This Mopar brand creation within Canadian drag racing history has certainly stood the test of time….

Fans of Top Sportsman class racing within the province of Ontario have over many seasons been witness to an impressive transformation courtesy of Mopar brand proponent Jeff Gabel.

Gabel, who is a rather renowned and in-demand talent for his expertise in auto body prep and paint, also dedicates a lot of his time to his own and seemingly perpetual “work in progress” – 1970 Duster Top Sportsman car.    Jeff is now closing in on three decades for taking that car concept forward  — using both creative thinking and persistence.

Stratford’s Jeff Gabel with his “work in progress” Plymouth Duster Top Sportsman car.

“I actually started this project back in 1991,” Jeff revealed.  “After spying this car in storage behind a barn near Elmira Ontario – it all began with an initial $175 investment for a bare shell 6-cylinder car.  Over time and ever since i’ve been developing the Duster.  It’s been through a number of classes (including Pro and Super Pro ET) all leading up to where it is today.  But to be honest the rocker panels are the only thing left from the original car.”

“I did race it as a Super Pro up to about 2003 —which is about when I got the TS class bug,” he added.  “I then actually entered my first TS race in the 2005 season and have continued on there ever since.”

Jeff is poised to enter the upcoming 2021 racing season with what is now a pretty proven and highest tech race car – fully capable of winning any Top Sportsman race he and his wife Mandy choose to enter.   The Duster now features a full chrome moly chassis and as well as a carbon fibre front and back body (by Andy McCoy) and including factory light weight carbon fibre doors.  

“The chassis we use was built by Ed Szram (ES Automotive – New Market ON),” Jeff continued.  “But that configuration has seen tons of updates at Tom Vandergeld’s Lowdown Hot Rods (Cambridge ON) – while enroute to what it is today.”

The motor program for the Duster is a 645 CID Dodge that is equipped with Predator Hemi cylinder heads.  Best Machine, who are located in Farmington Hills Michigan, are responsible for that assembly which gives Jeff in excess of 1200 HP to play with including a single shot of nitrous oxide.

The Gabel Racing Duster is a frequent runner and fan favourite entry at both Cayuga Dragway and Grand Bend Motorplex.

“We’ve got a very consistent race car – that can run 6.9 secs at about 201 mph pretty much anytime out,” he confirmed.  “While we are always looking at ways to make the car lighter and faster — consistency is of course our target for this class.  To date the car has gone as quick as 6.88 secs at 205 mph – my personal best.”

Jeff’s association within drag racing is for sure multifaceted too.  Based from Stratford Ontario, his Gabel Racing has also been an influence for those around him – including his step daughter Alexis Grasby who runs a junior dragster, his son Dustin Gabel and Dustin’s fiancée Karley Faubert, who own and operate a Top Dragster team together. 

Jeff’s body finishing and painting talents are very much on display elsewhere, including with many other drag racing teams on the circuit.   His biggest client is in fact Lowdown Hot Rods who use his talents extensively for their vast customer base.  

“That’s where I get the majority of my funds to go racing,” he winked.

Throughout its history – the Gabel Racing Duster’s evolution has included these styles and finishes.

Jeff Gabel is also very proud to be flying the Mopar flag within the class he competes in.  

“I’ve always loved the brand – it’s all I’ve ever had,” he smiled.  “My first car was a 1975 Roadrunner – and I played with that as a street/strip car.  That’s what convinced me to get the Duster in the first place and begin an all race car project.”

Jeff cites some important associates and individuals that have greatly influenced his journey within drag racing — (Mike and Ken) at Morrison and Everitt, LowDown Hot Rods and sponsors Darrell Vitello (Grantham Dairy) and D&W Supplies.  

Gabel Racing is planning to be as active as possible again in 2021.  While their usual desire to include some trips into the USA to race this season are unlikely (due to the pandemic) they will enter as many TS class races they can while supporting both Grand Bend Motorplex and Cayuga Dragway.

Posted by Bruce Biegler

Photos by Bruce Biegler & Rob Potter