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Holley MoParty 2021: Mitch Lelito's 1972 Dodge Challenger T/A Clone

Author: Jesse Kiser | 10/08/2021 < Back to Motor Life Home
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Sitting in the grandstands at MoParty, one could simply close their eyes and escape back to the past. It was easy to return to the visions of muscle cars racing fender to fender, with the roar of V8s echoing off of countryside hills. The classic days of Trans Am and the manufacturer pony-car wars.


“I went to Road America as a kid and loved Trans-Am racing,” said owner Mitch Lelito. “I thought, someday I’ll have a pony car and do that Trans-Am style racing. Then my dad said I should buy this Challenger as it’s ‘economical.”


MoParty 2021 T/A Challenger 3



Despite the car visually being a dead-on TA Mopar with an inner-fender nameplate and all, Mitch was quick to point out it’s a clone. It’s a 1972 318ci Rally Pack Challenger, the ‘economical’ choice as his dad called it. He picked it up from the original owner in 1975 while still in college, needing a car to handle his daily 120-mile commute.


Around the early ‘70s, he started collecting pieces to build his TA, beginning with a hood, grille, side-marker lights, and taillights. This was before an abundance of aftermarket reproduction support. No one made the vinyl stripes either. Friend, Dave Bosak of Supreme Bodywerks in Schiller Park, Illinois, painted the TA strips using a real TA car in his shop as a guide.


MoParty 2021 T/A Challenger 4



The ET Wheels Mag wheels emulate the original Trans-Am style mag wheels, but bigger, measuring 18x11 wrapped in a 295mm wide tire. The wheels fit with some minor stretching and rolling of the fenders. This winter he plans to move up to 315mm wide tires, but that’ll take more fender stretching.


The Mopar features a 410ci stroker based on a 340ci truck block filled with a Scat rotating assembly. Hughes Engines built the engine in Washington, Illinois. With the original TA ported heads he bought from another friend, the engine has a 10:1 compression allowing for premium pump gas.


Behind the stroker is a 727 automatic with a B&M Street Shift kit and 2400rpm B&M Stall Converter. Out back is the original 8 3/4in rear-end with a Sure Grip and 3:23 gears. Mitch said the gears are great for the slalom and keep the rpms down on high-speed autocross courses. He typically holds the car in first for an entire run.


MoParty 2021 T/A Challenger 5



Factory power brakes up front with a Doctor Diff rear disc brake conversion in the rear. The original power steering features a quick ratio box and TA idler arm.


The Mopar has become a family member having owned it for over 40 years. He met his wife while driving the car, “I saw her checking out the car while I was checking her out,” said Mitch. He drives it as often as possible, occasionally driving to the track when racing. When Mopar diehards ask Mitch why he races, he responds, “I have to keep up the image. How many Chevys or Fords have you beaten today?”


2021 MoParty T/A Challenger 2


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