This is a story about a car that once defined the term "basket case," as well as a story about a community that turned that junker into a gem for one of their own.
That community is the members of www.cuda-challenger.com. That Web site's forums have become a cyber meeting place that they frequent daily, much like the drive-ins and other brick-and-mortar hangouts that E-Body devotees frequented during the '70s.
Last year, one of the cuda-challenger.com members was set to leave the States for a third tour of duty with the Army in Iraq. Don Moore, then a staff sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division, was scheduled to go in September, a couple months after the All-Chrysler Nationals at Carlisle. he frequented the forums and was known as Cudaguy. Don always wanted a 'Cuda, but life and his job of protecting all of us kept that dream just shy of reality. One day, the folks at www.cuda-challenger.com came up with an idea: Why not find, buy, and restore a Barracuda for him, and have it ready to present to him at Carlisle?
After an extensive search, they located a '73 Barracuda, originally silver with a white interior. Fellow cuda-challenger.com member Tony Miller, of L.A. Miller Restorations in Fort Jennings, Ohio, says it defined the term basket case. "It was dented, rusted, half-torn-apart, and tattered pretty bad," he says with a laugh. "Basically, everything had to be gone through in six weeks." Miller's shop was where the bulk of the work was done-the teardown and the build back up-with the help of Don's dad (Don Moore Sr.), plus an uncle, and a couple brothers who stopped in about once a week.
Family and friends of Don...
Family and friends of Don Moore (seen here at Carlisle last summer) chased down parts, and contributed funds and labor-all going into the "Project Cudaguy" E-Body they built and presented to Don.
With fellow cuda-challenger.com members tracking down and shipping parts to Miller's shop, the build went quickly, especially after the new steel went on. that not only included much of the unibody's original sheetmetal-or what was left of it-but also one important structural piece up front. "We had an issue with the K-frame.it was cracked and all busted up from a hit earlier in its life," says Tony. "I got on the web site and said, 'Hey, we need a K-frame!' within a few days, somebody scrounged one up and shipped it."
But that wasn't all. "The original engine had cracks in the side of the block," says Tony, who just happened to have a 318 that he'd pulled from a '71 Challenger convertible several years earlier. "We opened it up, and it still had cross-hatches in the cylinder walls-it looked like it had been freshly built. So we went through and regasketed it, detailed it out, and changed the cam and a few other items because it had been sitting for 8-to-10 years." Once the 318 was assembled, he fired it up and was delightfully surprised. "I didn't expect it to be that powerful. that thing's quite the whip for a 318!" Downstream, an upgraded 727 went in, shifted by a rebuilt Slap-Stick console-mounted shifter. Also in the powertrain: a 3.55-geared Sure Grip-equipped 8 3/4-inch rearend.
A 318 from a '71 Challenger...
A 318 from a '71 Challenger was freshened with an Edelbrock carb-and-intake combo and tube headers.
Along with help from the cuda-challenger.com members, Tony also got some local support during the build. "I got help from some of the students at the local technical college, the University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH), which specializes in high-performance," Tony says. the students gained valuable experience through their time working on this project. "I also got some local businesses involved. we got things like the exhaust, mufflers, and a lot of other little things. We also got gas cards to help pay for the transportation of the car in an enclosed trailer to Carlisle."
During much of the time it took to turn the torn-up-and-rusted-out "before" car into an eye-catching "after," Tony had his shop closed so they could finish the 'Cuda in time for its rendezvous with destiny at Carlisle. There, it was rolled on to the main stage and covered as if it were a charity-raffle car.
Don's son, the latest generation...
Don's son, the latest generation of an all-Mopar family, is seen here with his dad's car, which wears a year-correct Michigan plate.
When Don got on the stage and was told the car was his, he was almost speechless. (A video of the unveiling and presentation is on www.cuda-challenger.com.) He was especially taken by the quality of the body and paint work. Don says, "You can put a ruler up to the body, and you can see all the way to the number 12. The finish on the car is amazing!"
Just after he was presented with the car, Don said he wanted to "drive it like he stole it," which is exactly what he did before he shipped out-putting a good deal of wear onto the 'Cuda's BFGoodrich Radial T/As, something he plans to do again once he returns to the States this May for his midtour leave.
Don-a military analyst who was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service during his first tour in Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and who's since been promoted to sergeant first class-comes from a Detroit-area family whose Mopar roots run deep. "Both of my grandfathers retired from Chrysler, and all my uncles work at Chrysler," he says. "One of my grandfathers worked at the plant at Mound Road and Nine Mile Road. "
That makes the choice of vehicles for his family's fleet an easy one. "I was raised on Chryslers, and that's all I drive," he says. That includes his '90 Dodge Ram 4x4 pickup and his wife's 5.7L Hemi Magnum-powered '05 Dodge Durango, which now share garage and driveway space with the restored 'Cuda at Don's home, near the 101st's home at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Don thought the car under...
Don thought the car under the cover was a Carlisle charity-raffle car. Then he found out it was his, and who built it for him.
'73 Barracuda Don Moore
FT. Campbell, KY
Engine: A '71-vintage 318, which Tony Miller pulled out of a Challenger convertible about ten years earlier. It was treated to a mild cam from Summit Racing Equipment, an Edelbrock AVS four-barrel carb and intake, and tubular headers in place of the stock 318 manifolds.
Transmission: 727 Torqueflite, with a 2,500 stall converter and a Slap Stick console-mounted shifter.
Rearend: Sure Grip-equipped Mopar 83/4-inch, with 3.55 rear gears.
Suspension: Once more, like before-restored front torsion bars and rear leaf springs. Restoration parts sourced from Just Suspension.
Brakes: Front disc/rear drum, just like the crew at Hamtramck Assembly put on way back when.
Wheels: Big-bolt-pattern Rallyes wear BFG Radial T/As.
Body: Well-aged original unibody was restored by Tony Miller, Boo Klenke, Kyle Truman, and others at L.A. Miller Restorations, Fort Jennings, Ohio. Reproduction/replacement parts included: quarter-panels, floorpan, trunk floor, front fenders, and door skins. New bumpers donated by Carlisle Events.
Paint: DuPont Chroma in EL5 Butterscotch/Bahama Yellow (Don's favorite color) applied by L.A. Miller Restorations. Special "Cudaguy" hockey-stick stripes by University of Northwestern Ohio's graphics department.
Interior: Original bucket-seat interior restored from time-worn/torn-up to showroom-new by Don Staver, Lima, Ohio. Resto/repro parts by Legendary Auto Interiors.
Thanks to www.cuda-challenger.com members, this car was restored from trash to treasure in six weeks' time.