Next time you’re at a Dragway, ask yourself: “What does the track genuinely mean to you?” We understand the track is a legal place to participate in the motorsport of drag racing. But for select gearheads, the emotional attraction to permeating ethanol fumes and menacing open-header idling is their sole reason for existence. These select gearheads are all about spending countless hours finicking with timing advance and carb-jetting; just to expose an extra horsepower before they arrive in the staging lanes. Chuck is a Mopar enthusiast that treats these practices like his eventual legacy.
The History of Chuck
Chuck is my father, and I would identify him as one of these ‘select gearheads’. His 1973 Dodge Coronet Custom is the successor of those countless hours. Chuck’s form of gearhead is often referred to as a ‘weekend warrior’ considering that his short weekends are dedicated to intense operations under the hood. Between family time and hobby time, he’s forced to make a lot of power in short order. After spending a few spare hours as an apprentice under his wing, the title “weekend warrior” fits him famously.
Last week, I traveled with Chuck to Great Lakes Dragaway for his shakedown passes. Great Lakes was hosting an early Test-N-Tune night and because the track opened as early as it did, I got an opportunity to interview Chuck about creating such a beautiful and functional car.
It turns out the Coronet build is far from Chuck’s first rodeo. In fact, he says he’s had over 50 different Mopar cars and trucks in his 20 years as a hobbyist.
“I’ve been building cars since I was able to see over the dashboard, and I started racing when I looked old enough to be behind the wheel.” At one point in his ’20s (right before I was born), he owned a shop that installed superchargers daily for customers all over the midwest.
He completed his NHRA licensing runs during those days as well. When the family began to grow, he says he “had to put the hobby to rest for a little while, and then pick it back up by the time I was of age.” Like many hobbies, he let it die out until the right time returned. Eventually, the moment came when I too could see over the dash. That’s when the Coronet made itself known.
The Coronet’s Culture
“I bought the car out of Detroit back in 2015. Matt and I made the trip by flight and drove the car six-hours back home.” Back in the day, this Coronet was a stock big block 400 with low mileage and one nasty collection of undercoating. “We had been watching a lot of Roadkill at the time, and we wanted a little taste of that style of adventure. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, we got the car back to Chicago without any issues. The worst of it was a pinhole in the top radiator hose.”
From this point on, Chuck was ready to pull the incredibly clean Mopar apart and turn it into a one-of-a-kind street machine. His goal was to “follow the same style as the Aussie guys. They always build these four-door grocery getters into mountain motor monsters.
Apart from a few other ideas, that’s still my end goal for the car to this day. That’s why we gave it the clever name of SEATSIX.” Although he is yet to reach that tire-melting powerhouse, Chuck did find an incredible middle-ground for the car in the time being.
A Natural Bracket Champion
The Coronet is consistent in bracket racing. Dead-consistent. We’re talking three-thousandths of a second consistent. But that’s not the only perfect part about it. “The car is right at the 12.00 mark. Making it exactly a 12-second car.” He says.
“The power to weight ratio results in the greatest bracket car in my gallery. And the best part is that I’ve spent the least amount of time getting this car right, too!” He adds. “We simply slapped together that 440 with used parts and a cheap EFI kit. There’s nothing about this car’s drivetrain that’s special.” In my mind, that’s precisely what makes it so special.
And so, the night continued. Chuck proved his consistency in his last two runs, but the first run was special. Right as I got ready to record that lucky 12.00 bracket time, Chuck ran the fastest time ever with SEATSIX. He broke into the 11’s and turned that night of reliving old garage memories into a night that made those memories priceless. One question remains – What will the Coronet and Chuck’s next legacy be?