Words: Boris Viskovic
Pics: Brian White

It's a pretty big effort to get your car featured in Street Machine once, but having it featured twice — especially when you’re a lady — is something else! But then, Cassie Rhodes isn’t your average street machiner [she’s much better looking for a start] and she just happens to be married to a very clever panel beater and spray painter — Sam Rhodes.

If you’re a West Aussie street machiner, you’re probably well aware of his and Cassie’s business, Vulcan Panel and Paint. And you would have to be blind to have not seen his killer EK, Special K, and runs consistently in the low 9s. But this isn’t about him, it’s about Cassie and her mighty fine piece of Mopar muscle.

If you dig out your August ’03 issue of SM, you’ll be able to check out the previous incarnation. It was a pretty tidy unit — original paint and a stout 360 replacing the factory 340. That combo was good enough for an 11.20 and probably would have gone faster had Cassie not sold the motor to help finance the latest build.

Cassie made the decision to go for a blown motor early on in the project:

“We went through a few 360s in the past, but the biggest problem was finding a replacement. It would normally take three or four blocks to find a good one,” Cassie says.

Sam added:

“With the EK we went with all aftermarket gear and it’s been really good, so we thought we’d spend the extra money and get the R3 race block and Brodix heads.”

Never heard of that combo? Well it seems no-one else has either:

“There’s no-one that knows anything about these motors in Australia. We bought the B1 BA heads as they seemed like a good choice, but they didn’t fit the R3 block. You have to check absolutely everything as there are so many variations,” Cassie says.

So how do you come up with 408 cubes from a 340 block? Cassie explains:

“The stock bore on a 340 is 4.040in, while the R3 block is only 4.030in. The extra cubes come from the 4in stroker crank. We must have had the motor apart 20 times while we were clearancing the block for the stroker crank.”

To save you getting the calculators out, the stock stroke on a 340 is 3.31in.

A lot of work went into the valvetrain to change the rocker oiling from the factory shaft system, to a Chevy-style pushrod oiling system. This involved welding up the stock pushrod holes and redrilling them at the right angle for the new rocker gear. It’s a long story and Cassie doesn’t really want to talk about it. Let’s just say it was a hell of a lot of work!

The specs on the rest of the engine read just like a speed shop catalogue — which isn’t too surprising as Cassie used to work for Chris Mills Performance — so she knows her stuff. It’s full of Crane roller cam and lifters, Diamond blower pistons, GRP aluminium rods, Isky springs and Ferrea valves.

The outside is pretty impressive as well, with the most obvious addition being the BDS Street/Strip 6/71 blower that’s set up to run 30 per cent over. This sucker’s not running any fancy pants EFI either:

“Streetability wasn’t really important with this motor,” says Sam.

“We’ve got other cars in the shed to go cruising in, so we built this one for raw horsepower.”

Seems like they’ve succeeded, with estimates of around 900-1000hp on tap, this should be one hell of a ride when it hits the track. Yep, you read that right, this car was built to race!

With that much grunt a bit of help was required in the traction department. To help fit the 12-inch wide Convo Pros under the rear, the stock wheel tubs have been moved in around three inches, and the rear leaf springs moved inboard about four inches. Underneath has all been tidied up and coated in the same House of Kolor Sunrise Pearl as the top side. Which wasn’t as easy as it sounds. “Underneath it was covered in all this factory rustproofing, suspension components, everything. It saved the body, but it took months to get off. The work experience guys hate me! Even sandblasting wouldn’t get it off,” Sam says.

He continues: “After we got all the crap off, everything was smoothed and primered, rubbed back and primered again. I used a primer that was a similar colour to the top coat because I didn’t want to use heaps of paint under the car that no-one was going to see and was going to get covered in rubber anyway!”

If that sounds like a lot of work, then you better look away now. As Sam wasn’t real happy with the way the engine was offset in the engine bay — which would only be more obvious with the blower sticking out of the bonnet — a lot of work went in to centralising the drivetrain. This involved creating a whole new firewall and shifting the trans tunnel. It’s one of those things that you wouldn’t notice unless someone told you, but makes all the difference when it comes to building a car to this level.

Inside is fairly unmolested with only the necessary safety equipment and engine monitoring added for good measure. Lightweight Kirkey racing seats, a six-point cage and Auto Meter Ultra-Lite gauges and tacho add to the race feel, while the rest of the trim has been re-done in the original black vinyl. The crowning glory on all of this hard work is without a doubt the flawless bodywork and amazing finish of the HOK Sunrise Pearl. At first glance it doesn’t look that different from the original finish, but get it in the sun and the pearl really gets to work. Even Sam was surprised how similar it looked to the factory finish.

And that’s what’s special about this Charger, as modified as it is, there’s still no doubt where its roots are. Super Charger indeed!

Charger Engine
Charger Engine
Charger Engine Bay
Charger Engine Bay
Charger Engine Bay
Charger Paint
Charger Paint
Charger Paint
Charger Paint

Great Debate

It doesn't matter which brand is dear to your heart, you’ve all got a story about the ‘one that got away’. For the Ford fans it the Phase IV, GM has the V8-powered LJ Torana, and for Chrysler fans it is without doubt an R/T version of the E55 Charger.

Yes, they were sold to the public, but it’s pretty easy to see they were just a shadow of what they could have been. When they left the factory, it was a much softer and luxury-oriented Charger than what many Chrysler race fans had hoped to see.

