Project Yankee: Life After SEMA
Origin Story

As I write this it’s been a month and a half since the 2016 SEMA Show, but it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. For me, this year’s SEMA event was unlike any other as it marked the first time I actually had one of my own cars displayed. I was actually part of the show, rather than just covering it.

Preparing a car for SEMA was one of the most interesting experiences of my life, but some of you maybe wondering what’s going to happen to my ’75 Dodge Dart Sport now that the SEMA madness is over…

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Before I get to that, I want to talk a little more about how Project Yankee‘s journey to SEMA actually came to be.

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When I first bought my Dart in the summer of 2015, the plan was to slowly build it up into a fun street car without breaking the bank. I’d run with a carbureted small block, swap in a manual transmission, do some basic suspension upgrades and just have some fun with it in my spare time.

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But that all changed this spring when I was contacted by the folks at Mopar with a very tempting offer, and one that would dramatically change the trajectory and timeline of the build.

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Mopar was working on a new line of Gen III HEMI crate engine packages that would be debuted at SEMA, and after seeing some of my build updates here on Speedhunters asked if I’d be willing to fit one of the new 5.7-liter engine packages into Project Yankee.

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Are you kidding? Hell yes I’d like to put brand new HEMI into my Dart! But there was a little more to it than that, because Dodge wanted my car to be at SEMA too.

While I knew this would be a fantastic opportunity, I also knew it was going to a big challenge. My $3000 Dart was nowhere near show-worthy, and I’d never planned for it to be, but in less than six months time it would need to be on display in an OEM booth at one the biggest automotive events in the world.

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In the end I decided the opportunity was too good to pass up. I sold my 2015 Mustang and bought a cheap 1993 Infiniti G20 as a daily driver to clear up some extra funds for the project. Then it was time to get busy.

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The rest is history. You can go back and look through all of my build updates to see how the project came together through the summer and into the fall with the SEMA deadline fast approaching.

The Heart Of A Yankee

Because the engine package was being kept under wraps until SEMA, I wasn’t able to spill too many details on the re-power itself during my build updates. My car is running the new 345 Crate HEMI which is rated at 383hp and 417lb-ft of torque with factory exhaust manifolds. With my TTI long-tube headers I’m guessing I should be little closer to 400 horsepower.

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But the real story is the kit that comes with the engine. In the past, people that wanted to swap a Gen III HEMI into an old Mopar had to go the aftermarket route or try to build their own setup when it came the computer and harness. But the new Mopar factory kit is a plug and play solution that includes the PCM, engine and chassis wiring harnesses, accelerator pedal and more.

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Typically when swapping a modern engine into an old car, the wiring and electronics are the most challenging part. But that wasn’t the case here.

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In fact, I can say without exaggeration that getting the 345 crate motor wired up and running in Project Yankee was actually one of the easiest and most straightforward aspects of the entire build. It should be an awesome solution for fellow Mopar enthusiasts looking for a painless way to put new HEMI power into a vintage car.


Because Project Yankee was built in a somewhat unconventional style, I was really interested to see how people would respond to it in Las Vegas. And while I know there’s no way to please everyone, I couldn’t have been happier with the response.


Most of the people I talked to seemed to dig the Japanese influence and some of the other styling elements I added. Considering this was the first time I’d ever attempted something like this, I was very satisfied with how things turned out.


I have to extend my thanks to everyone who came over and checked the car out during SEMA week; it was so cool being able to finally show it off after so many months working on it.

Anyway, before I knew it the SEMA Show was over and the car was on its way back to my house.

What’s Next?
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From the beginning my plan with Project Yankee was never to build a ‘SEMA Car’. Instead, I just think of it as a project car that was given some extra motivation to be shown at SEMA, and that meant that once the show was over, the story would continue.

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But the first thing to do once I had the car back in my hands and the pressures of SEMA behind me was to actually drive the damn thing and see how it all worked.

Here are a few GoPro/iPhone video clips I put together the other day with the help of my brother. It’s nothing fancy, but I think it conveys quite a lot about how the car sounds and drives right now.

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There’s still a break-in process that the new motor needs to go through, so I can’t really hammer on it yet. But I can already tell that this thing is going to be ridiculously fun, and with close to 400hp in a car that should weigh right around 3,000lbs, it really feels like that perfect amount of power for the street.

