The gasser wars of the 1960s are recalled by racing fans as the era when wheel standing Willys, Anglias, and Studebaker coupes ran heads-up for records, class honors in NHRA events, and magazine coverage. These machines were classified to race in one of the sanction's bigger divisions for more modified cars, which went by several names like Super Eliminator and Street Eliminator, so winning a class title in a division like A/G was a big deal. As the money poured into the sport during this time, however, some racers began using late-model bodies at the behest of their Detroit sponsors. One such driver was Fred Hurst, a sportsman racer who up to that time had piloted one of the nastiest Willys coupes in dragdom, first with Pontiac power and later with an injected 426 Hemi that set an A/Gas (non-supercharged) record.

Hurst was an electrician from the Dayton, Ohio, region, also home to the noted Ford racer "Ohio George" Montgomery, who switched from his noted '33 Willys to a new Mustang in 1967. Late that season, Hurst installed a new, steel '68 Barracuda body with fiberglass extras on the Jim Thorpe–built chassis that had been under his Willys the previous four seasons. With Thorpe assisting on the wrench work, Fred then proceeded to show his racing rivals the rear bumper, winning overall honors at the 1968 World Finals in Street Eliminator at Tulsa, Oklahoma, and resetting the record in A/Gas to a 9.28 at Milan, Michigan, in the summer of 1969. The car seen here would be what superceded that effort with the redesign of the Barracuda into its E-Body format.

According to Clark Rand, the collector who now owns this car, this was again a body swap, using the tried-and-true chassis with another new steel shell, this time with 'glass doors, front end, and decklid. The reskinning would get Hurst's effort additional publicity; he was named to the Car Craft All-Star team (Best Competition Driver—Fendered) by reader ballot in 1971, beating Montgomery for the honors. Fred would eventually replace the Plymouth in 1974, going to a shorter Buick Opel that he ran through 1977. In 2007, Fred's overall career was recognized when he was honored at the NHRA Holley Hot Rod Reunion in Columbus, Ohio.

Incidentally, the 1968 body ended up with a new chassis underneath it; it has recently resurfaced in primer. Not so with this car. Clark and his wife Colleen have an appreciation for unrestored race cars, and what you are looking at is a true barn find. It was located by the Rands through an advertisement in Hemmings Motor News back in 2009, still supported by the vintage Willys chassis that Thorpe had modified.

"The gassers Fred campaigned back in the '60s and '70s were some of the most beautiful and competitive in the sport," says Clark. "[When we found the car], this thing was a time capsule with original paint, decals, transmission, shifter and seats. Fred still had the front wheels and we got them from him. All we did was clean it up, have Jim Remlinger fix a circle of paint damage on the roof, and put together another engine for it."

The paint deserves special mention. Fred's cars were always painted Candy Apple Red during the glory days, and the color on this 'Cuda was laid down by Bill "Short Round" Rowell and lettered by Jim "Dauber" Farr. Ghosted into the lacquer is the Plymouth pointed tail heart at various spots; the deep, rich color is psychedelically laced as well, and Farr's legendary gold leaf work is evident in the lettering. The reality is that recreating this work would have been a very difficult task. Its survival to the 21st century is one of the car's best points. The paint shows some minor wear but is outstanding overall (Rowell and Farr themselves were both honored by the NHRA Motorsports Museum program back in 2006 for their notable efforts on well-remembered Midwestern cars). Moreover, the red anodized interior done by Jim McChustion also remains intact.