Junk Car to Track Star

Feb. 1, 2015
After swapping a snowmobile for a Chevelle, Dennis Marunich set out to make a dragstrip stormer

About 12 years ago, Dennis Marunich found himself involved in an unusual form of snowmobile racing—sans snow.  

With little protection, and the other dangers that go along with piloting a snowmobile on asphalt, Marunich’s wife vocalized her distaste for her husband’s participation in the sport. 

“She didn’t care for it,” Marunich says of his wife’s thoughts on his snowmobile excursions. “She thought it was dangerous. I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it in a car.’ So I made the motions and started looking for something to purchase and build.”

What Marunich found was something familiar and reminiscent of his past. 

Marunich, who co-owns Riverside Service Center in Slatington, Pa., used to work at a Chevrolet dealership and fixed up and drove a Chevelle in his younger years. 

“I fixed it up and sold it before I got engaged and married,” he says. “It was one of those deals where a friend wanted to buy it, and back then it seemed like $3,500 was a good price for it, but he ended up selling it for more later on, so it was a dumb move on my part.” 

So when Marunich saw a 1970 Chevelle for sale nearby at the thrifty price of $500, he jumped on it. 

“It was just a car sitting in a guy’s backyard that needed a lot of work,” Marunich says. “I cut the whole floorboard out and put in new quarter panels, new doors, a new front end, and a new aluminum floor in the car.”

Marunich purchased a variety of new parts and rebuilt a 383ci, 600-horsepower engine from scratch in his three-bay garage at home.

After spending roughly three years on the project, he has been using the Chevelle as a dragster at Numidia Dragway in Catawissa, Pa. In addition to refurbishing the vehicle, he had to uninstall headlights, all but one of the seats, and install drag racing gauge panels to make it strip-ready. 

Marunich started taking his Chevelle to the track almost every weekend, he says. As his family would support him at those races, his two kids got involved in Junior Drag Racing and have become decorated drivers in their time at Numidia Dragway. 

His daughter, Payton, won the Jr. Drag track championship in 2009, and his son, Jake, won in 2011. 

And Marunich’s car is also a winner. 

He won the Numidia Fourth of July race in 2007, and made it to the final bracket of eight on the east coast for NHRA Division 1 racing that same year.

Right now, though, he’s thinking about selling the car and starting a new project. He and Jake recently completed a 1994 Camaro restoration. 

And he’d like to spend even more time in the garage.

“I’m thinking about restoring a 1957 Chevy wagon,” Marunich says. “They’re out there for sale for big money. It’s something I can take down on the road, as well as drag race, instead of have it sit in the trailer or garage.” 

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