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And with the full Hotchkis TVS suspension, Baer 4-piston brakes, and sticky Toyo R888s wrapped around lightweight RAYS Volk Racing TE37Vs, it should hopefully handle and stop as well as it goes. Perhaps during the upcoming holiday break I’ll take it out for a shakedown run through the Sierra Nevada foothills near my house.

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But no matter where I take it, it’s always an event. During the few short sessions of driving it around town I’ve already had dozens of people giving me the thumbs up. One little kid asked if it was a race car and another guy was surprised to see that I was filling it up with pump gas at the local station.

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And that’s actually the beauty of it. Project Yankee might look and feel a lot like an old race car, but the new HEMI crate motor actually makes it as easy to operate as a modern muscle machine.

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I always thought it was a bit of a cliché to say that your car represents who you are, but I think Project Yankee really does represent me and my automotive tastes perfectly.

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You’ve got American roots, a mix of modern and a retro elements, a strong Japanese influence and what I think is a decent balance of form and function.

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I’ve been known to change cars at an extremely fast rate – and I attribute that to my constantly wandering mind – but Project Yankee is something different. There’s just so much of myself in this car and I plan to keep it for a very, very long time. Perhaps I’ll even hand it down to my son, who my wife and I will welcome into the world next spring.


Of course, there’s no way I can take full responsibility for Project Yankee on my own. There are so many people to thank, including all of the partners who supported the build, the talented Andreas Hoås Wennevold who put my visions to paper, and Matt and the guys at Caliber Customs for helping to make them a reality. None of this would have been possible without them, or without all the feedback you the readers gave me as I progressed with the project.

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Was it worth all of the money, time and stress to get Project Yankee to where it is today? Absolutely. It wasn’t easy, but I forget about all the stress each time I walk past the car in the garage, or flick the ignition switch, touch the start button and hear it come to life.

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Having the car ready and driving for SEMA was a huge accomplishment, but this is by no means the end for Project Yankee. It’s actually the start of a whole new chapter.

In the coming months there’s so much more I want to do: additional upgrades, road trips, track days and other shenanigans. You know, all of that great project car stuff. Now it’s time for the real fun to begin.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: japanifornia

1975 Dodge Dart Sport ‘Project Yankee’

Mopar 345 Crate HEMI 5.7 liter V8, Mopar Crate Hemi PCM & harness kit, Milodon oil pan, TTI headers, TTI motor mounts, custom Magnaflow side-exit exhaust built by Caliber Customs, custom intake with K&N air filter, Tanks Inc. EFI gas tank, fuel pump & FPR, CSF Racing aluminum radiator, Flex-a-Lite electric fans, CSF Boss external oil cooler

A833OD manual transmission, McLeod Racing flywheel, McLeod Racing clutch kit, McLeod Racing hydraulic clutch conversion, 8.75-inch rear end with complete Yukon 3.73 LSD pumpkin, Yukon axles

Suspension & Brakes
Full Hotchkis TVS kit including tubular control arms, front & rear sway bars, geometry-corrected leaf springs, strut rods & steering rods, Hotchkis FOX adjustbale shocks, Baer Track4 front disc brakes, Baer SS4 rear disc brakes, Baer Remaster master cylinder

Wheels & Tires
RAYS Volk Racing TE37V 17×9-inch -10 (front) 17×10-inch -20 (rear), Toyo Proxes R888 tires 255/40R17 (front) 275/40R17 (rear)

Custom bumper mounts & chin spoiler by Caliber Customs, NOS Mopar Direct Connection ducktail spoiler, Vintage SEV Marchal driving lights, Dapper Lighting V1 HID projector headlights, shaved sidemarkers & drip rails by Creative Auto Lab, Avery Matte Metallic Purple wrap

Racepak IQ3S digital street dash unit, Fastlane West gauge bezel, one-off Cobra Classic RSR bucket seats, Takata Racing Formula 6 harnesses, custom aluminum door panels & package tray by Caliber Customs, Caliber Customs roll bar with harness bar, Hurst Competition Plus shifter, Mooneyes door lock pulls, Momo Prototipo steering wheel, Momo quick-release hub

More Speedhunters Project Cars

Cutting Room Floor
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Yes dude.


It looks perfect.


Saw it at SEMA and it didnt deserve to be there - those stupid fender mirrors and that purple vitamin paint where so ugly and all of the brushed aluminum and chrome steering boss etc why god, why. 

The core of the car is there, but the details are straight from Mission Ave in the 90's


I think you completely missed the point of this build, and felt like leaving an extremely rude comment for no good reason.


