|Photo by Kurt Kelley, PoliceOne|
BY MIKE BERRY
The Wichita Eagle via Knight Ridder
Following our report last week that the Kansas Highway Patrol is going to be giving the new Dodge Charger police package a tryout after the first of the year, I received an intriguing, anonymous voice mail from a reader. His message convinced me that something I had heard as a teenager wasn't a hot-rodder myth, after all.
He said he had worked on individual KHP troopers' cars way back when. He said he had been able to massage the 440 MoPar V-8s to produce 425 horsepower, way up from the stock 375-horse rating.
"Them suckers would do some runnin' -- if they knew what I was doing to them motors, they would have had a fit back there in Topeka," he said. "I kept those old cars extry hot for years," the unauthorized mechanic said.
He declined to give his name, he said, because it would be easy to identify which troopers had let him under the hood of their cruisers and he doesn't want to get any of them in trouble, even though it's been over 30 years ago that he tuned the blue-and-gray Dodges.
I had to smile, remembering the stories I had heard about an area trooper out in western Kansas where I grew up. I had heard tales that he was running a souped-up engine and would refuse to pop the hood on the car for anyone but his personal mechanic.
I figured it was just a good story -- until I spotted the car parked in a nearby town during my lunch break one day. The engine would barely idle, with that long, barrummpp... barrummpp... barrummpp melody that a cammed-up big block sang back then.
So now I know it was probably all true, after all. The only question that remains is: Who was that masked mechanic?