The Gasser Wars of the 1960s were a huge staple in drag racing. Guys like “Big John” Mazmanian and Doug “Cookie” Cook had the best of the best at the time. Cars of that era would be fashioned from derelict Willys Americar coupes, Ford Anglias, Tri-Five Chevys, and even the ’48 Plymouth. The interiors were completely gutted, meaning all the creature comfort items were gone, including the air conditioning and radio.
A roll bar would replace the rear seats. The driver’s seat was usually switched out for a racing bucket, and the seat belts were taken out, and exchanged with aircraft seatbelts, purchased from an Army surplus store. The stock engine was replaced with a much larger Chrysler 392 Hemi, or even a Dodge 413 V8, with added headers. The rear end was swapped, in order for the car to wear larger racing slicks in the back, but the front tires were very skinny. These cars ran on normal pump gas, which gave them the nickname of what was known as a “gasser”.
Larry Dewees of Cypress, CA has a ’48 Plymouth gasser that invokes the spirit of the 1960’s Gasser Wars. Dubbed the “Orange Monster,” Dewees’ Plymouth is fitted with a Max Wedge 413 V8 out of a 1965 Plymouth. Dewees started off with a ’48 Plymouth Special Deluxe, and turned it into something that could have been seen screaming down the 1⁄4 mile stretch at Lions Drag Strip, which was a huge staple of drag racing from 1955 to 1972.
Like a traditional gasser, the interior was gutted. The seats were replaced with bucket seats, which are believed to have been from a Ford Mustang. Seat belts are stock seat belts, opposed to the military style aircraft belts that were originally used. The stock steering wheel was replaced with a white vintage-style steering wheel that can also be removed. Dewees opted to leave the original dashboard, and the original gauges still work. Add-ons include an aftermarket tachometer, mounted on the dash, and additional gauges for water temperature, oil pressure, and voltage are mounted underneath the dashboard.
Underneath the hood is the 413 Wedge that Dewees installed. Painted on the air cleaner is the name “Orange Monster,” which is a reference to the orange color that the engine block is painted. All American V8s have a painted engine block, whether it’s from a Ford, Chevy, or even a Mopar like this one. All the rods and crankshaft are original to the 1965 Plymouth powerplant that Dewees installed.
The oil pan is from Milodon, and holds up to eight quarts of oil. The valve covers are topped with chrome breather caps on both sides. Timing chain is also stock for the 413. A Carter mechanical fuel pump was added, along with an UltraDyne cam. The intake manifold is from Edelbrock, and is topped with a Holley 650CFM carburetor, and a spacer from Moroso. A billet distributor cap from MSD was added, with a stock ignition coil.
The transmission is a 727 Automatic, and is controlled by a B&M shifter mounted inside the car. The shift patten is stock, with a solid band, and has a modified valve body for a much more firm shift. Larry had the transmission built by Westminster Transmission in Westminster, CA.
An American Eagle aluminum radiatior with a 2 row core, and 1” thick tubes from Leadfoot Racing were installed. Dewees also added a 16” Spal electric puller fan, sourced from The Fan Man in Stanton, CA. Additionally, there is a 14” pusher fan, a 160 degree thermostat, and a stock water pump housing with a FlowKooler water pump.
The headers were custom built by Al’s Headers in Anaheim, CA. Hand-crafted 2” primary tubes are fitted into 3 1⁄2” collectors on both sides, as well as a 3” exhaust, and Spira-Flo mufflers with electric cutouts. This Orange Monster really packs a punch!
Wheels and tires are modern, but are almost exact to what could have been found on a gasser during the 1960s. In the front are a pair of modern American Racing Torq Thrust chrome wheels, fitted with Firestone 15” tires in the front. In the rear, are a pair of 15×8” chrome steel wheels, fitted with a pair of Mickey Thompson ET Street slicks. Leaf springs are fitted to both the front and the rear, after being rebuilt by Deaver Suspension in Santa Ana, CA. A Chevy truck steering box was added, along with a heavy duty drive shaft with split yoke, and Spicer U-Joints from Power Train Industries in Garden Grove, CA.
The Orange Monster has drum brakes all around, manual steering with dampener, and non-power brakes. A 16 gallon fuel cell occupies the rear trunk. This new-age gasser is truly a beast. Larry has run this car at Irwindale Raceway’s 1/8mile with a time of eight seconds flat. At the 1⁄4 mile drag strip in Fontana, the Orange Monster placed a time of 13.13 seconds.
Larry and the Orange Monster can be seen at events, such as the Carls Jr. Cruise Night in Westminster, CA on Tuesdays, the Garden Grove Car Show on Historic Main Street every Friday evening with members of the Mopar Knights Car Club, and even at the Antique Nationals, held every year in May. If you get a chance to catch a glimpse of this gasser, you’re in for a real treat. The Orange Monster is one heck of a decked out ’48 Plymouth gasser.