Silver Bullet

(excerpt from Mopar Magazine or Mopar Action, I can't remember)

Most famous street performer of them all.

The colourful exploits of the Silver Bullet has been told and retold countless times over the years. We know what the did- but why was the legendary car so successful? Let us return to yesteryear to find out how this Plymouth GTX became "king of the street".

 

As safety and responsible driving attitudes were of paramount concern in Detriot-especially on Woodward Ave.-between 1969 and 1973 (as they are here today at Mopar Action), folks were modifying their cars to give them more peace of mind when "passing on hills." Not that stock Detriot iron wasnt't up to the task, mind you (Chrysler Corp. built some of the safest), it's just that a few super safety-minded folks wanted a tad extra security for the wife and kiddies on their way to the Sunday after church family picnic (non-alcoholic beverages) in the park.

 

The silver GTX you see here was built with that idea in mind. The car began life as a Chrysler engineering test car for the A-134 440 Super Commando/Magnum drivetrain package. It was originally painted blue and was equipped with the standard 375 horse 440 and a column operated Torqueflite automatic.After servingg at the Chrysler Proving Grounds as a durability mule, it was then used to test cam, carb, intake and header combinations for the RB wedge. The research data gathered during this testing helped to form the basis for the 1970 Hustle Stuff over-the-counter dealer installed speed equipment line. That program evolved later into the famout Direction Connection parts pipeline in 1972. Incidently, Tom Hoover tells us that 8mm film footage exists of this very car, in its original form, being put through its paces, during a Chrysler drag strip test session.

From its assembly date on February 1, 1967, up until some time in early 1969, the car was under the ownership of Chrysler Engineering. Then it was given to James "Jimmy" Addison. Jimmy was into performance and had excellent tuning skills. His personal car up to that point was a 1962 Dodge with a transplanted 426 cube Max Wedge.

 

Although it was originally wedge powered, that didnt stop Jim from equipping the GTX with a healthy dose of Hemi power. Initially a lightweight Hemi K-member was used to locate the engine. It is unclear today whether it was a special one-off piece made of stainless steel for a '66-up B-body application or if it was a '65 A/FX unit with reworking to fit the later B-body, but the fact is that it began to crack soon after installation and was replaced by a lightened standard issue B-body Hemi K-member. Vintage photos published in the Spring 1972 issue of 1001 Custom & Rod Ideasdepict what appears to be a standard Hemi K-member, however it is notable because the Hemi-only steel skid plate has been ground away, most likely for the 4 pounds of weight it saved.

 

As anyone tooling along the right lane to a family picnic knows, you just can't trust fender emblems. Sure, they may say 383, but that doesnt mean the car has a 383. More likely its a 426! To deal with this situation, Addison substituted a CSC 4.25-inch stroker crank for the stocker to bring cubic inches up to 487. Stock Street Hemi rods and cut down TRW pistons were used to bring compression in at a true 12.0:1. Addison managed a Sunoco station so he had free access to plenty of Sunoco 260 high octane gasoline. A set of 1965 A-990 aluminium heads were used with porting and detail work by Bartley Kenyon. In true Race Hemi tradition, a '65-only magnesium crossram intake and dual Holley 780's were used. The result of it all was enough horsepower to push this 3200-pound B-body through the quarter mile in 10.40 seconds at over 135 miles per hour.

 

The rest of the car was just as trick as the motor. For isntance, Jimmy worked with B&M testing new transmission parts. He got a prototype high stall torque converter to try out in the car. It was a tiny (for the time) 8-inch unit and it made the car launch so hard that would always pull the front tires 6-inches off the ground. Just imagine seeing something like this happen on the street. Mind blowing! This very converter went on to become the famous B&M "J" converter, a mainstay of Mopar Stock and Super Stock racers everywhere.

