Jimmy Cemal finds his happy place blending both restoration and race car in the build of this bootylicious ’77 Chrysler CL Charger
This article on Jimmy’s Charger was originally published in the October 2016 issue of Street Machine
JIMMY Cemal had the highest possible standards to meet with his CL Charger build – his own. “To be honest I’m a little OCD when it comes to my car, so trying to get everything perfect was a challenge,” the Sydneysider admits. Well Jimmy, you’re in good company there, and it’s safe to say your tenacity has paid off tenfold.
I mean, for starters, how’s that booty? Mega rubber and the Charger’s stumpy rear styling have been perfectly blended, making Kim K, J-Lo and Nicki Minaj look like mere amateurs. However, tubs and tyres need to be backed up with ample horsepower, which is pretty much the cause-and-effect of how Jimmy found himself with angle grinder in hand and the rear wheelwells in pieces.
“It all started after the first engine build,” Jimmy explains. “I was making 440hp at the wheels but was annoyed at how it struggled to get power to the ground; plant it at 90km/h and it would just turn the tyres.” That may sound like the kind of first-world problem some of us would love to have, but for Jimmy it was a serious stumbling block when trying to lay down decent numbers at the track.
But we’re jumping the gun a tad; let’s back it up 40-odd years. Like many of us, Jimmy’s choice of ride stems from family ties, and it was his dad, Ekrem, who fell for Chrysler Australia’s shining star when he migrated to our shores in ’74. “Dad is a Charger nut and they are the only cars he’s owned since,” Jimmy says. “We went everywhere in them growing up. Dad bought this particular CL back in 1995 as a standard factory 770 V8 and passed it down to me in 2008.”
Jimmy had dabbled with some very quick turbo cars, including a GSR Lancer running low 10s, so the first port of call for the Charger was a rework in the ‘go’ department. The first incarnation of the current 408 stroker small-block was slotted between the rails, albeit centred in the engine bay to rectify Chrysler’s laziness – and to satisfy Jimmy’s OCD. “I couldn’t stand the motor being offset in the engine bay by 58mm, and towards the steering box at that,” he opines. “I centred it using custom engine and transmission mounts, which also bought me space to run bigger pipes.”
That 440rwhp engine on a 275 tyre netted Jimmy a slippery 10.72@129mph, which along with the aforementioned skatey street manners were the catalyst for a five-year full rotisserie build.
Jimmy and good mate Dave ‘Pooch’ Cummins got busy designing and building the mini-tubbed rear and parallel four-link rear suspension – in Jimmy’s front yard mind you – to complement the chassis connectors and suspend a chrome-moly nine-inch housing. A Strange alloy centre was filled with a same-brand full spool and 4.56 gears, while 35-spline axles were employed for maximum reliability. The torsion-bar front end was retained, but the factory Chrysler disc/drum brake combo was upgraded to BA Falcon discs front and rear. Weld ProStar rims measuring in at 15×5.5 and 15×10 were shod in Pirelli 195/65 and M/T ET Street 315/60 radials respectively, the latter chosen early in the piece to allow precise tub fitment.
The body was found to be in good nick once it was bare-metalled inside and out, requiring only the usual Charger boot floor extensions and a general tidy-up. This was ably handled by Patrick Micallef and Matthew Feneley from Merv Newby Smash Repairs, before Patrick laid down fresh coats of the Charger’s factory Amarante Red hue.
Take a peek inside at that delicious maroon Boca Raton trim! A factory interior style for 770 variants, it’s as 70s as it gets. Reminiscent of the trim used for the ultra-rare Dodge Dart ‘Hang 10’ model offered in the US, 770 Boca Raton along with the VJ Sportsman and VK White Knight Charger interiors were as close as we got to disco-era threaded porn!
Jimmy and friend Stuart Kielar went to great pains to return the Charger’s interior to factory-perfect, sourcing fabric from the US and restoring the seatbelts and instruments to as-new. “A lot of people told me that I couldn’t fit a 315 rear tyre and keep the back seat, but when someone tells me I can’t do something I just work extra-hard to prove them wrong,” he declares. “We factored in the tubs, modified the frame accordingly and still have a perfectly useable rear seat. Done.” A reproduction three-spoke sports wheel was an appropriate choice, while performance considerations necessitated the fitment of a B&M Quicksilver shifter, albeit housed in the factory console.
The previous 408-cube small-block was retained but received a freshen-up, cam change and additional headwork to now pump out a cool 515rwhp on 98-octane. A popular combo in Chrysler circles, Jimmy’s cast 360 block was stroked to 408 using a Scat steel crank running Scat H-beam rods and CP pistons. A custom-grind hydraulic-roller cam, along with Trend pushrods, Ferrea valves and Isky dual springs, sort the fuel-air cycle through Indy –2 alloy heads.
“The heads gave me some dramas,” Jimmy recalls. “I brought them in from the States, but was on a time crunch to get the car done for a mate’s wedding. We fitted them up a week out from their big day only to find out they were porous. We stripped the heads and had them vacuum-impregnated – Loctite was sucked through them to seal the porosity. It worked a treat and we made it to the church on time; just a shame it pissed down with rain,” he laughs.
Better luck was had with the intake manifold, which is an Indy single-plane item topped with an 850 HP carb. The exhaust uses custom 1.75-inch primary tri-Ys backed by a twin three-inch X-pipe system. A large-core aluminium radiator and twin electric fans keep the Charger’s street manners in check, and a full MSD ignition is a proven option for reliable spark.
A 727 Torqueflite is the perfect choice for a stout small-block, especially when converted to full-manual, reverse-pattern operation and fitted with a transbrake; a 4400 stall TCE converter was specced-up to suit the revised engine combination.
The revamped CL debuted at Chryslers On The Murray earlier this year, where it won many hearts and took out a swag of awards, including a spot in the Top 5 Australian, Best CL Charger, an Editor’s Choice for Car of the Show and the aforementioned 515rwhp pull to take out the small-block class in the dyno shootout.
Jimmy and his mates drove the wheels off the Charger throughout that event and have added plenty of street miles in the time since. With no other projects on the horizon at this stage, he is just happy to be out and about enjoying the fruits of his labour.
“I went without the car for five years during this build, so am glad to be back behind the wheel,” he says. “I’ll definitely give it a run at the drags too and am hoping the newfound traction and extra horsepower will help it to a nine-second pass. It has everything I need; it looks both original and tough, has big-arse tyres and plenty of grunt. I’m happy.”