Guys that work on project cars come in two distinct types. Some guys work on them a few hours a day after work and on weekends, scraping up money and parts when they can, and others work on them for other people, as a full time job. In theory, working on them for a living should eliminate the scraping up money portion, but other than that, the work is the same. But, what if you're a guy that fixes and rebuilds other people's rides for them, and you want one for yourself? It's the old story, the cobbler's kids' never have new shoes.
For body shop owner John Lanza of Harwood, Maryland, working on other people's rides finally got to him, and he decided that it was time to build a ride of his own. But again, if you're building cars for others all day, do you really want to do it at night and on weekends too? Well, John decided that he did, so the hunt was on for the right car. John—like many guys—has always liked E-Body Mopars, so when a friend of John's found a 'Cuda candidate for his project, he decided to pick up the pieces—in this case, literally—and build the car he wanted. What the friend located was a '70 'Cuda Convertible that had been off of the road for almost 21 years. Not only had it been off of the road for such a long period of time, it had been sitting torn apart and languishing for the last four years of those twenty one under a raised, rear porch of a house where the friend found it. John tells us, "You can't imagine the work this thing needed. It was completely torn apart when I looked at it." The original power option of the drop-top consisted of a 383 engine, and a three-speed, manually-shifted transmission—definitely a rarely-equipped ride.
It looks bone-stock, but once...
It looks bone-stock, but once you notice the radio head unit, and the five numbers on the Pistol Grip instead of a factory four, you get the idea...it’s a driver.
Even though the car was in rough shape, and the original three-speed transmission was missing, John felt it was a good starting point for his very own build. He decided early on that since the car could never be all original again, he was going to build the car his way. John's way consisted of adding items like a 426 Hemi backed by a Tremec, an Alter-k-tion front k-frame and suspension, and a Dana 60 in the rear. Other upgrades to increase driveabilty and safety have also been added.
Even with the responsibilities of his day job, John tells us that without the help of friends, Bill Mangum, Kevin and Brian Hurd, Dave Burdeaux, Matt Jones, Chuck Walls, and Danny Dove, this project could never have been completed. John and the guys were able to completely rebuild the 'Cuda in a matter of 18 months, and in his words, it's no trailer queen. With the help of the five-speed transmission, and a folding roof, John has great cruiser that came together in a short time, and racks up the miles in short order.
'70 Cuda Convertible
John Lanza, Harwood, Maryland
A little bigger than the car's...
A little bigger than the car's original 383, a freshly rebuilt 426 Hemi handles the driving chores just as easily.
- Engine: From the factory, this drop-top was equipped with a 383. Now however, the area under the hood is filled with a 426 Hemi that has been fitted with an LA Bullet, Steel crankshaft connected to stock Hemi connecting rods. Compressing the air fuel mix is a set of Keith Black pistons. A conservative Racer Brown camshaft with .500-inch lift, and 238-degrees of duration at .050-inch lift work the valves in the aluminum Mopar heads. Squirting fuel into the Mopar intake is a pair of Edelbrock 600 cfm carburetors.
- Transmission: Originally a manually-shifted car, upgrading to a five-speed was a logical choice.
- Rear: It's a basic Dana 60 with 4.10 gears. The five-speed makes the 4.10's a great choice for cruising, and makes the car a blast to drive.
- Suspension: The front is now supported by an Alter-k-tion tubular k-frame with QA1 adjustable coil overs.
- Brakes: Bringing the E-Body to a screeching halt is a set of four Wilwood disc brakes.
- Wheels/Tires: A set of American Racing polished Torque Thrusts measuring 18 x 10-inch on the rear with 6-1/2-inches back spacing, and 18 x 8-inch on the front with 5-inches of back spacing. For tires, Nitto NT 555's, 285/40-18 and 245/45-18 round out the rollers.
- Paint/Body: Since John paints cars for a living, covering the car in a new shade of Sublime was no problem.
- Interior: John used parts from Legendary Auto Interiors to restore the cockpit himself.