See, this is the right way to lower a car.

Eat up the wheel well gap, keep the rolling stock vertical and put JUUUST the right amount of rake into it.

Well done.


motorness Sorry you feel that way. Like I said, never gonna make everyone happy. No worries.


Ice Age Thanks!


Absolutely love how Project Yankee turned out. Can't wait to see what's next for this beast.

Keep up the awesome work, Mike!


Mike Garrett Ice Age Oh, and I forgot one thing.

The choice of a spoiler, as opposed to a wing, was the right one. This particular spoiler, and the fact that you left it an aesthetically-separate element, works perfectly with the lines of your car.

The Dart has a fairly blunt, boxy shape - and for some reason, spoilers and flaps compliment the lines of the such cars better than wings do.

A Koenig Testarossa should have a wing, because it's a four-wheeled fighter plane. Same with an LS1 Trans Am. But a Dodge Dart is a NASCAR-type profile, and a spoiler works better.

The wings that lived out back on Hemicudas, 4-4-2s and Boss 429 Mustangs never looked right on such tough, blocky iron the way they do on Corvettes and Countaches.


I expected a lot more volume between the headers and side pipes.  Is it really that subdued in real life or just a victim of phone audio?


Thing turned out exactly how I thought it would, PERFECT!!! Good job mike


Next? Over fenders.


Seeing this car in person at SEMA was awesome. Love the Japanese influence and excited to see what else is in store!


I have always loved the idea of this, although a Dart wouldn't have been my first choice, that just works in its favour, and it turned out better than I could have hoped. Very well done indeed

P.s. I LOVE your sticker. Self-promotion, without being obvious, AND it looks cool. Almost like that more than the car, haha


Congrats on the aka-chan Mike. Car life is great'n all, but this will make it 100 times better. & shopping for the toys is the best.


Unless your going to drive it to church... DRIVE IT LIKE YOU STOLE IT!!!


motorness Chuck up a photo of your car friend, so we can all see how they're supposed to be built.


EvolveWRC GT wing :P ...hey where's Khyzyl?


RedWhine Also low rpms


pigsofdarkness Thanks a lot! I really can't wait.


ComJive Thanks a lot, just a fun little touch haha.


jrho Glad you liked it!


EvolveWRC Don't have any of those in the plans right now, but who knows what the future will hold?


Steve666 Thanks a lot!


RedWhine Yeah there wasn't a whole lot of WOT in those clips. Part of might be the audio quality, but I wouldn't say it's obnoxiously loud. It roars pretty hard when you step on it.


nightrift97 Thanks for the kind words!


Ice Age Mike Garrett It was a pretty easy choice actually seeing as it was made specifically for the Dart Sport/Duster and had that '70s look I was going for. It was actually one of the first parts I ever bought for this car.


jezzafool Thanks a lot!


tcworley Oh yeah!


Mike, I was never a huge fan of this particular iteration of the Dart, and now you've gone and made me LOVE it. If I ever get my hands on the '70 Dodge Coronet (my personal wacky Mopar weakness), well, I've got some stuff to think about.

And congratulations on the little one on the way. They're A LOT of work, but a total hoot too.


Very cool man. It's awesome to hear a bit more of the back story. As a reader without infinite resources or sponsorships, the fact that you were willing to give up the Mustang makes this build more relatable and impressive. And as a Mopar owner I'll have to look into those kits!


Bold move there Mike, selling the Mustang for the Dart. I raise my hat to you. Let me guess, the G20 won't remain stock as well?


It must've been a dream , to have Mopar contact you to ask if they can use your car as their show car ?


Car is fantastic and can't wait to hear it WOT.


Did you upgrade the steering box? To a borgsen unit like I suggested


"I sold my and bought a cheap 1993 Infiniti G20 as a daily driver to clear up some extra funds for the project."

Totally worth it.


EvolveWRC I think more like Pandem-ish overfenders will do. It's subtle and more 'period-correct,' if I can say that.


You can get paid $9160

in a few weeks .............


May be an odd question but how does it compare with the mustang?
Nice to see the inteediate result and that you have fun with it ( in the end it's the only things that matter).
And congrats fir the baby comming :)


Nice. Huge congrats to an awesome execution of a somewhat changing plan.


Earn residual cash weekly... It's an awesome side work for anybody...
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This was one of my favorite project cars. It came out looking fantastic and reliable. One question though, are you gonna turn that G20 into a fun little thing to zip around in?

