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About HemiDenny and the birth of HDK Suspension


Denny's education of all things Mopar began in his early teens riding with older brother John and his best friend Dan Hausch in their 1968 and 1969 383 Roadrunners. John's car was a 727 Torqueflite. It had a nice lumpy Sig Erson camshaft and Doug's headers and it made all of the right noises. Dan's 69 was a 4-speed.

These two cars were the absolute rulers of the streets in their small NW Ohio community in a time when you usually had a street race (often more than one) every evening and they feared no big-block Chevy, Olds, Pontiac, Mercury or Ford. John's car launched hard with it's Hemi torque converter and it wasn't unusual to see Dan's Roadrunner driving around town on 9" M+H slicks mounted on black 15x6 Mopar steelies.

Due no doubt to the influence of those two Roadrunners, Denny's first car at 16 was a stone stock very low mile and gently used 1969 440 GTX 4-speed Super Trak Pak car that became a serious street racer in short order. Equipped with electronic ignition, milled heads, a deep oil pan, a Lunati valvetrain, an Edelbrock tunnel ram with two custom Holley carbs, Appliance headers, a Zoom clutch and a 5.13 gearset in the Dana 60, it required him to keep a mounted set of M+H slicks and a small floor jack in the trunk at all times for any serious application of power.

Denny's next vehicle was a built from a shell 73 Duster with a Seaport Automotive based 383 shortblock to which Denny and racing partner Dan Hausch added a pair of seriously ported 906 heads, a Cam Dynamics .750 lift roller camshaft, a Weiand tunnel ram with a pair of 660 Holley carbs and custom built-on-the-car JR headers. This time the Dana 60, narrowed by Wolverine Chassis in Romulus, MI contained a set of 5.57 gears. The rear suspension was a Direct Connection designed "leaf-link". This combination netted low 11-teens at 122 mph. This was the first of Denny's projects that had a Mopar Missile themed paint job.

Now returning to the street in the early 90's Denny assisted younger brother Dave in building a 446" wedge powered 1972 Duster in a time before "store bought" components were available for such a conversion. This car was featured in Mopar Muscle magazine after the first time it was displayed at the 1992 Mopar Nationals. It was subsequently featured in Mopar Muscle again in the 2000's.

After those last two builds Denny's appreciation for the light weight A-body was firmly cemented and he desired to create the ultimate street Mopar, a Gen II powered flat-hooded Hemi A-body. Denny found a 21,000 mile example of a slant 6 powered Duster and bought a blueprinted 66 426 hemi engine. the small mechanical 66 spec camshaft was replaced with a larger 70 hydraulic street Hemi camshaft and a pair of original Hemi carbs were sent to Hemi carb specialist R.D. Katter in Virginia.

The next two years became a quest with a goal as Denny designed a custom reinforced stock K-frame with a rack and pinion steering concealed inside, custom built spindles and a beautiful painstakingly hand-built set of equal length exhaust headers. By the time the prototype was up and running Mopar performance had released the first of the new Hemi Blocks and aluminum cylinder heads. Noticing an ad in Hemmings for a 66 street Hemi wanted for by a fellow restoring a 66 Hemi Satelite convertible in Colorado, Denny sold and shipped him the 66 engine.

Denny then sent one of the new blocks to Ray Barton Racing Engines and had them build  a 472" stroker shortblock. He then sent a set of the new aluminum cylinder heads to Dorton Racing Engines in Concord, NC and had them expertly ported for maximum street performance. The new engine was put in the car with all of the previous componentry including another mild stock 70 street Hemi hydraulic camshaft but this time he added a set of Dick Landy stainless steel roller rocker arms.

This Duster, known as "the green car" due to it's FJ5 limelite green paint was featured as a magazine cover car the first two times it was ever displayed and ultimately appeared in 13 magazines. It was on TV twice, once with Don Garlits.

Mark Somma from Pittsburgh saw Denny's car in the magazines and despite having owned a lot of nice Mopars including a Superbird, he desired to have Denny build him a Hemi A-body. After a late night phone call to Denny and a request to check out Denny's car, Mark drove four hours overnight and was at the door the next morning. This meeting started a friendship between the two that resulted in an orange 1971 Duster with a 528 crate Hemi, a Keisler 5-speed, 4-wheel disc brakes and a Dana 60. This car too appeared in several magazines and on a magazine cover after it's first showing at the Mopar Nationals. Mark then bought a Hilborn injected 528 Hemi Barracuda and is deep into the build of a Dodge Demon with a 426 Hemi that has power steering and A/C - Both cars HDK suspension equipped.

