Often, it's the rarity or color that makes a particular car special. But this '70 AAR replica is special because it's Jake's 'Cuda.
This was a dream of a 16-year-old boy who found his 'Cuda in a neighboring community through a gentleman named Koley New, who sold it to Jake on May 8, 2001. To call it a car was certainly a reach, for it was trailered home without an engine or transmission. It was a rust bucket lacking hard-to-find front fenders and holding a ton of parts that had been thrown inside. However, despite the condition, Jake had a vision-perhaps more of a dream.
Although we had found other deals on Mopars in our effort to make Jake a Mopar man, Jake always told his dad, "I'm going to wait for a 'Cuda." When it was found, bought, and brought home, Jake's next couple of months were spent removing parts and taking inventory. Mostly, the time was spent simply hanging out with friends and dreaming of what his car would look like someday.
Our lives were shattered just two months after Jake bought his 'Cuda, when he was killed in an auto accident.
The morning after his death, we decided to sell it. Then, as the day unfolded, Jake's friends filled our home-the one place they could all be together. Jake's friendly smile had captured many hearts.
That afternoon, his friends came to us and said they wanted to restore Jake's 'Cuda. He had hoped to win a mock election held at school, having his 'Cuda voted "best car" of the Class of 2003. We knew in our hearts that putting Jake's 'Cuda back on the road meant a great deal to his friends, so we agreed to help them bring it back to life.
Our family already had plans to attend the Mopar Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, in August 2001. We make the trip each year and love to share our love of Mopars with our three sons. Jake had been looking forward to shopping the swap meet and had already started his list of things, which two weeks after his death, his father, brothers, and some of his friends went instead to shop for. While there, some very special people found out about our story, and the following week, we were contacted by Mopar Muscle in regards to their role in making our son's dream a reality.
I remember that letter quite well and still have it today. It was that letter that made Jake's dream begin taking form.
The Restoration Begins
We found a great body man in Ken Racine of Comstock, Michigan. He had restored other vehicles and paid close attention to details inside and out. Jake's 'Cuda needed much more metal repair than we thought, but Ken made it come to life.
Little by little, the 'Cuda started taking shape in his garage. Meanwhile, Dan still sought out fenders and a taillight filler panel, and Jake's friends were busy raising funds for the 'Cuda restoration. Congregating at our home, they made posters and placed them in canisters of businesses in our small community of Schoolcraft, Michigan.
Focus on Winning
Jake's friends on the Schoolcraft High School football team dedicated their season in memory of Jake. Their determination was evident when the Eagles traveled to the Pontiac Silverdome to compete and win the State Championship title. A banner, "In Memory of #51 Jake Maurer" rode with them to the top.
Another victory was taking form as Ken Racine completed the body and paint on the 'Cuda. In spring 2002, the 'Cuda came home, and then the work really began for the boys and Dan. As parts shipments arrived almost daily, friends came in and out all day long. Sometimes it was just one that spent the entire day, but they all chipped in.
The days were hot. The work was hard. We set up portable fans in our workshop while parts were being cleaned and polished. We know Jake had to be smiling. His dedicated friends were driven-they had a goal to win the best car of the Class of 2003 for Jake and his 'Cuda.
Dan and I knew we had to have the car finished for Jake's class' senior year-2002-'03. However, the date was moved ahead when we were invited by Mopar Muscle and the Mopar Nationals to display the 'Cuda as the centerpiece for "Young Guns" at the 2002 Mopar Nationals. Many long, hot days were put in on the 'Cuda, but just one week before the Nats, it was ready. We wanted to put 500 miles on it before driving it to Columbus. It was great having people put their thumbs up and yell out what a great job the boys had done. The car was ready for the Nationals, except for one piece-the chrome headlight bezel trim on the driver's side.
Fellow 'Cuda owners Denny and Lois Foster of Athens, Michigan, actually loaned us the needed piece from their recently restored 'Cuda. Mopar enthusiasts really do come together. We call the Foster's 'Cuda "Brother 'Cuda." It certainly could be the stronger twin sibling, with its 440 power and Lime Light topcoat-just like Jake's.
The Way Jake Wanted It
We've been asked why Lime Light? It's what Jake wanted. Jake's friends dreamed his dream with him. They knew what color, they knew the interior had to be white, and they even knew what kind of tires and wheels Jake had planned for his 'Cuda. We followed the information they offered.
It doesn't matter that Jake's AAR 'Cuda is a replica. It doesn't matter that lime green wasn't necessarily our choice of color. It doesn't matter that the engine isn't a 340 Six Pack as came originally in authentic AARs. What does matter is the 'Cuda is Jake's. It was his dream, and it is a dream come true-perhaps my family's also, as well as the entire Schoolcraft High School Class's of 2003.
A memorial from all to a dear friend lost. Sometimes our hearts ache, and we just don't know how we can go on without him. But then we remember he's happy, and we know he's smiling down on all of us.
The whole town now recognizes this 'Cuda that took only eleven months to restore from start to finish. When Jake's 'Cuda is out around town, people's smiles come not from its color, but from knowing that it's Jake's and that his friends and the small community came together to make his dreams a reality.
When we are asked, "What will you do with Jake's 'Cuda now that it's finished?" our response is, "Drive it!" Jake's 'Cuda was on display at the Mopar Nationals in the Young Guns judging class, where we were honored to award the First Annual Jake Maurer Memorial Trophy to Corey Pant for the top award with his '74 Duster.
One week later, the 'Cuda and Jake's friends were honored at the Kalamazoo Speedway in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The 'Cuda made two commemorative laps behind the pace car. Jake's 'Cuda has already won a beautiful trophy and was taken to Schoolcraft High School's Class of 2003 Picnic in the Park.
