Prior to introducing the E-Body,...
Prior to introducing the E-Body, Fred had been very successful with his A-Body version of the Barracuda, seen here during a winning effort at the 1969 U.S. Nationals. (www.quartermilestones.com archive.)
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 The car seen here would be what superceded that effort with the redesign of the Barracuda into its E-Body format.
The car's gnarly stance from...
The car's gnarly stance from behind is one of the reasons this 'Cuda was one of the most popular in what was a then-fading gas class; the funny car and pro stock boom had so overtaken the sport and made anything beyond actual sportsman competition very unlikely.
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.
Under the flip-up nose (which...
Under the flip-up nose (which was modified back in the day for a circa 1972 grille divider) is a functional 480-inch Gen II Hemi. Since the car was bought as a roller, the Rands dug deep into the vintage parts sources for pieces like the Vertex magneto, Hilborn pump and injectors.
Because the car was gas-powered, Mr. Hurst stuck with the B&M-developed Clutchflite longer than many others did. The unit was not equal to what was needed in fuel racing, or the high-rpm powerband in Pro Stock, but was reliable in the injected gas environment. It was still in the car, which had survived after being sold to a racer named Brian Wall in Canada, who raced it very limitedly. He in turn sold it to Jack Schiffer, who never put it down the track. This is who the Rands bought it from.
Like several other projects the Rands have done, friend Fred Engelhart played a big role in getting it back in shape, chasing down the parts needed to complete the new engine and replacing small things missing on the car. The main thing was to try to maintain as much originality as possible, an effort which was assisted when Fred himself found some period pieces in his personal parts stash.
Inside the office, the car...
Inside the office, the car is well-laid out but all business—beautiful red anodized tinwork, custom plexi windows, a laid back driver seat, a matching passenger-side
When Clark and his wife brought it to the Mopars in the Park show in Minnesota, a perfect day let us flashback to the early '70s, when the final embers of the gasser wars glowed as the rising professionalism of drag racing.
'70 Plymouth 'Cuda A/GS survivor racecar
Clark and Colleen Rand
- Engine: By the time he built this car, Fred Hurst had a very scienced-out gas engine package, using a Hilborn-injected 480-inch Hemi pumped up by a 1/2-inch Moldex stroker crankshaft. The Rands rebuild to replace the long-gone original used similar pieces, including a Crane camshaft, anodized Hilborn injectors, TRW pistons, Hooker headers, and a Vertex magneto.
- Transmission: Still in the tunnel was a circa-1970s B&M Clutchflite transmission, which used a clutch unit in place of the torque converter. Since Clark does not intend to send the rare beast down to trip the lights fantastic, it was left completely intact.
- Rear: Like the transmission, the old Dana 60 is still under the car.
- Suspension: Fred Hurst stuck with a good thing when he found it; the frame was actually modified from the original Willys chassis by Jim Thorpe and was beneath several of his cars. The front axle is sprung ala the gasser, with ladder bars and Monroe air shocks.
- Brakes: Rear only and parachute.
- Wheels/Tires: American rims with original Firestone drag slicks.
- Paint/Body: This is a steel car, and the paint applied by artisans Bill "Short Round' Rowell and Jim 'Dauber' Farr is a deep Candle Apple Red lacquer with cool Plymouth logos visible in bright light.
- Interior: This is a racecar, and it is Spartan but stylish. Tinwork is augmented by fiberglass seats and Stewart-Warner gauges.