Courtesy of Barrett-Jackson
This 1963 Dart was built by Steve Magnante in 2008 as a totally streetable tribute to Jack Sharkey’s Chicago-based “Rampage” Dart match racer. The all-steel California body is California-sourced with just the right amount of real patina and a Mazzolini Racing fiberglass Max Wedge hood scoop. The painted body graphics were hand-applied by Southern California go-to graphics man Bob Thompson. The narrowed 8¾-inch rear axle has 10-inch drum brakes and a clutch-type 3.91 Sure Grip with Super Stock leaf springs and shocks. The rear suspension has been altered forward 12 inches to deliver 48/52 (front/rear) static weight distribution. Up front, a Dodge A100 van straight axle and leaf springs with 11-inch Hemi Charger-sized drum brakes offer excellent stopping power. The engine is a 512-ci Dodge big block with an all-forged 440 Source stroker kit making about 550 horsepower. The compression ratio is 9.8:1, and it runs great on 92 octane unleaded gas. It has an automatic transmission, 440 Source aluminum heads with stainless valves, and an A&A 440-port-size Max Wedge cross-ram intake manifold with two Edelbrock 600 cfm 4-barrel carburetors. Inside the simple interior, a full-manual push-button 727 TorqueFlite controls shifts. Other era-correct interior details are an eight-point roll bar, fiberglass buckets, radio- and heater-delete plates and a retro Sun tach. This car is a nostalgic drag racing hero — but for the street.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1963 Dodge Dart Altered
Years Produced:1963/2008
Number Produced:One
Original List Price:N/A
SCM Valuation:$23,975
Chassis Number Location:Left front door post
Engine Number Location:Right front corner of engine block
Club Info:NHRA, Goodguys
Alternatives:Any vintage-spec Funny Car, specifically with altered wheelbase
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 63, sold for $21,450, including buyer’s premium, at Barrett-Jackson’s Northeast sale at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT, on June 23, 2017.

The endgame for the overwhelming majority of write-ups we do here at ACC is to justify whether or not we believe a particular automobile sold for a market-appropriate price. Profiles of Cobras and ’Cudas and low-mileage Corvettes are relevant because the sales of those cars act as a market barometer, providing insight into the fluctuations of the collector car market as a whole and, to some extent, the American economy.

Oddball sales like this one, however, always pose a bit of a challenge.

From an historical standpoint, the altered-wheelbase cars had a massive influence on the evolution of drag racing, and are generally credited with the origin of the “Funny Car” moniker. The brainchild of a handful of Chrysler engineers working to maximize the influence of the new Hemi, six Dodge Coronets and five Plymouth Belvederes had their wheelbases shortened and their front and rear axles dramatically shoved forward under their bodies in what was a radical move intended to take advantage of the NHRA’s
A/FX class rules.

The resulting weight redistribution, which piled more than 50% of the vehicle’s total weight directly on top of the rear tires, threw the drag-racing world, and the NHRA, into a tizzy. The sanctioning body quickly responded with a “No, thank you very much,” and rewrote the class rules for 1965 to limit wheelbase alterations, thus effectively banning the altered-wheelbase cars from the class for which they were created. Luckily for us, the AHRA welcomed the cars with open arms, and a sensation was born.

Crazy enough to work — for a time

Although incredibly effective, the altered-wheelbase cars are certainly not the most handsome vehicles to ever grace a racetrack, and their competitive relevance was very short-lived despite the magnitude of their initial impact. Within three years of their debut, the altered-wheelbase cars were retired from the cutting edge.

When it comes to market relevance, the altered-wheelbase cars have very little, at least in terms of quantity. Only a handful of the original Chrysler-backed cars exist today, with the most recent public showing a no-sale at $410k at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction in January and then again (same car) at Indy for $400k. That car was Lee Smith’s “Haulin’ Hemi” Plymouth Belvedere, one of only two Plymouths believed to still exist.

With the handful of original Chryslers at the peak of the money mountain, there is a steep drop to any survivor altereds, and then a precipitous fall to the re-creations and tribute cars. Most of the auction sales of the past few years saw nicely built examples changing hands somewhere in the $20k–$50k range, but the sales themselves are few and far between.

Although altered-wheelbase racers are still a fairly common sight in the pits at nostalgic drag races across the country, I believe it takes a different type of person to truly appreciate these cars, and an even more dedicated person to buy one. Hot-rodders and drag racers are a strange breed to begin with, but the altered-wheelbase guys seem to be equal parts historians, engineers and fume-addled cowboys.

A legit build

For example, take a look at the work of Rampage’s builder and former owner — Steve Magnante. Steve is an author, automotive historian and altered-wheelbase junkie. He was a staffer at Hot Rod magazine back in the late ’90s to early 2000s and was largely responsible for the “Wilshire Shaker” Nova that graced those pages. I’m rarely gifted the opportunity to contact buyers or sellers, so I jumped at the chance to reach out to Steve to hear his take on the car, the selling process, and, of course, the end result.

In conversation, it quickly became clear that Steve is not only very knowledgeable about the altered-wheelbase cars, but he’s also very passionate about them as well. This old Dart is far from a haphazardly assembled tribute car, and Steve even wrote and published a book, How to Build Altered Wheelbase Cars, documenting each step along the way.

As Steve walked me through the history of the car and his decade or so of ownership, he mentioned that although many people had taken great interest in his efforts, “they didn’t want to buy it, but they did want to build it.” That pretty much sums up the central dilemma in trying to analyze a hot rod or highly modified classic’s value.

Value and the win

Stock and restored cars are easy to compare and nitpick because they all have a template to which they can be related. Once a car has been modified, particularly to the degree in which Rampage has, the car begins to take on the personality and quirks of its owner/builder, which is precisely the point. The price paid for individuality, however, is often hammered home when hot rods cross the block for fractions of their original build costs.

What makes the hot-rod world so unique in the second-hand marketplace is that owners know, or should know, that selling a hot rod or heavily modified classic or racer is almost always a losing game. The winning is in the ownership.

Steve revealed to me that he didn’t make money on this sale, but he didn’t necessarily lose much, either. Considering the bidding started slowly and without fanfare at $5,000, his first no-reserve sale concluded fairly enough for everyone involved, at least from his vantage point. As Steve told me, “Some guys make money on cars, but I don’t know how they do that.” Spoken like a true hot-rodder. Well bought, fairly sold.

(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.)

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