Of course the body of this car came in for some serious lightening. With a stock curb weight of nearly 3700-pounds, Jimmy managed to slice out nearly 500-pounds before he was done! Of course, it all started with replacing all bolt-on body panels with fiberglass replicas. This included the hood, front fenders, doors and trunk lid. The bodyshell was stripped of all undercoating, but it was not acid dipped. Throughout the car, aluminium fasteners replaced steel, and in the most curious places, one can find dozens of tiny holes put there by Jimmy and his hole saw in an effort to shed even more pounds. Open the doors and pull the sill plates, you'll find holes. Open the glovebox door-more holes. But unlike some street rats that are cut up that they look ugly, Jimmy did it all so that it is invisible at first glance.

 

The hood scoop has mistakenly led many people to assume that this is an RO23 Super Stocker with GTX emblems added. This is not the case. The RO23 hood scoops where thin gauge steel in accordance with the NHRA's rules about such things. The one on Jimmy's car is an even lighter fiberglass replica. Of course a quick look at the leaf spring bulkheads will reveal the absence of Hemi-only torque box reinforcements, yet another tip-off that this is not a factory produced Hemi car, RO23 or otherwise. Back to the hood for a second: in late 1970 when Jimmy replaced the crossram with a Weiand tunnel ram and dual Dominators, a tall, Chrysler-designed Bauman boundary layer hood scoop was used, just like the ones which were then just beginning to appear on the most up-to-date Pro Stockers. Heck, Addison got one at the same time as Sox & Martin did. Talk about being factory connected!

 

Inside the car, weight was eliminated by replacing the stock front bench seat with a pair of lightweight A-100 vans seats which sit on aluminium A-990 seat brackets. The rear seat was removed entirely and never at any time was this car equipped with a roll bar of any type. If you think that's brave, try this one on. Jimmy never used seatbelts and the car had none! Talk about attitude! But in over seven years of street thrashing the car from 1969 to the time he sold it in 1975, Jimmy never so much as scracthed a fender. Before we move on to the most interesting part of the car, the exhaust system, let's stop to discuss the brake pedal. In his never ending search for weight savings, Addison replaced the stock wide-pad brake pedal with one from a four-speed application. At less than half the width, the smaller pedal saved maybe a pound. Laugh if you want, but this car was never defeated in any matchup that it got into. Maybe all of those little things add up? Count on it.

 

Okay, now lets discuss the exhaust system. This is where the truly twisted genius of this car and Jimmy Addison shine through. A set of big tube Hooker headers feed into two pairs of 3-inch head pipes. These head pipes are spliced together and welded at an angle. Each of these four head pipes the travels rearward to a muffler. Two mufflers are mounted in the stock dual exhaust location while the other two are positioned under the driver and passenger seats. This four muffler system was created by Addison and Chrysler dyno operator Andy Thomas for minimum back pressure with a reasonable noise level on the street. The noise concern wasn’t so much for the benefit of nearby cops as it was to pre-vent scaring away would-be competi-tors. And for the ultimate surprise, the mufflers used were Cadillac items (p.n. 1492860). It seems that these muff lers were the best thing available from a noise vs. back pressure standpoint. Still available today, these units are speci-fied for 500 cube Caddy applications with single exhaust. Don’t rush out to buy a set, however, as modern muff lers such as those from Flowmaster and Hooker are much better. But back when this car was put together, Caddy muffs were the hot ticket.


The suspension setup relied on tried-and-true Mopar race car theory and practice. As such, lightweight 10-inch drums are found at all four corners, replacing the much heavier GTX 11-inch units originally fitted by the factory. Soft Slant Six torsion bars were cranked down and the lower control arm rebound rubbers were put on spac-ers to bring them closer to the frame to soften the ride over bumps and dips. The nose down attitude wreaked havoc with Jimmy’s custom deep oil pan, but it allowed unreal front end rise and excel-lent weight transfer. At the rear, a set of A-990 Super Stock leaf springs, long Imperial shocks and an adjustable pin-ion snubber were enough to do the job.


