Contestant number three, the Silver Bullet, is the world's most notorious street racer. A team of Chrysler engineers led by Tom Hoover converted a stock 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX into this pro racer with plates at the peak of the muscle car movement. I know because I stumbled across this car while employed as a Chrysler engineer in 1968.
Hoover and his accessories to street-racing crime were no strangers to the fundamental "acceleration equals power divided by weight" equation. The original 440-cubic-inch V-8 was replaced by a 487-cubic-inch Hemi with aluminum heads and a magnesium dual-Holley intake manifold. The hood, door skins, front fenders, and deck lid were molded in fiberglass. Aggressive dieting also cut weight in seating, sound deadening, and trim areas. Recontouring the rear fenders provided room for wider, stickier tires. Hooker headers fed 3.5-inch collectors, 3.0-inch pipes, and four Cadillac mufflers, chosen because they were the largest and least restrictive of the day.
The Chrysler crew's motivation was defending Mopar's honor, which was being threatened by Ford and GM street racers. Upon completion, the 3200-pound factory special was turned over to Jimmy Addison, a capable tuner, street racer, and Woodward Avenue gas station proprietor. Addison changed the original blue paint to Corvette silver, prompting Car Craft magazine's Ro McGonegal to christen this piece of street ammo Silver Bullet. (For more info, visit silverbulletgtx.com.)
In 1969, Harold Sullivan was an eighteen-year-old with Mopar fever and a '67 GTX that he fueled with Sunoco 260 at Addison's station. "Every time I tried to get a look at the Bullet, Jimmy would tell me to pump my gas and get moving," he recalled.
Time hasn't diminished Sullivan's passion for Mopar muscle. His fleet topped out at forty Chrysler collectibles, but the Silver Bullet's current garage mates include sixteen Challengers, 'Cudas, Daytonas, and Road Runners.
Sullivan discovered the Bullet languishing in storage minus an engine. The owner wanted a Petty blue 1970 Plymouth Superbird in exchange. Sullivan tracked one down, made the swap, and began restoring his prize to its early-1970s configuration.
Countless cruise nights, car shows, and magazine stories later, Sullivan rode nervously in the passenger seat while I rumbled around Michigan back roads in his priceless heirloom. Given the high-riding front end and low-hanging plumbing, only a fool would consider racing this beast. And only those with a screw loose would consider driving such a wild thing on slick rear tires down public roads. At least we waited for moisture from an early-morning shower to evaporate before commencing our twenty-mile trip.
Trumping Bad Cad Zeus, the Silver Bullet adds brakes to the list of systems lacking power assist. Nonetheless, it was relatively easy to drive. The steering is slow, and the ride is jiggly with the front suspenders hiked to their high limit. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and the engine burbled along in a relaxed state at 30 mph.
When I legged the throttle, the tach needle whipped around the dial and an invisible rubber band yanked the car horizontally with violent intent. Short of a roller-coaster ride, g-forces of such intensity aren't found in the natural world. Sullivan managed the manual-shift Torqueflite while I kept a wary ear on howling protestations coming from the rear axle.