Tony Angelo is a well-known name in the car hobby because of his career as a TV and YouTube personality on car guy shows, but he is also an accomplished racer, stunt driver and car builder who became famous as a pioneer participant on the drift racing circuit.
Tony is like most dyed-in-the-wool car guys because he started at an early age and totally immersed himself in the world of vintage internal combustion vehicles-particularly the ones with plenty of horses under their hoods.
In fact, Tony took on a part-time job (in name only because he worked 40 hours/week in a tire shop) during high school so he could jump into the car guy game and own a vintage road rocket. Eventually, the answer to his car guy dreams came in the form of a 1971 Dodge Dart Demon equipped with the famous 340 Mopar small block/4-speed manual transmission powertrain combination.
Tony was able to buy the numbers-matching car for only $3350, a very good price-even in the 1990s. The fact the Demon’s previous owner was in the throes of a nasty divorce and did not want to lose the car to his ex-bride was a big advantage to Tony when he bought the car.
He may not have been old enough to drive the Demon, but Tony was able to use the car as an impromptu hotel when he initially purchased it. Mainly because his excitement levels as a newly-minted teenaged car owner were off the charts and he wanted to hang out with his first car in the family garage.
Tony’s 1971 Dodge Dart Demon was a solid balance of power and weight when it left the factory, so he decided the car only needed mild upgrades like a hotter cam to hold its own on the street.
Eventually the car ended up in storage at Tony’s parents’ place after he “kind of blew it up”, in his words.
Tony moved into adulthood, but wanted to keep his first car because he noticed too many older car guys lamented the loss of their first car and did not want to join that sad club, so he kept his ’71 Demon while he moved through life.
As mentioned earlier, Tony has led a very interesting life that included many diverse pursuits, including his long TV stint on ‘Hot Rod Garage’, a car guy program that gave him an opportunity to resurrect his beloved Demon. Tony’s current role is host of ‘Stay Tuned’, a popular car guy program on the YouTube channel.
A 1971 Mopar A-Body was engineered to handle like a 52-year-old car, so Tony decided to upgrade his car’s suspension, steering and braking with an aftermarket system that put his Demon on rails. However, he has resisted any urge to swap out the car’s powertrain for a newer version. “Every 340 was a bonafide street performer”, in Tony’s words, and who could really disagree with him?
Tony Angelo is a lucky guy because he was smart enough to keep his first car and will never have to experience that form of severe car guy remorse. His future plans for the car include giving the ’71 Demon to his 7-year-old daughter when she is old enough to drive.
BY: Jim Sutherland
Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.