Denny ended up selling the green car to an  individual who stepped up at a Chrysler Classic event and spontaneously offered the right numbers when the car wasn't even for sale. By this time Denny was building tubular K-frames by request, more and more all of the time. HDK suspensions had sort of evolved from all of this activity and was still growing every day.

Now that the green car was gone Denny embarked on his ultimate build, the one bouncing around in the back of his brain all of these years, a Hemi powered 1971 Duster with that famouse sharktooth grill, a Gen II Hemi and a 4-speed transmission. After looking high and low for a suitable body Denny found the right one right under his nose. Brother Dave had a 1975 318 Duster in his garage that he had bought off of the street at a local area small town cruise night. Not originally considered (and not originally for sale) the more he looked at it, the more sense it made. A deal was struck and The next thing you know Denny had the car stripped to it's shell and a major portion of the unrusted floor cut out for a back-half subrame. The hood/grill/bumpers and tail panel were changed to 1971 pieces.

No prisoners were taken during this build which includes an all-aluminum Gen II 426 Hemi, an A833 4-speed trans with a Passon Performance aluminum case, a Gear-Vendors Overdrive an HDK front suspension (of course) and a custom 4-link coil-over rear suspension, all of which work perfectly with the 4.30 gearing, 30" tall drag radials, full exhaust and plenty of Dynamat for a sublime highway driving experience with the A/C on.

A bright red top-to-bottom interior and a ghosted Mopar Missile paint scheme on this silver Duster are some of it's notable and unique features. This car has already appeared on the cover of Mopar Collectors Guide among other things.

In the middle of building his silver Duster, Denny built a Demon Sizzler for Jim Bayer of Pittsburgh equipped with an HDK front suspension, an all-aluminum (painted) 426 Gen II Hemi, a 727 TF transmission, 4-wheel disc brakes, A/C and a Dana 60 rear end. Jim's car was picked as the best modified A-body at Carlisle, received an award at the Mopar Nationals and has been featured in several magazines.

Denny's happy with his car and HDK is now breaking ground on a new dedicated facility where he will be developing new products for various Mopar musclecar platforms. If you are within distance, this would be the perfect place to bring your Mopar to have Denny personally install a new HDK suspension system.

Denny was fortunate to meet the late Tom Hoover ("Father of the Hemi") in North Carolina last October before his recent untimely passing. Mr. Hoover spent a considerable amount of time inspecting the Duster. The smile on his face when he sat in the driver's seat said it all. He was a very nice guy and we will miss him.

As has been a tradition in recent years, Denny and HDK will be hosting a large tent at The Nationals (formerly The Mopar Nationals) in Columbus the 2nd weekend of August (40' x 120' - twice as big as last year). In addition to selected special Mopar musclecars including plenty of HDK cars (several with Hemis) it will feature some significant and historic Mopar racecars.

Joe Pappas is bringing Arnie Klann's Mopar Missile Wire Car Pro-Stock Plymouth Duster (with Joe and compatriot Dick Oldfield in attendance) and Arnie himself is coming from California with the original restored race transporter hauling the Motown Missile Pro-Stock Dodge Challenger. Ebbie Merritt and Mark Williamson are showing the Motown Missile Pro-Stock Plymouth Barracuda for the first time since it's recent complete restoration. Harold Sullivan will be there with Jimmy Addison's Silver Bullet 67 Hemi GTX street racer, Tom Devers is bringing the very late Tom Hoover's "Terror of I-696" 1966 Hemi Coronet, Greg Charney - a Chrysler engineer and notable Detroit street racer from back in the day will have his street driven 1968 Dodge Dart with the all aluminum 410 inch Mopar Performance sprint car based powerplant that has been running 10.0's (as in "knocking on the 9's") and Daryl Klassen, aka "Lite Wt", the Guru of the Hemi Dart thread on www.classracer.com  is pulling all the way from Manitoba, Canada with his pristine original SS/AA street driven Hemi Dart.

Appearances by invited Mopar Missile engine builder Ted Spehar and Gen II Hemi collector Steve atwell are still in the unconfirmed category although Steve told Greg (Charney) that he is going to DRIVE his Hemi Dart from Detroit to Columbus for the show!

We invite everyone to visit the tent this year, meet and chat with Denny and see some very special cars.

Thank you,
HDK Suspensions