Over 5,000 hours went into the restoration of Tom Pike's '69 383 'Cuda. According to Tom,
The original 383 still resides under the hood. It was bored .030-inch over rebuilt to stoc
It seems fairly common to hear of father/son projects, but don't be too quick to rule out a daughter's interest in Mopars. Tom Pike, a toolmaker from Victor, New York, will tell you that restoring his '69 383 four-speed 'Cuda was a great way to spend quality time with his daughter Sara. Sara was just a 12-year-old when Tom began the restoration project. "My older brother, Jerry, bought the car new in Pensacola, Florida," Tom recalled. "The only options on the car were an AM radio, a fold-flat rear seat, and the A57 'Cuda package." Jerry and his wife used the car until 1977, when Tom purchased it. It was in rough condition, with quite a bit of salt damage on the floorboards and rear quarters, as well as a threadbare interior. Mechanically, though, the 'Cuda was fairly sound and still a numbers-matching vehicle.
The Plymouth remained in storage until 1992, when Tom was finally able to get to his long-awaited project. He was especially pleased that Sara displayed an interest in the project. She did a lot of sanding, painting on assemblies, and help with the mechanicals. Says her proud father, "She's great with a torque wrench, and the best part is she takes great pride in what she does." Though this was Tom's first restoration project, he wasn't about to fly by the seat of his pants. He had a clear idea of what would be required for a quality restoration. He extensively researched assembly procedures that the factory originally used when putting these cars together. He also took great pains to make sure the original factory markings and finishes were faithfully reproduced.
Tom formulated an accurate-appearing and durable finish that duplicated the look of the factory-applied Cosmoline found on the 'Cuda's lower control arms. This involved using Weather Proof, an industrial coating used to protect parts stored outdoors. Weather Proof goes on clear, but when multiple coats are applied, it takes on a milky appearance. After applying twenty coats and then hitting it with a 3M scrubby pad, Tom was able to get just the right look. "It was pretty much a trial-and-error effort, but it worked great," he admitted.
One of Tom's objectives was to keep as much of the original components on the 'Cuda as possible. "I didn't want this car to turn into an N.O.S. buggy," Tom said. "I wanted to refurbish and reuse as many parts as I could." Indeed, except for the left rear quarter-panel, rear floor sections, miscellaneous trim pieces, and fresh upholstery from Legendary Auto interiors, this car still has most of its original factory-installed parts.
The original 383 was removed and sent to Bob Repyne of Bob's Automotive in Eldred, Pennsylvania. It was bored .030-inch over and was rebuilt completely stock, except for some mild port work in the bowl areas. The transmission and rearend were refurbished and detailed (along with the engine) by Tom and Sara in their home shop.
Though Tom did all of the paint work on the underbody and inner body panels, he chose to hand off the exterior painting chores to Les Mahnke at Carriage Stop Restorations in Palmyra, New York. Les expertly resprayed the 'Cuda in its original Q5 Seafoam Turquoise, this time using the Sikkens basecoat/clearcoat system for added durability, as this car was built to be driven. Tom then added a set of reproduction stripes to finish off the job and voila-the 'Cuda looks exactly like the day it was originally built, right down to the correct Red Line tires and dog dish caps.
After over 5,000 hours of work over eight and a half years, the 'Cuda was finished in the late summer of 2000, too late for most of the shows that season. But the Pikes managed to drive the 'Cuda to the Adirondack Nationals in Lake George, New York, where out of 1,530 cars entered, it was chosen as one of the event's "Favorite 50." A couple of weeks later at the annual Sage-Ruddy Car Show in Mendon, New York, Tom and Sara won a First in class trophy and one for the best restoration at the event.
Now that the 'Cuda is finished, Tom is looking to drive the car as much as possible. Sara is also getting behind the wheel, no need for power steering or brakes here. No doubt about it, she certainly earned her stripes with its restoration.
The cabin's factory-fresh appearance is courtesy of a Legendary Auto Interiors kit and an
The fold-down rear seat is one of the few options ordered on this A-body. It gave the 'Cud
The 'Cuda's fastback bodystyle still looks great after 30-plus years and is a direct styli