Because it was so light at 3200-pounds, Addison was able to get away with using an 8-3/4” rear axle. A stock clutch-style Sure Grip unit in a “742” housing was employed along with stan-dard production axle shafts, neither of which gave any trouble. The ring gear was another story. With huge M8 H 12 or 13-inch slicks, gear life was a little under one year. Jimmy considered going to a Dana but never got around to it. Gear ratios ranged from 4.30s to 4.56s. And to fit all that rubber under the extremely limited confines of the ’67 B-body wheelhouse, Jimmy simply cut vertical slices up the quarter panels, pulled out the area until adequate clear-ance existed, then welded the gaps shut. A bit of bodywork restored the fac-tory fresh appearance, a major point with Addison, who insisted on a factory look.


Within a year of completion, this car had earned a nasty reputation as being unbeatable. That kind of news travels fast and before long, national recogni-tion was being focused on Jimmy and his screamer by the likes of Car Craft Magazine, Hot Rod Magazine and the aforementioned 1001 Custom & Rod Ideas. But it was the article which appeared in the September, 1971 issue of Car Craft which was to have the most impact. In it, writer Ro McGonegal dubbed the car the “Silver Bullet” because of its color and its perfor-mance. To this day, the name has stuck º and car enthusiasts the world over are well aware of the legacy of Jimmy Addison and the Silver Bullet, one of the wildest family picnic and Sunday church cruisers of all time.


Today the Bullet is owned by Troy, Michigan, resident Harold Sullivan. Harold was a part of the Woodward Avenue scene back during the days when Addison and the Silver Bullet were in command. At the time, Harold was just out of high school and had his own ’67 GTX. Of course his was a 440 cube stocker. But many a night passed when Harold was lucky enough to wit-ness the thunderous roar of the stroked Hemi blowing through four muff lers as yet another ’Gammer, Rat, Goat or Boss got a good look at the Bullet’s tail lights. Harold kept telling himself...“some day”.
Now, nearly thirty years later, Harold is the lucky owner of the car he once admired from a distance. Over the years he was able to always keep tabs on who owned the car and where it was stored. Then finally after years of nego-tiating with a reluctant seller, he struck a deal. The owner of the somewhat neglected and now motor-less Bullet agreed to part with the car provided that Harold could come up with a pristine 1970 Super Bird. No cash, just a straight up trade. But that’s not all. The man stipulated that the ’Bird had to be Petty Blue with a white interior and it also had to be a four-speed Six Pack car. Undaunted, Harold ran ads in the national trade papers and put out feel-ers hoping to find such a car. A year later, he scored a mint original paint car in Kentucky and the deal was made.


The car that you see before you is the result of a complete, down-to-bare metal restoration that was performed by Jeff Reif. The objective was to return the Silver Bullet to its appearance in 1970, right down to the Cragar S/S mags, cross ram, small hoodscoop and steel front bumper. Some liberties were taken, however, and they include the use of a motor plate instead of factory Hemi engine mounts, Dart aluminum heads in place of the trouble-prone alu-minum A-990 items and a few well cho-sen internal engine mods such as Stage V roller rockers, and a slightly wilder camshaft grind than the .590 lift Racer Brown stick originally used. As a happy commentary on the availability of Hemi parts, once as scarce as hen’s teeth, the engine is based on a brand new Hemi block from Mopar Performance. Bore and stroke are just what they were when the best minds at Chrysler originally spec-ed this thing out in ’69, the result is a thumping 487 cubic inches.


Originally intended for nostalgia drag strip duty, the GTX was given a change of direction in mid-resto to a show car to preserve a significant piece of Chrysler lore and legend.

End of magazine article.

I received an email from a fairly unusual looking aol.com address which my spam software almost deleted, but in it were 3 super high res recent pics of Silver Bullet and the following text...

