Most of us would be thrilled beyond measure to own a rusted hulk of a Hemi car. Heck, simply owning a worn out 426 block would probably be a good enough start for most folks. Some of the fortunate among us, however, get bitten so hard in the backside by the Hemi bug that owning one of these fine specimens of Mopar firepower just isn't enough. One begets two, begets... You get the picture.
Denny Guest of Lockport, Illinois, counts himself among the latter category. A Mopar fan since he was ten, at 50-years-old, Denny has managed to berth two Hemi cars in his garage-both of which are exquisite examples of their respective breeds.
Denny's big venture into Hemi-dom came in 1994. A good friend of his, Bill Sams of Texarkana, Texas, purchased a '68 Hemi Dodge Super Bee from the car's original owner who resided in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Dressed in black topcoat and black vinyl interior, the Super Bee was in good driving condition and in fairly decent shape. Behind the Hemi was a TorqueFlite trans backed by a gritty 4.10:1 Sure Grip differential. Other amenities included Road Wheels, tinted glass, an AM-FM radio, rear seat speakers, and a remote control driver's mirror. But that's where the niceties ended. Sporting a manual steering box and front and rear drums, the true intent of the Cajun's purchase was obvious-cruising comfort would be sacrificed for pipe-hitting performance.
"The worst part about the car," says Denny, "were the rear quarter panels. It had been in a wreck in 1975, and the body work was really bad.
"In 1995, I decided to restore the car because I love Hemis, and being black with the rear stripe delete and no rust, I thought it would be easy to restore. But like all projects, it was anything but easy. After starting to disassemble the car and cataloging the parts, it became real apparent that one or both quarter panels would have to be replaced."
Denny sent the body to Bob Sikora of American Auto Restoration in Lockport. Bob determined that, yes, one quarter would have to go, but the other was deemed salvageable.
"We purchased an entire right side quarter from Arizona Auto," says Denny, "which worked out perfect. Bob's shop completed their end of the project in about six months. With the help and hard work of friends Joe Geraci and Rick Nawrocki, we then took the car back to my own shop and started to rebuild. We thought we had all the parts (which we really did), but somehow the perfect side glass, both left and right, had escaped the shop. So, after hunting down all of the parts and new glass, a year later the car was completed.
"The very first show we brought the car to, it took Best of Show. We were very proud, so needless to say Joe, Rick, and I thought we should tackle another one-a '68 Road Runner."
Denny wasn't long in procuring this little number. In 1996, he stumbled across the car at Willett Motorsports in Orland Park, Illinois, and quickly made the purchase. Aside from hailing from the Plymouth camp, the Road Runner was not too far removed from the Super Bee he had purchased only two years earlier.
In addition to the all-important Hemi V8, the Road Runner also seemed destined more for street performance than highway luxury. A vinyl top, Deluxe interior, remote mirror, and AM radio comprised the comfort equipment. Like the Super Bee, the Road Runner also came with only a manual steering box and front and rear drums. The only significant drivetrain difference was the Dana rear which housed a slightly shorter 3.54-geared Sure Grip. Oh yeah, this Mopar wasn't black-at first.
"The car was real straight," says Denny, "and best of all, no rust. When I purchased the car the color was gold with a gold vinyl interior, which was pretty attractive. It also ran good, and being a four-speed car, it was fun to drive.
"One winter evening, while cleaning the cars, I started to check the body tag and discovered the car was the wrong color. It was supposed to be black with a black vinyl top. That worked out great, already having a black '68 Super Bee, so the Road Runner immediately was sent to American Auto Restoration to begin the transformation back to black."
While the body was being tended to, again by Bob Sikora, Denny sent the Hemi and accompanying four-speed to Chris DeSalvo of All Pro Automotive, who had also performed the drivetrain rebuild for the Super Bee.
Funny thing about the Road Runner's Hemi: Denny says the car ran strong from the day he picked it up. It wasn't until Chris tore down the 426 that he discovered all of the piston rings were broken in half.
Since the Road Runner was already in top shape, it didn't take long for this project to come together.
"Not having to hunt down many parts," says Denny, "Bob [soon] returned the black beauty to us, and Joe, Rick, and I started to assemble the Road Runner. After the Super Bee, this one was pretty easy.
"The first show we entered the Road Runner in was the Chicago Motorsports Challenge at Navy Pier in Chicago. It took First Place and Best of Show honors, so we were pretty proud guys to have assembled two show winners."
When we caught up with Denny Guest and crew at the '99 Mopar Nationals, it was quite evident that these boys were having a swell time, and basking in jobs well done. Of course, if you had the chance to tool around the world's largest Mopar gathering in two black-and-bad '68 Hemis, wouldn't you be feeling your oats, too?