Also, does Dino still have the bmw?


turned out really well. i would have never painted it at all. congrats on the project completion. looks and sounds great.


my Aunty Audrey recently got an almost new yellow BMW 5 Series Hybrid by working part-time online... visit.............                                  


Very cool build, love the finished car! I did a modern hemi swap three years ago in my 69 Dart and I love it! The plug and play wiring will be a game changer for these swaps, when I did mine with a used engine and junk yard harness it took some time to sort out everything. I love the purpose built look of the car, have fun with it!


Ralphie361 Nice! Really dig the color, and yeah having the harness/ECU makes things a million times easier.


Zer0Fab Thanks!


johnbezt I'm still not entirely sure what I'm going to do with G20. Part of me wants to strip it our and turn it into a track car. Maybe next year?


davidfryklind Thanks a lot!


Jocky It's a tough comparison. The Mustang was a daily driver, and even with the late model the Dart is still a little raw to be a full fledged daily, but the the fun factor more than makes up for that.


rally2727 Agreed!


JeffTCurtis It's next on the to-do list for 2017.


D1RGE I'll be sure to post more vids when it happens.


RDS It was a pretty awesome opportunity indeed.


gagahsasono I've actually done a few little things to it already, but so much of my attention has been taken up by the Dart that I haven't had time to write about it.


Jagdroach Thanks! Yeah I was happy to have the support of some great sponsors, but this was by no means an unlimited budget project. Just ask my wife haha.


evoCS Thanks a lot! I can't wait!


Congrats on the future kid!  
He'll prob rebel and only ride bicycles...

Can't see enough of that Dart!!  Petrolicious needs to do a video.


Love the Dart, but kinda bummed too. I was enjoying your Mustang progress and had wondered what happened? Oh well, from one cool ride to another.


You  able to  earn  $9711

in 1 month ................


When the Dart is approaching in the video, at a distance it resembles a Kenmeri or maybe an RX-3. Except bigger. :)
Once sorted, drive that sucker every chance you get.
Oh, and congrats on the kid!


Nice write up Mike. You did a great job with the car and I'm looking forward to more updates. I sold a 911 to build my Barracuda, I understand what you went through...




I wanna say that its been along time coming. But I feel like it hasn't really been that long of a build. This thing turned out even better than I had hoped since your first post on Project Yankee. Strong work sir


Hi Mike - I love this car!  Can you do a write up on how you made and mounted that chin spoiler?  I want to make one just like that for my vintage ferrari.


Hats off, it's worth all the hard graft when you can actually get into it and enjoy what you've spent so long screwing together.
Of note, was there a chip in the screen? looked like there was a nasty stone strike on the passenger side.


I love the build .. my Project Rattler Dakota RT is in the works .. I'm thinking of a HellCat or Mopar R3 raceblock with a intercooled turbo setup, Mikeid be interestedto
See if Mopar Crate engine would work


still love those moon door locks


You can get paid $9830

in 1 month ..............



This and Tony Angelos Cuda are my two favourite builds from SEMA this year
Congrats on the baby!


I'm using an 0nline business opportunity I heard about and I've made such great m0ney.check this link.


Any way you could get the car a tad lower? Looks good.


Not a big fan of the ext. oil cooler, but damn this is an amazing ride from front to back.


Yankee vs. Fishtail 'Cuda!


Preparing a car for SEMA was one of the most interesting experiences of my life, but some of you maybe wondering what’s going to happen to my ’75 Dodge Dart Sport now that the SEMA madness is over….go here>>>


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I'll admit, I was a bit leery on the progression and direction this project would take once SEMA and donors/sponsors got involved, in lieu of what I felt happened with the FuguZ. But each update constantly reassured me of what the car meant to you, it just was taking a different path and got you involved in a bunch of new experiences along the way. I'm glad that it never got away from what the initial dream for the project was meant to be, and I'm ever excited to see where the ol' Yank goes from here. And congrats on the baby boy Mike!


IRONWOLF RD Thanks a lot for the kind words!


Congratulations on getting the Dart ready for SEMA, an awesome effort. I'm glad to see you gave it a new lease of live with the crate motor. I would never have imagined a 1970's Dodge built with Japanese influences working out this well, but it looks right and totally natural. Well done.


looks awesome gonna take some of the ideas this build gave me and twist them to more of a trans-am ish style build rather than a Japanese inspires road racer but still super cool