Those in the know in collector car circles recognize that pedigree often plays a most important part in determining a car's value. For those of us with production Mopars, determining pedigree can be difficult, but it is far from impossible.
That's not the case with vintage racing iron, especially Chrysler Performance Parts/Petty Enterprises mid-'70s Chrysler Kit Cars.
Ed Skanes and his son Bryan of Lexington, Kentucky, know the challenges of owning vintage race cars of pedigree first hand. This '73 Challenger-skinned Chrysler Kit Car and its garage-mate-the Dan Gurney/Suede Savage-driven '70 AAR 'Cuda-are certainly cars of racing heritage, but there is always a degree of uncertainty.
"This was perhaps one of the early development kit cars built at Petty Enterprises, but we're not quite sure," says Ed.
What Ed and Bryan are sure of is that it went from Petty Enterprises to an individual who lived in or near Petty's Randleman, North Carolina, location. From there, it was purchased by Chrysler dealer Buddy Crouch of Erland, Kentucky. The car would have two other Kentucky-based owners prior to the Skanes purchase in 1992.
Its racing pedigree-asphalt and dirt short tracks throughout the South-may not be considered the big leagues of NASCAR Winston Cup, but the car did enjoy racing success. According to Ed, "
"The car had a total of three different bodies on it," says Ed. "It started as a Challenger, despite promotional material saying that the Chrysler Kit Cars first became available in 1975 in two A-Body/F-Body wheelbase dimensions-112-inch Valiant Scamps and Dart Swingers and 108-inch Dart Sports and Dusters."
Bryan also mentioned to us a November 1973 article in Motor Trend titled "Chrysler's Saturday Night Special." "The article informs readers that four different wheelbases-108-, 110-, 112-, and 115-inches-and six different bodies-Duster, Barracuda, Road Runner/Charger, Dart Sport, and Challenger-were to be offered," says Bryan. "We found one Kit Car Barracuda-an IMSA Radial T/A series Barracuda owned and driven by Carson Baird. We bought the car in 1992 and plan to restore it."
After wearing Challenger panels, this 110-inch wheelbase racer would become a Dart and from there it would become a Mirada. In fact, it was driven by Marty Robbins, the late Country/Western star known for his songs-"El Paso" and "White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation." He was the only country singer to ever compete in NASCAR's premier racing series, Winston Cup. Robbins campaigned this particular car when it was in Dodge Magnum/Mirada form and likely in ARCA competition. Buddy Crouch, a Kentucky Chrysler car dealer, owned the Kit Car when Robbins drove it.
Bryan adds, "While Buddy Crouch owned the Kit Car, it raced ARCA from 1974 though 1980 with two drivers in addition to Robbins. One was a local Kentucky boy named Buddy Medlock. I believe he won several ARCA races in the Kit Car as the No. 74 Dodge Dart."
One of this Kit Car's last races was at Isom, Kentucky, in the early '90s. "Beyond that history," says Ed, "the only people who might know something about the cars would be Chrysler Performance Parts or Petty Enterprises employees."
With that challenge, we began a search for information. Fortune was on our side when we contacted Larry Shepard of Mopar Performance Parts and Bill Hancock of Arrow Racing Engines. In the late '60s through the '70s, Shepard and Hancock had adjoining office space at Chrysler Performance Parts. In fact, Hancock, under direction from his boss, Larry Rathgeb, served as engineer over the entire Kit Car program, working to combine Chrysler's parts with the best in racing aftermarket components and the capabilities of Petty Enterprises.
Hancock says, "Grand National racing was very expensive, and while people came to us all the time from NASCAR's top ranks for parts, we weren't in the business of selling those components to the general public."