Behind the Scenes: How Gas Monkey’s ’67 Dart Beat Roadkill’s Charger


It will come as no big surprise, but virtually everything you see on reality TV is fudged. The characters, the drama, the coincidences, it’s all fake. Smart people can see right through it. So when the crew at Gas Monkey Garage builds cars on Discovery Channel’s Fast N’ Loud, they’re not actually building cars, right? One of the best ways to find out is to challenge them to a build-off. Not just any build-off, but one that settles the score with a televised 1/8-mile drag race in front of 10,000 spectators. The boys at Roadkill (Mike Finnegan and David Freiburger) did just that in what could quite possibly be the most highly publicized Internet pissing match amongst car guys of all time. After the two Hellcat-powered Mopars squared off, the GMG ’67 Dart stomped the Roadkill ’68 Charger by six tenths, laying down an impressive 5.86-second e.t. If there is a moral to this story, Freiburger put it best in his post-race interview: “Keep your mouth shut on the Internet.”

For a shop that doesn’t really build cars, Gas Monkey Garage sure does a very good job of keeping it real. Despite the fame and success GMG has achieved thanks to Discovery Channel’s Fast N’ Loud, the crew projects an aura of genuine humility that lures haters into questioning their ability. “Our show isn’t for people who live and breathe cars. It’s for the guy in Sandusky, Ohio, who drives a Geo Prism,” GMG master mechanic Aaron Kaufman jokes. “It’s entertainment for a different kind of viewer. There’s a dichotomy of who we are on TV, and what we really do. What we do on the show is based on who we are, but we have to take certain liberties to provide some entertainment value. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and we’re willing to poke fun at ourselves, but we take building cars very seriously.”

“We don’t take ourselves too seriously and we’re willing to poke fun at ourselves, but we take building cars very seriously.”Aaron Kaufman

005 1967 Dodge Dart Hellcat Gas Monkey Engine


With eleventh-hour help from Diablosport, GMG figured out how to get a Hellcat to run without all the junk that’s wired to it from the factory.

Like all great sandbaggers, GMG loves catching people off guard. When GMG took a pair of trucks to SEMA a few years back, people were genuinely surprised by how nice they looked off camera. “We get that kind of response fairly often, and when we took those trucks to SEMA, people realized that we aren’t a joke, and we’re as real as anyone you’ve met. We happen to have a TV show, but our real profession is building cars,” says Aaron. The entire crew at GMG has been building cars long before Fast N’ Loud, and the public perception that the shop merely slaps jalopies together just for TV suckers people into underestimating their abilities. “First Roadkill called us out on the Internet. Then they started coming at us real hard without really knowing who they were dealing with.”

The trash talk went both ways, with the Roadkill guys making fun of Richard Rawlings’ finely manicured hair and the GMG boys calling Roadkill—a YouTube sensation that averages 3.5 million views per episode for a grand total of over 170 million total hits—a “little Internet show.” Once the fanboys of both shows jumped in on the action through social media, things got really ugly. GMG didn’t take too kindly to being called cake decorators who are afraid to gamble. According to the haters, GMG doesn’t build real cars. “Initially we thought that since we have a TV show, and Roadkill kind of has a TV show, the build-off was all in lighthearted fun,” says Aaron. “Then they started taking some mean-spirited digs at us, so things got personal. We wanted to win very much because the build-off wasn’t so light-hearted anymore.”

“First they called us out on the internet. Then they started coming at us real hard without really knowing who they were dealing with.”Aaron Kaufman

012 1967 Dodge Dart Interior Gas Monkey


To accommodate the Powerglide, GMG fabricated a brand new trans tunnel.

Where fiction meets reality are the demands of the Fast N’ Loud taping schedule that usually gives the crew just two weeks to build an entire car. GMG is accustomed to this sort of thing, but even so, 17 days wasn’t much time to build the race car they envisioned. “Richard’s dad had a beige ’67 Dart that they delivered newspapers in together when he was a kid. He found a car just like it and planned on installing a 340 small-block and a four-speed we pulled out of a ’71 Challenger,” Parts Manager Jonathan Mansour explains. “We were already a week into the build when we accepted Roadkill’s challenge to a race. The car had a lot of sentimental value to Richard, but we said screw it, this Dart fits the description of what we need to build, and we don’t have time to go out and buy another car. We decided that if we’re going to build a car for this competition, we didn’t want to just drop in the Hellcat motor and bolt up some slicks. We wanted to do it right by back-halving the car, installing a four-link, and dropping in a Powerglide trans. Everything was so off-the-fly.”