The "Original Bullet" Unleashed


Manuel Karcho is on the verge of unleashing a magnificent slice of drag racing history back to the public. While Manuel does not own the original body of the Silver Bullet, he does own the last known engine and transmission used in the famed 1967 Plymouth GTX Silver Bullet, that was owned and driven by James "Jimmy" Addison. Detroit drag racers held meets called the "Street Showdowns" and Jimmy was the most famous street performer of all times. He was a local hero among drag racers. Jimmy became obsessed with finding ways to make cars perform at lightening speeds. Jimmy's interest in high performance and his talent at tuning engines made a positive impact on the "drag racing" industry. Jimmy is a deserving individual who's original work should be recognized, since his vast knowledge helped redefine which car could be classified as "muscle cars." Jimmy taught car enthusiasts the meaning of peak performance. As a tribute to Jimmy and as a nod of personal thanks, Manuel has painstakingly brought the engine back to it's original glory. Manuel gives full credit for creation of the original engine and car body to Jimmy, because without him there could not be a rebirth of two distinct cars. One being the "Silver Bullet," which is the body and the other being the "Original Bullet" which is the engine. Manuel again gives thanks to Jimmy Addison the unforgotten drag racing hero.

 

Now who would have ever thought that Manuel Karcho would have ended up with this bit of history? Which begs the question, how did he acquire the parts?

 

It was the early 1970s and Manuel Karcho was a young man growing up in the Detroit Metropolitan area. During that time drag racing was prominent in the area, especially on Woodward Avenue. The drag racing that occurred during that era drew crowds to watch Jimmy Addison. His most feared vehicle was always stored at the Sunoco gas station he managed on Woodward. To this crowd, the joy of drag racing was as important as monetary gains, if not more.

 

In the summer of 1975 Manuel, Al Craft and other starving drag racers hung out at the local Big Boy restaurant located at 13 ½ Mile Road and Woodward in Royal Oak, MI. Craft paid $5,000 for the "Silver Bullet" car from Jimmy Addison. Craft wanted to be the "King of the Road" and with this car, he achieved it! Word on the street was that Jimmy had "taken" Craft because of the exorbitant price. Craft drove the car less than 2 months and blew the transmission. Craft parked the car because he couldn't afford to fix it and he eventually sold Manuel the entire drive train. Manuel stripped the car of the engine, transmission, headers, shifter with the chrome box, gauges, tachometer and radiator with the intent of using the parts on another car. Manuel, then, returned the gutted car body back to Craft.

 

Thereafter, the engine, transmission and other items were placed in storage in 1976 when Manuel couldn't afford to finish the restoration of his own car. Even as a teenager, he understood the inherent wealth of having this engine, since it was the most important piece of the 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX that was once driven by Jimmy Addison.

 

Storage:

The car parts were placed in storage and remained for 27 years. After the Woodward Cruise became popular, Manuel wondered how much the engine would be worth in today's market. Manuel placed an ad in the Detroit News and the phone did not stop ringing. He was so excited because he obtained many leads and actually spoke with several people who had actual contact with the car in some way, shape or form. He spoke to several people who had either grown up around the car, or helped maintain it.

Manuel asked several prospective buyers what their plans were for the engine and transmission. Many indicated that they were going to drop the parts into another GTX body. After several conversations, Manuel decided he should do exactly what the buyers were planning. He decided that he would not sell the engine and transmission.

 

The Engine:

Manuel immediately went to work on locating the perfect GTX car body. He found a one owner car. Manuel performed a full rotisserie restoration on the car body. After deciding to reconstruct the car, Manuel needed someone to authenticate this racing machine. A potential buyer told him of a book written by Robert Genat entitled HEMI: The Ultimate American V-8. An excerpt in the book explained how the original engine was built. The original engine was powered by a 487 cubic inch eight liter 426 HEMI V-8 that included a wide range of innovative engineering feats; as well as many sophisticated parts that Jimmy had obtained through his Chrysler connections. The car facts indicate that the original engine housed: 
" Aluminum heads 
" A set of 12:1 pistons
" A Racer Brown cam with 0.590 lift and 322 degrees of duration
" A magnesium cross-ram intake with two Holley 780-cfm carburetors
" 600 horsepower
" TorqueFlite transmission with a 4,000-rpm stall converter
" Rear-end ratios of either 4:30 or 4:56

At times, Jimmy Addison ran the car with a cross-ram. Still at other times, Jimmy ran the car with a tunnel-ram. When Jimmy sold the car to Kraft in the summer of 1975 the car had a tunnel-ram and two dominators

.

