Jeff Hornsby did something not too many Mopar owners have done. About five years ago, he set off on a trip down Resto Road, and before he had even made it to the end of the block, he did a complete U-turn. In 1998, Jeff purchased a '68 Coronet with grand ideas of turning it into a Pro Street car, but he quickly discovered he had bitten off more than he could chew.
"I was visiting the Mopar Nats several years ago, and I thought to myself, Hey, I'm not getting any younger," Jeff tells us. "I wanted to build a Pro Street car. After searching for a B-Body, I found a '68 Coronet 318 that I thought would be perfect for the project."
Jeff was able to buy the Coronet for the menial price of $350. But when he got the car home and began investigating the expense of the resto he wanted to do, he hit the brakes.
"I researched the cost of tubbing, of getting new quarter-panels, etc., and it was to the tune of more than $4,000," says Jeff, an industrial salesman from Weaverville, North Carolina. "But I was committed to pursuing this dream."
About a week after Jeff brought the Coronet home, things took a turn for the better. He was thumbing through a local trader magazine and found this '70 'Cuda Pro Street project car. What's more, the seller was just two blocks from his house. For what it would have cost Jeff in framework and sheetmetal on the Coronet, he could purchase the 'Cuda with money to spare. "After about, oh, three minutes of thinking, I decided to sell the '68 and finish off the 'Cuda," Jeff says. "I was just glad I hadn't started working on the Coronet already."
The 'Cuda was nothing more than a rolling body when Jeff got it. It had been primed, but that was it-no wiring, fuel tank, fuel lines, engine, interior, or transmission. The owner gave him boxes of spare parts, including some that belonged on the 'Cuda and some that didn't. "I was familiar with B-Bodies, but not E-Bodies," Jeff says. "I didn't have a clue what some of that stuff was or where it went."
After Jeff figured out what he had, he set out to find the rest. The sheetmetal was very straight, but Jeff had to purchase an aftermarket front valance panel. The previous owner had removed the hinges from the trunk and just welded it in place (apparently for racing purposes), so Jeff had to undo that work, too. He wanted it to appear as stock as possible, so he restored stock seats with black vinyl and laid black carpet from Hardens underneath them. He also stayed with the stock AM-only radio. The rear had been tubbed so big, there was barely room for a rear seat, so Jeff saved a lot of time, money, and aggravation by just carpeting the rear seat area. "The guy was going to race it with huge slicks," he says. "I don't think a rear seat would have fit. People walk by now and see those [15x18 1⁄2] tires, and their eyes pop out. I wouldn't have chopped up the 'Cuda myself, but since it was already done, I did the best I could with it."
Any aggravation Jeff saved on the interior revisited him when it was time to build the 440 mill. "I had [previously] built two or three engines, but I had been out of the loop for years," Jeff says. "I decided to have someone do it for me, and I will never do that again. This guy talked the talk, but there were numerous problems. He incorrectly sized the valvesprings, which wiped out the cam. Of course, I thought the cam was defective, so I replaced it and had the same problem. Then I had to tear it all the way down because when that happens, metal gets into the piston skirts. The ring clearances were too big, too. I ended up having to pull the engine out of my detailed engine compartment, trying as hard as I could not to scratch it."
Finally, Jeff threw up his hands, pulled out his old books, and built the engine himself from scratch. "By the time it was all over, I could have bought a crate Hemi," he says. But at least he had the satisfaction of building the engine himself. Jeff uses an Edelbrock Performer intake, Crane cam, and Demon 750 carb. He bored the block .030 over and had the heads cc'd by Barnes & Reese. Do you like the air cleaner? That little piece of ingenuity is from Air Inlet Systems of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
All the hard work and frustration was rewarded in 2002 at the Bristol Bash. There, Jeff's 'Cuda took First Place in both the E-Body Modified and Pro Street categories.
The only thing (besides cc'ing) Jeff didn't do himself was the paintwork. Buddy David Boggs of Car's Best Friend in Asheville, North Carolina, coated the 'Cuda with Sublime even though the car was originally Top Banana. Jeff chose Sublime because 1970 was the only year the color was offered.
Even though the 'Cuda is now a 440, Jeff left the 383 emblems on, again going for the stock look. "It's about a 10:1 [compression] motor right now," he says. "I don't have any [timeslips] yet, but I'm hoping it can run in the mid-12s. You can't build a car like this without making some passes, but I won't run it hard because I don't want to tear it up."
Jeff wasn't so judicious as a 16-year-old, when his '70 Nova SS and later his '68 SS ragtop Camaro couldn't stand up to his pounding. When he drove his friend's rugged Road Runner, though, he was hooked. "I bought my first [Mopar] in 1975," Jeff says. "It was a '69 Road Runner, and I still have it. I have all the original parts, but it's in my basement right now waiting for the money [for a restoration]. I have had a couple others, like a '67 Satellite big-block, and I bought the '68 Coronet thinking I was going to tub it and put a big-block in it. It's like once you start with Mopars, you can't quit." We know, Jeff . . . we know.
Body: '70 'Cuda
Owner: Jeff Hornsby
Location: Weaverville, North Carolina
Engine: 456ci 440 bored .030 over with TRW pistons, Crane cam, Mopar Performance valves, Demon 750 carb, and Edelbrock Performer intake
Transmission: Cooks 727 automatic
Rear: Dana 9 3⁄4, 4.10 gears
Wheels: Stockton Rallye
Details: Tubbed; no rear seat (carpeted); eight-point 'cage; frame tied; leaf-spring shortened.