“They started taking some mean-spirited digs at us, so things got personal. We wanted to win very much because the build-off wasn’t so light-hearted anymore.”Aaron Kaufman

017 1967 Dodge Dart Interior Rear Seats Gas Monkey


For a shop that’s supposedly run by a bunch of monkeys, the tin work surrounding the tubs is downright impressive.

With no time to spare, GMG got to work cutting out the floorpan, framerails, and rear suspension in preparation for the back-half kit. The super tight timeframe meant overnighting tons of parts, and according to GMG, the Roadkill camp deliberately put them in a bind. “Everyone said we cheated and that it wasn’t a fair race because we back-halved our car, and it weighed so much less than their car. That’s all we heard for months,” Jonathan recalls. “What really happened is that they intentionally waited to see what kind of car we were building, then announced rules that they knew our car wouldn’t fit just to get everyone on their side. They even admitted to this on our show. We kept asking for rules, but with only 17 days to build the car, we didn’t have time to wait around for them. We found out later that Diversified Creations was building the car for them. Everyone in the shop was like, what the heck, these guys called us out and challenged us to a build-off, and now they’re not even building their own car? They had months and months to build their car, and we only had 17 days. ”

In addition to back-halving the Dart and matching it up with a Magnum Force K-member and front suspension, GMG moved the firewall back 6 inches, and fabricated a new trans tunnel and driveshaft tunnel. The tight timeline notwithstanding, everything appeared to be on schedule after dropping in the Hellcat Hemi, Powerglide, and 9-inch rear, but the Hellcat didn’t want to play nice. “The factory wiring harness weighs a ton, so we stripped it down and made our own harness. The problem is that the stock CAN bus system uses 52 modules that connect to things like the trans, fuel tank, gauge cluster, shifter, and taillights,” Jonathan explains. “Unless the computer sees all those modules, the PCM locks up and the motor won’t run. That’s why the Roadkill guys transferred all that stuff onto their car. For the PCM to get a signal from the key, we had to use the factory body control module, key, and start button. We then found out that the computer has a rolling encryption system that’s constantly writing new code to lock it out from tuners. The guys at Diablosport flew in to town at the last minute to save the day. Those guys are wizards. They took the computer apart, unlocked it, disabled the modules, and starting writing new code. Afterward, the motor finally fired up.”

What the Discovery Channel neglected to include in postproduction was the super-human effort put out by the Diablosport crew to meet the Roadkill Nights drag race deadline. Seizing upon the chance to prove to the world on a very public stage that they are the undisputed leaders in the late-model Hemi tuning world, they dropped everything to make it happen, something that was never really given its due by the network’s antic-loving producers in the video editing suite.

“The Roadkill guys definitely looked bamboozled after we beat them.”Aaron Kaufman

006 1967 Dodge Dart Hellcat Supercharger Closeup Gas Monkey


The beastly Hellcat has been fitted with a smaller ATI blower pulley to increase boost, and long-tube headers to free up breathing.

Moreover, the transmission difficulty experienced by GMG wasn’t fully exposed—a fact that Mopar guys will point to as the result of bad karma. (That’s what happens when you use a GM transmission in a Dodge!) “The first torque converter we had in the car didn’t hit until 6,000 rpm. After we dyno’d the car on the Saturday before the race, we took it back to the shop and installed a tighter converter,” Aaron recounts. “We made 12 passes at the track the next day, and the car ran 6.60s banging the rev-limiter the entire length of the track. At this point, the Reverse bands starting wearing out, so we took the car back to the shop Sunday night, rebuilt the trans, and got another converter that we had to machine to fit our flexplate. We didn’t get done putting the car back together until midnight. We came back the next morning, did a burnout, drove it down the street, then loaded it up on the trailer. The third converter we installed was designed for a much bigger car, and fortunately, once we got to the race in Detroit the car ran great.”