The specifications in the excerpt were confirmed by Andy Angelucci, President of Angelucci Performance Products an expert on HEMI engines. Angelucci restored the engine back to its original street power.

 

Together, Angelucci and Manuel tore down the engine. Angelucci was impressed with the condition of the engine after so many years in storage. The antifreeze looked like it had just been put in. But even more so, Angelucci was absolutely amazed at the engine's mechanical design and how well balanced the machine work had been performed. Andy took one look inside the engine and said "Manuel, do you realize that there is a set of aluminum super stock K heads in this engine?" Manuel didn't even know what super stock K heads were or their significance! Andy explained that Chrysler only built these heads in 1965. In all the years that Manuel had owned the engine, he had never looked under the valve cover.

 

As the two continued to tear down the engine, they uncovered yet another hidden secret. On the number one cylinder was a hole with an allen wrench screw. Angelucci stepped back and started laughing. He had discovered a "cheating plug." One plausible explanation is that during that era "cheating plugs" were created to throw off the readings during the qualifying races which determined a car's classification.

 

Angelucci didn't change anything substantial on the engine. He only "freshened up" the system by replaced the rings, bearings and gaskets. He also performed a valve job on the heads. He cleaned up the overall engine block and added the new ignition system to make it more compatible to today's technology.


The Transmission:

The transmission was taken to High Tech Transmissions in Farmington Hills, MI. Tim, the owner, confirmed that Manuel's transmission had all HEMI parts inside including a manual valve body kit and an 8 inch converter. Hi-Tech installed new gaskets and clutches. One other noteworthy comment is that the parking gear had been removed. Manuel's guess is that the gear was removed to reduce the overall weight of the transmission. Additionally, there was no speedometer cable. Hi-Tech discovered a special plug used to block that hole.

 

The Exhaust:

The fabulous new exhaust system (as well as the mechanical and electrical systems) was created by Dave Brown, of Dr. Rolls Royce Inc. in Walled Lake, MI. Dave is a hot rodder that Manuel has known for over 20 years. While Dave's specialty is restoring Rolls Royces and Bentleys, Manuel was lucky to have Dave as a friend. Never in his wildest dreams did Manuel think anyone could be pickier than him. Dave's attention to detail surpassed even Manuel's high level of expectations. Dave built the custom exhaust system based only on a vague description of the original design from Manuel's memory, with the goal being the make the car as close to past perfection as possible. As with the original, the new system consists of a 3 inch stainless steel exhaust with 4 mufflers. Dave's attention to detail and his hand fabrication of the parts was greatly appreciated.


The Original Bullet:

This is the last known engine in the car driven by Jimmy Addison before he sold it to Kraft. Without this engine, it would have been just another silver 1967 GTX Belvedere. Manuel's engine has no reproduction parts, so what name would better befit a legendary piece of equipment than the "Original Bullet." The engine remains true to its original 1975 state. Manuel still has the original header, plug, starter, distributor, alternator, tachometer and shifter in his possession.

After 27 years, Manuel's intuition had paid off and it has been a dream come true. He finally had confirmation for what he had known in his gut for years. He had a history making engine in his possession and he could really appreciate the labor that had gone into this engineering marvel. As a youngster Manuel probably could have purchased the entire car for $3,000. However as time has passed, Manuel now knows that this engine and transmission are worth much more than the car body. It was relatively easy to find another GTX car body, but it would be almost impossible to recreate the engine developed by the Chrysler engineers and Jimmy Addison.

Manuel's car is a blast from the past. His car not only looks like the original, it is the only car that performs like the original because he has the original engine and transmission.

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