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.
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."
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
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
"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