The Road to Roadkill’s Zip-Tie Drags: Wiley & Charlie
3 years ago Gallery Racing
Growing up with a grassroots gearhead, Wiley and his big brother Charles witnessed a plethora of kickass cars come and go through their father’s garage, but none would earn their admiration like their dad’s old ’69 Dodge Dart. Watching as his kids enthused over his utilitarian A-body, their dad wondered how the boys would react to the more muscular Mopar® B-body models. So he decided it was high time he sat his sons down to talk about the birds and the bees (Superbirds and Superbees ,that is). After being presented photos of Chrysler’s full performance lineup, Charles became enamored with the coke-bottle body of Dodge’s iconic 1969 Charger, and naturally Wiley became captivated with the 1971 Plymouth Roadrunner (that’s Wiley by the way, not Wile E. like the coyote). From that destiny-defining moment, the two brothers became determined to somehow, someday obtain those dream cars.
Now, anyone with their feet wet in the classic car hobby will agree that there are some obvious challenges to being a 20-something-year-old chasing after such iconic muscle cars, the biggest being price. The value of your typical driver-quality ’69 Charger or a real-deal Roadrunner can range well beyond $50k, that’s nearly an entire year’s salary for an average millenial. Even on a steady diet of ramen noodles and government cheese, the math just doesn’t add up to justify a hobby car. Luckily, there is a simple solution: “don’t get it right, just get it running.”
That’s a quote stolen from the popular MotorTrend program Roadkill. You’re not going to see factory-correct polyglas tires, pretty paint jobs or a single numbers-matching part on a Roadkill-inspired car. That’s because the television show’s philosophy captures the concept that a car doesn’t have to be the traditional definition of “driver quality” to be enjoyed.
Contributing to behind-the-scenes production of the Roadkill show, Wiley soon adopted their “just make it work” motto and shared the inspiration with his big bro. With caution to the wind, the two set out to find imperfect project cars that could be built up piece by piece without sweating superficial details.
Charles beat Wiley to the punch when he stumbled across this rugged rat-rod ’69 Charger. Just like the real General Lee, she was a little rough around the edges, the front end was a bit banged up and she was in desperate need of some T.L.C. Flaws and all, Charles fell in love with the Charger’s fading flair and drug it home right away. Wasting no time, he got straight to work repairing the car’s sheet metal and rebuilding the 383 Chrysler big block engine. As Charles picked away at the newfound project, he left an envious green-eyed brother behind thirsting to find the right Roadrunner. Luckily, Wiley already had a target in his sights, Roadkill star Steve Dulcich’s 1971 Plum Crazy Satellite.
Okay, maybe it’s not technically a “Roadrunner”, but allow me to explain. Plymouth featured a tier of varying trims and editions to offer a wider array of features and price points to the same basic car. At the top rung was the crème de la crème “gentleman’s muscle car”, the GTX, a notch below was the all-go no-show Roadrunner model, and at the very bottom of the barrel was the most economical option, the Plymouth Satellite. With the same body and all the potential of a real-deal “RM” or “RS” car, the Plymouth Satellite offered the perfect platform to be built upon without the premium price tag. In the case of this 383 big block and original high impact FC7 (that’s nerd talk for purple) Satellite, the car even had the same beauty and brawn of the posher Plymouths.
With the beloved beater already being put to work on the set of Roadkill , it seemed unlikely that Wiley would wrangle away one of the program’s star cars from his buddy Steve. Maybe it was Wiley’s incessant pleading, maybe it was his sheer charm or maybe it was as simple as old-man Dulcich recognizing an eager enthusiasm in Wiley that reminded him of his own younger days, but after just a few months of chipping away, Wiley managed to talk his way into becoming the proud new owner this purple Plymouth.
With over a decade of daydreaming, doodling pictures of cars in class and drooling over for-sale listings that were just out of reach; the Stevens boys had actually pulled off buying their boy-hood dream cars. Still brimming with excitement over their projects, the brothers set out to get their two ratty Mopar muscle machines roadworthy in time for a public debut at Roadkill’s Zip-Tie Drags in Tucson, Arizona.
They had a long way to go and a short time to get there (1,000+ miles and just a few weeks of prep to be more precise), but with that “don’t get it right, just get it running” motto in mind, the two brothers managed to sort out all their cars’ quirks just in time. Sticking true to Roadkill style, their definition of working out a few flaws essentially meant thrashing out months worth of wrenching in just a few weeks. After swapping drivetrains, restoring ignition and fuel systems, basically repairing every necessary mechanical part their cars, the two were ready for a cannonball-style shakedown cruise all the way to Tucson.
Despite pulling an all-nighter driving these mangled Mopar vehicles over 500 miles, the guys were eager the next morning to get out on the track for a good old-fashioned brotherly competition. Taunting and teasing filled the starting line as the two prepared to stage, but the time for talk was over, now they had to pony up!
I imagine years of bickering over who can run the fastest, jump the highest or be the best was all leading up to this moment; the anticipation was palpable.
While ultimately little brother Wiley’s purple Plymouth did reign victorious with a pass in the high 14s, I’m sure Charles will appreciate me pointing out this was due to some technical difficulties troubling his Charger. No doubt a rematch will be met with fierce vengeance.
Sibling rivalries and all kidding aside, is there anything cooler than seeing two bros living out their boyhood dreams of growing up be Bo and Luke Duke and going on wild Mopar adventures? These cars aren’t perfect, they’re far from pristine, you couldn’t even polish them if you tried; but isn’t that what makes them so fun? No worries, no cares: just a pair of grassroots raised gear-heads stoked to be joining Dodge’s Brotherhood of Muscle.