Then there's the Best Car of the Class of 2003. The popular vote has been cast and the votes tallied: The winner is Jake's 'Cuda, and the Class of 2003 should take pride in the fact that without them, it could have never been accomplished.
We don't really know what function Jake's friends want the 'Cuda to serve next, but those kids will do everything possible to assure it's where it needs to be. And we're sure Jake will be there with it.
The challenge of restoring, replicating, and modifying a Mopar is what makes Mopar enthusiasts who they are. For more mainstream musclecars, a part number and a checkbook are often all that's needed.
Additionally, the network of Mopar resources can be a challenge. Fortunately, Dan had restored more than just a couple of Mopars and has many available resources for E-Body Mopars.
While Mopar Muscle cannot take credit for even lifting a wrench, we are proud to have worked with and created an excellent relationship with many companies in the marketplace. Our first call was to The Paddock. Tom Eddy spearheaded the Paddock's effort, and we introduced Dan to Tom. Tom and Dan then spent countless hours on the phone determining which components The Paddock had in stock and could immediately provide as well as other components that they had access to. We had an opportunity to speak with Tom and asked, "What was the most satisfying part of participating in this effort?" Tom's reply: "The thing I liked about it was how the kids made it happen. All those kids jumped in there and made a commitment to have it done for the Nats. Having youth involved in our hobby will keep it alive. It was Dan's commitment and that of Jake's friends that compelled us to be involved."
In an effort to provide opportunity to other advertisers to assist on the project, Sherman & Associates provided the quarter-panels and decklid. Sherman & Associates was able to provide parts and offer in-state shipping.
With The Paddock and Sherman & Associates handling the E-Body reproduction parts, we then turned to Ted and Jackie Stephens of Stephens Performance for the hard-to-find original components. Those who know Ted and Jackie know that if they don't have the Mopar part you need, especially those for E-Bodies, they will track it down. The sheetmetal beneath the rear seat needed to be sourced. Ted and Jackie both went far beyond the call of duty, securing this part and several components. Their expanse of E-Body knowledge was very helpful. At the Mopar Nationals, we were able to get a photo of Ted and Jackie with the 'Cuda. Ted says, "Pride may be frowned upon in Heaven, but I'll bet they made an exception for Jake the weekend of the Mopar Nationals. I applaud these fine folks on their dedication to completing Jake's project."
Dan's resourcefulness was also proven with some tough-to-find parts he found locally. One source was Kolly New, the man who sold Jake the car. Both fenders were sourced locally and at a price many would find hard to believe. Additionally, Dan worked with Arnie's Glass in Kalamazoo, Michigan, who provided a new windshield and delicately removed the glass and reinstalled the rear window-donating all the labor involved.
While Dan was sourcing parts, Ken needed paint and body materials. As do most seasoned professionals, Ken had his favorite materials. So, rather than use products he was unfamiliar with, we turned to Restomotive Laboratories and their popular POR-15 product line. Furthermore, we were able to work with Ken's local paint distributor, who provided the name of his district representative for BASF's Glasurit product line. Both companies came through in the clutch and helped offset nearly $2,000 in product costs.
Luckily, many of the drivetrain parts had been locally sourced, but Dan knew finding parts to cool Jake's 'Cuda would be a challenge. At that point, we contacted U.S. Radiator. Here, Don Armstrong and Lloyd Brown provided their trademarked Triple Flow design that keeps the 383 cool.
Finally, when it came time to finish the interior, the dash was the most daunting. When Dan called us in late May, we immediately recommended Alan Foxx from PMI/Ultimate Rides, whose all-new construction '70-'74 'Cuda and '70-'74 Challenger dashpads have been the anchor of most, if not all, E-Body dash restorations. Alan and his staff immediately responded to Dan's needs and supplied the dashpad. Many thanks to all companies who worked with the Maurer Family and supported the effort on Jake's 'Cuda. We simply couldn't have done it without you.
After returning home from the '01 Mopar Nationals, Keith and Joy Rohm of the Mopar Nationals phoned to tell me the story of Jake Maurer. As Keith conveyed the story of the Maurer family's loss of their youngest son and brother, Jake, I was immediately motivated to provide any resources that Mopar Muscle and the Chrysler community could coordinate to assist in the completion of Jake's AAR replica.
Dan and Bonnie Maurer, along with Jake's older brothers, Joe and Josh, had changed their minds about selling the hulk of a Barracuda that Jake's active imagination believed could become a show-winning 383-powered Lime Light '70 AAR replica, thanks to the motivation of Jake's friends at Schoolcraft High School in southwestern Michigan. They all sought to help Dan create a lasting memorial of Jake.
Immediately after Keith and Joy's phone call, I wrote a letter to Dan informing him that Mopar Muscle and the entire Mopar community was interested in assisting his effort. Dan's enthusiastic reaction just minutes after receiving the letter would result in an 11-month project, with the help of contributions from The Paddock, Stephens Performance, U.S. Radiator, Sherman & Associates, BASF/Glasurit, and PMI/Ultimate Rides. The fundraising activities of Jake's friends also helped to offset much of the family's costs.
Best of all, the car was completed just in time to serve as the centerpiece of The Mopar Nationals "Young Guns" area at the '02 Nats.
While a beautiful Mopar is certainly an outstanding tribute, this story is about more than paint and sheetmetal. The most vital contribution to the car's completion is the determination of Jake's friends, who inspired the grieving family and lent a passionate hand in the restoration.
While "Young Guns" celebrates Mopar enthusiasts 25 years old and under for their passion in Chrysler performance cars, the involvment of young people begins with community. Here's to the mentors, like Dan and Bonnie Maurer, who convey their own enthusiasm in Chrysler performance cars to their children and to Mopar's next generation -Jerry Pitt