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In 1970 or so, then-20-year-old Mike Ring was in the U.S. Navy out in the vast Pacific Ocean, defending freedom and occasionally going for a swim (his job in the Navy was “Rescue Swimmer;” if you got blown off the carrier deck by jet blast and landed in the water, it was Mike who would drop from the helicopter and save you). When he went away, he left behind a beautiful 1968 GTO convertible, parked at home. It’d be safe there, wouldn’t it? So safe, he thought, that he left the keys, too. So what did Jim Ring, Mike Ring’s two-years-younger brother do?
“He sold my car!” Mike alleged to me while driving his current car down Van Nuys Blvd. in Southern California.
Yes, while the older Ring was away gallantly serving America and making the world safe for democracy, the younger Ring was working the used car market. I confronted Ring the younger with this evidence later during lunch at the Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake. Did he really sell his brother’s car and spend the money?
“Hell yes,” he said. “I needed the cash.”
On this solid foundation of trust and brotherly love was built the Ringbrothers muscle car-building empire.
You have almost certainly seen some of the Ring brothers’ work (for all you copy editors out there, Ringbrothers is the company name, the two guys are the Ring brothers). If you haven’t seen it, click through the gallery below: the 1971 DeTomaso Pantera “ADRNLN,” the 1966 Chevelle “Recoil,” the 1969 Camaro “G-Code,” and the 1969 Dodge Charger “Defector.” There’s even a 1972 Winnebago with a 1000-hp blown LS called “Happy Camper.”
They like to crank out about one of these icons of torque per year, said Mike, who seems to have gotten over the GTO sale by now. Last year they were approached by Prestone to build another car. The Rings knew the car they wanted — a 1972 AMC Javelin AMX they’d seen cruising their small town just about their entire lives. The car’s owner would get gas at their father’s gas station in Plain, Wisconsin. With a town name as exciting as that, cool-looking cars take on an entirely new significance in the local social hierarchy. The owner, the perfectly named Smiley Liegel, sold it to them and the Rings started looking for a sponsor to finance the build.
Luckily, just 150 miles east of them in Chicago, Prestone anti-freeze was looking for a way to celebrate its 90th anniversary. Prestone had signed a partnership deal with Ringbrothers in 2016, with the goal of building some cool cars. Both parties agreed on the Javelin, and the Rings set to work with less than 12 months before the SEMA show, where the car would debut.
“We promised Prestone we’d make 1000 hp,” Jim said. “They said, here’s your money. It’s gotta be at SEMA.”
Mike and Jim Ring
As you can see, the Ring boys left almost nothing on the car unchanged. The overall design was done by Gary Ragle, who worked in the design departments at Mitsubishi and Ford (and even did an internship at Mattel’s Hot Wheels division) before starting his own Ragle Design in Cincinnati. All that bodywork forward of the A-pillar is reimagined in carbon fiber. The door handles, taillights and much of the interior is all-new.
“Nothing’s stock on it,” said Mike. “Even though it may look similar (to stock).”
The car is lowered, hunkered down over HRE Performance Wheels that miraculously never scrape the wheelwells.
Under the hood is a Wegner Motorsports 6.2-liter Hemi Hellcat V8. It’s not a Hellcrate; that wasn’t out at the time. Instead, they went to local engine guru Carl Wegner in nearby Markesan, Wisconsin (who knew Wisconsin had all this talent?). Atop the Hemi is a 4.5-liter Whipple supercharger. The whole beast is fed by Holley Dominator fuel management. The brothers list horsepower at 1036 at the crank, all of which is fed into a GM 4L80E automatic twisting a QA1 carbon fiber driveshaft to a Chevy 12-bolt rear end said to be capable of handling 1600 hp.
With all this in mind and with Mike Ring in the passenger seat I fired up the engine. It started right away, no hesitating, no need to pump the gas pedal, no lumpy Pro Comp idle. That Holley ECU really works! The automatic clicked into gear and off we went.
Being out in the great San Fernando Valley, the one-time cruising capital of, well, of the San Fernando Valley, I told Mike Ring about Van Nuys Blvd. in the 1970s.
“There’s a famous photo of two girls leaning on a muscle car watching the other muscle cars drive by,” I enthused. “We should go check it out.”
Mike was game. Off we went.
The funny thing about 1036 hp is trying to do something with it. Like maybe get it all to the ground. Entering an uphill freeway onramp I gave it a little gas. And immediately felt the back end start to rotate. Mike had a look on his face about like the one on the captain of the Titanic. He may have thought his 12 months worth of work and all that Prestone money was about to slide off into the weeds and start a good old-fashioned California brush fire, taking the “Defiant!” as the car is officially named, with it. We might have even made the local news.
Luckily, my skilled driver training took over, I eased off the throttle and the car straightened right out.
“What kind of 0-60 time do you guys get with this,” I asked, trying to act like nothing had just happened.
“We don’t know,” he said, doing the same. “It doesn’t hook up. You can’t get the power down. It’ll spin the rears at 60 mph.”
I kept that in mind during our freeway drive.
The car isn’t too loud, considering how much power it’s making. And the ride is not bad at all. It has a Detroit Speed front suspension and a four-link Ringbrothers rear setup.
People were looking. Some paced us on the freeway.
“Hey, is that a Mustang,” one guy yelled.
A few more times, when space allowed, I hit the throttle. The Hemi roared, the wheels spun, the Prestone Javelin surged forward. It was pretty thrilling.
Another thing I noticed was the temp gauge. We were stuck in a lot of stop and go LA traffic, but darn if that temp gauge didn’t stay right down there near the C. Must be the Prestone. (License plate on this car: “COOLANT.”)
We got to Van Nuys Blvd. at about high noon. I don’t remember what might have been there in 1972, but it is now lined with new car dealerships, dealerships so big and profitable that they buy air time on local radio and their commercial jingles get stuck in your brain like those earwigs on that Twilight Zone episode (“Keyes, Keyes, Keyes, Keyes on Van Nuys…”) There was no one cruising. No one wanted to race. The two girls were nowhere in sight. There was, instead, traffic, and plenty of it. We turned around and headed back.
If you have a half a million bucks, you can get the Ring brothers to build you a cool car like this one. Sure, you could invest in stocks and bonds, but you can’t drive stocks and bonds. And a Ringbrothers build will probably go up in value, as long as you keep the rear end out of the weeds.
– West Coast Editor Mark Vaughn covers all car things west of the Mississippi from his Autoweek lair high above the LA metropolis.
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