Co-owner John Jenrette (red & white shirt) is a hands-on
crew member between rounds on Blake Wilder's
outrageous Outlaw 10.5 Rambler American.

ike the last kid chosen for a game of schoolyard kickball, a couple of years ago Blake Wilder's radical '66 Rambler was languishing at Sheppard Race Cars in Covington, GA. Unfortunately, the man who originally commissioned Dave Sheppard and crew to build the car passed away before it could be finished.

"It was just sitting there about 80-percent complete, but nobody would buy it just because it was a Rambler," Wilder recalls. "I mean, it had the best of everything; the guy had not cut corners on any part of the car, but at that time it also had a Rambler engine in it. It was real oddball with an AMC 401 that was up to 456 inches with two Dominators, aluminum heads, nitrous, and everything."

Blake Wilder

Wilder says he and racing partner John Jenrette had been looking for a new Outlaw 10.5 car for quite some time, but as soon as they saw the Rambler in June 2002, they loved it. "We knew that was it. We didn't want another Camaro or another Mustang, so we got together with the gentleman's wife and made a deal."

After finishing the car, Wilder and Jenrette actually campaigned for a time with the original powerplant intact. "We went five-ohs with the AMC motor in it, and it is the world's fastest AMC," Wilder states. "It'd run 8.40s in the quarter; it just didn't have it on the top end. We probably could've went 7.90s, but every time we tried, it would just burn the motor up."

By the end of the year Wilder and Jenrette knew they wanted to go faster -- and with more reliability -- so they sold the engine to "AMC Doug," a hardcore fan of the brand who just wanted to display it in his basement for bragging rights. Next, they started looking for a used engine and visited the Cavalieri family's Web site (, where many top NHRA and IHRA teams farm out their used nitro pieces.

It's a tight fit, but the former Kalitta Racing hemi now looks right at home in the little Rambler.

"We found this engine that had run in [Connie] Kalitta's team car at Pomona that year, where it went 4.63 at 313 on its last pass," Wilder says. "So we bought the whole motor right out of the car and drove up to Nebraska, where the Cavalieri's live, not even knowing if it was going to fit in our car. We waited on them to get the motor out of the dragster and then loaded it into the back of my wife's Ford Expedition. We had to take the blower off just to get it in there."



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