When the big day arrived last August at the Roadkill Nights event at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, GMG was greeted with a surprisingly receptive audience. Competition aside, the big challenge would be man-handling a beastly A-Body down a makeshift dragstrip setup in a parking lot. “The track looked like the surface of the moon. Roadkill picked the right lane, which was the flatter of the two,” Aaron recalls. “The left lane had a rise in it right where you shift into Second. The car drove unbelievably straight. There was less than 1/8 to shut it down, so I had to jam the brakes, lift, shift down to First, then jam the brakes again. I actually made plans to pitch the car sideways if necessary. You could see sparks flying from the front of the car when I hit the brakes, and now there’s a wrinkle in the floorboard behind the front seat. They tree’d us off the line, but in the end we spanked them by three car lengths. The Roadkill guys definitely looked bamboozled after we beat them.”

The view from outside of the car was just as sweet for the rest of the GMG crew. ”Everyone was very welcoming and we got a very positive response from the fans. No one was expecting us to bring as nice of a car as we did, and even the Roadkill guys were surprised,” Jonathan recounts. “No one wants to get called out publicly, go to their event, and then lose on their turf. We really wanted to win, and we made sure that we won. We crossed the finish line first, and it was crickets after that. The only people cheering were from our shop. Overall, it was a great event.”

“We crossed the finish line first, and it was crickets after that. The only people cheering were from our shop.”Jonathan Mansour

024 1967 Dodge Dart Trunk Aeromotive Fuel System


An Aeromotive tank and pump provide the fuel supply. GMG fitted a larger intercooler tank, which gets packed with ice to keep IATs nice and cool at the track.

Despite the decisive victory, haters gotta hate, and some Roadkill fans still insist that GMG cheated. This sort of thing is nothing new for GMG, and the crew has learned to roll with the punches. “We’ve grown very thick skins over the years, and anytime we get flamboyant responses like that, we just chalk it up to hate. It’s hard to get through life if you take yourself too seriously, and we’re happy to show people what we can do,” says Aaron. “I think the Roadkill guys were very surprised. There are lots of TV shows with lots of characters where they don’t actually build anything, but we’re real people in a real shop that really builds cars. Maybe someday someone will call us out and we’ll lose, but we were very happy to show up in Pontiac, Michigan, that day with a car built in Dallas, Texas, and take home the win.”

004 1967 Dodge Dart Hellcat Gas Monkey Aaron Kaufman



“Shartcat” Sold At Barrett Jackson
As is often the case with the cars built by Gas Monkey Garage, the Hellcat Dart was sold at auction. On January 27, 2016, the “Shartcat” went across the block at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale, Arizona, auction at Westworld, fetching $74,800 in a no-reserve bidding war. When you consider new Hellcats go for right around that amount and there are thousands of them on the road, the ’67 Gas Monkey Dodge Dart was a darned good deal!

Fast Facts
1967 Dodge Dart
Gas Monkey Garage
Dallas, TX
Type: Chrysler 376ci Gen III “Hellcat” Hemi
Block: factory 4.09-inch bore, iron
Oiling: stock pump and pan
Rotating assembly: factory 3.58-inch steel crank and rods; forged 9.5:1 pistons
Cylinder heads: Chrysler aluminum castings
Camshaft: stock hydraulic roller
Valvetrain: stock
Induction: factory IHI 2.4L twin-screw supercharger
Ignition: stock coil packs and plugs
Fuel system: Aeromotive fuel tank, pump, and pressure regulator
Exhaust: American Racing 2-inch long-tube headers, custom 3.5-inch turndowns
Cooling system: stock water pump, Ron Davis radiator, electric fan
Built by: Chrysler
Transmission: ATI Powerglide and 3,500-stall converter; Hurst shifter
Rear axle: 9-inch rearend with 35-spline axles, 4.30:1 gears, and
Detroit Locker differential
Front suspension: Magnum Force K-member, control arms, spindles, steering rack, and coilovers
Rear suspension: Chassisworks back-half kit, four-link suspension and coilovers
Brakes: Wilwood 11.75-inch discs and four-piston calipers, front and rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Centerline Elite 15×4, front; 15×10, rear
Tires: Mickey Thompson ET Front 25×4.5×15, front;
Mickey Thompson 29.5×10.5×15 ET Street, rear

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