Auto only, restrictive single exhaust, open diff and very sedate looks were not high on the agenda when it came to winning at Bathurst. The 340 engine was something else though. Race proven in the US, it came to Australia fully loaded — well, maybe they could have chucked the six-pack on it — and is one of the major pieces of evidence supporting the idea that the E55 should have been much, much more. In December 1972, Modern Motor stated: “The car is the result of the company’s aborted Series Production racing programme, using the hot-shot Stateside 340 V8...”

So it seems that back then the intention of the E55 was pretty obvious, but 35 years later the memories are starting to fade and not even former Chrysler employees can remember what the real story was. One thing is certain though, the whole supercar scare was an absolute load of crap. A lot family wagons are just as quick these days!

Thank You

  • Nuts, bolts and locks coated by Aeroplate (08)9454 9140
  • Custom headers and exhaust by Andy’s Exhaust Werx (08)9361 0144
  • Cylinder head machining by AK Cylinder Heads (08)9495 1764
  • Radiator by Browns Radiators (08)9451 8093
  • Engine and body components coated by Competition and Industrial Coatings (08)9495 4237
  • Parts supplied by CMP (08)9353 1155
  • Parts supplied by Crane Technologies (08)8363 5566
  • Parts supplied by Fabre Australia (02)9758 1966
  • Diff housing, tailshaft and yoke by Final Drive Engineering (08)9314 6811
  • Engine, Cylinder head and port development by Greg Gower
  • Custom fuel and oil tanks fabricated by KRL Alloy 0415 764 900
  • Trim by Limrod Trimming 0404 411 241
  • Shocks supplied by Malaga Springs and Suspension (08)9248 1130
  • Diff assembled by Maddington Diffs (08)9493 0218
  • Glass supplied and fitted by Nu-Vision Windscreens 0429 457 582
  • Engine machining by Performance Modifications (08)9446 8181
  • Specialist machine work by Phil Gardiner Engineering (08)9356 1216
  • Rollcage, chassis connectors and rack conversion by Race on Custom (08)9361 8739
  • Parts supplied by Performance Wholesale (07)3808 1986
  • Parts supplied by Rocket Industries (02)8825 1900 Parts and info supplied by Shady Dell Speed Shop (USA) (814) 574-2543 Complete car build by Vulcan Panel and Paint (08)9456 3311 Transmission by Welshpool Automatics 0411 185 333

To those who devoted their time, effort and invaluable assistance — Greg Gower, Gazza, Dusty, Nick, Darren, my dad Darryl and especially my husband Sam — words cannot express my gratitude.



1973 Valiant Charger E55
Owners: Cassie and Sam Rhodes
Colour: House of Kolor Sunrise Pearl


Brand: Mopar 340 R3 Race Block
Capacity: 408ci
Built by: Cassie and Sam
Induction: BDS 6/71 supercharger, 30 per cent overdriven
Injectors: Enderle mechanical injection with Birdcatcher hat
Heads: Brodix B1BA (modified)
Camshaft: Crane Roller (custom grind)
Lifters: Crane Pro Series Roller
Pistons: Diamond blower
Rings: Perfect Circle Plasma Moly
Crank: Mopar steel, 4-inch stroke
Bearings: Clevite Tri-Armour
Conrods: GRP Aluminium 6.123in
Pushrods: Trend
Valve springs: Isky ‘Rad’
Valves: Ferrea Comp Plus 2.055(in), 1.6(ex)
Oil pump: Mellings
Sump: Hi Energy Pro Bracket
Preferred fuel: Methanol
Fuel pump: Enderle 80A
Cooling: Brown’s Custom Alloy radiator with 16in thermo
Exhaust: Custom by Andy’s exhaust
Ignition: MSD Programmable 7, MDS billet dizzy, MSD HVC II coil, Eagle 11mm leads


Gearbox: 727 Torqueflite w/ TCI manual valve body
Diff: Strange Diff Carrier, 3.9 Richmond Pro gears, Strange full spool, pinion support and yoke, Moser Billet 35 spline axles
Tailshaft: Custom 3in by Final Drive
Torque converter: Coan 10in Race Blower converter

Suspension and Brakes

Springs: Torsion bar (f), Lovells leaf spring (r)
Shocks: 90/10 (f), Koni (r)
Mods: Rear leaves moved inboard 4 inches, Caltracs
Brakes: Stock (f), EA Falcon (r)
Calipers: CL Chrysler (f), EA Falcon (r)
Master cylinder: VG Valiant (non power-assisted)

Wheels and Tyres

Tyres: M/T 26x4.5x15 ET Front (f), Hoosier 29x12x15 drag slick (r)
Wheels: Convo Pro 15x4 (f), Convo Pro 15x12 (r)

Paint and Body

Paint: House of Kolor Sunrise Pearl
Sprayed by: Vulcan Panel and Paint
Panel work by: Vulcan Panel and Paint
Body mods: Engine and trans tunnel centralised, chassis connectors, mini tubbed, custom firewall and engine bay


Seats: Kirkey race
Steering wheel: Stock
Mods: Back seat shortened
Cage: 6-point moly
Trim: Black vinyl
Re-trimmed by: Limrod Trimming
Instruments: Auto Meter Ultra-Lite
Shifter: B&M Pro Ratchet
Seatbelts: Simpson 5-point harness