it. The bones of this machine are all Pentastar. The power plant is a late model hemi backed with a manual transmission. The Hotchkis suspension still has torsion bars and leaf springs and even the headlights are from a late model Chrysler product.
Maybe the best part of the whole deal? Kevin and Ron told us at the shop that Wesley is so amped up to drive this thing, he isn’t worrying about a paint job for now. You know beauty isn’t something that we focus on around here so when we heard that Wesley is of the same attitude (about this car anyway) we were stoked. The true fun will begin when the Dart starts to show up at some autocross events and track days so we can see this bad boy in action. The lack of frills, the lack of pretense, and the overall feeling of all out attack that this thing gives off is what we really love about it. Now, let’s explore a little closer up!
SCROLL DOWN AS WE TELL YOU THE REST OF THE STORY ABOUT THIS KILLER DART THROUGH PHOTOS AND CAPTIONS –