There's little doubt that any classic car restoration is fun. Some projects come with a few more pitfalls and aggravations than others, but on the whole, the restoration process is a real kick no matter what you're working on.
Of course, there are those restoration projects which bring on a significant amount of apprehension for the restorer, such as extremely rare cars, cars built for high-stakes show competition, or first-time restorations.
Bob Gilles of Concord, Ohio, faced such apprehension when he decided to restore his '73 'Cuda in the mid-'80s. A friend of Bob's bought the car new, and the two shared plenty of good times in it. Bob told his buddy that if he ever decided to sell the car to let him have first crack at it. Well, two years later he did, and Bob had his 'Cuda.
Over the next decade the 'Cuda was used for good-times driving around Bob's Buckeye State home. Then in the early '80s he decided that a little restoration work was in order. To assist in the makeover, Bob purchased a '72 Barracuda parts car, sans the engine, in 1985. It was a no-frills Barracuda that originally sported a gray topcoat with a white vinyl top, 318 V8, automatic tranny, and white interior.
"The shell wasn't all that bad," Bob tells us, "but it was definitely a parts car."
Still, as Bob examined the '72 more closely, he realized that the car deserved a better fate than to be cut up into bits and pieces. And since he had never restored a car before and still had the '73 project yet to go, he made the decision to let the '72 be his guinea pig-a practice restoration project that would hopefully allow him to develop the skills needed for bigger and more significant restorations down the road.
"It just kept snowballing," says Bob. "It was a project I just kind of tackled myself to prove that I could do it. If it turned out, it turned out. If not, well..."
But first things first. Once he decided to rebuild the car, Bob had to obtain a title for it-a task that took a year in itself. Then Bob couldn't get the title transferred because it was stamped and the car had already been sold three or four times over since it left the last dealership that had traded for it. Eventually Bob ended up going for a lost title. In the interim, he spent a good bit of time and money gathering parts for the project that finally began in 1989.
It started out that Bob's learning curve would, indeed, be a trial by fire. He had never done any body and paint work before, so you can imagine the challenge when he had to replace the '70 front clip someone had stuck onto the Barracuda. On top of that, one quarterpanel and the trunk floor had to be replaced, and patches added to the other quarterpanel.
The sheetmetal fabricating proved to be the most difficult aspect of the restoration, Bob tells us, and the finishing work was no picnic either. All of the hand-sanding and smoothing of the sheetmetal took more time to complete than he had realized. Bob says he now understands why good paint and body artists can and should charge so much for quality work.
With the rough stuff behind him, Bob moved onto shooting the Barracuda with a dose of Burnt Orange instead of the original gray, just to have something different. Since this was really only a "practice" restoration, and he had already made the "modified" leap by going with a non-original paint scheme, Bob decided that he was going take the rest of the restoration easy and do it his way. That included replacing the original white vinyl top with black, and doing the same for the interior.
Because the original 318 engine had long since parted from the Barracuda, Bob took a notion to drop in a 340-a crate motor, you could call it, since all of the engine's parts were "crated up" in boxes. Actually, the disassembled engine had been purchased from a guy who had bought it from a guy who had the V8 rebuilt and installed in his Dodge truck. Three or four days after the installation, however, the engine began to blow smoke like a locomotive. Turned out that the rebuilder had kinked the head gasket. At any rate, the owner pulled the engine and disassembled it before selling it off. Bob simply bought a new gasket kit, put it all back together, and dropped it into his Barracuda, where it was mated up to the rebuilt OE 904 tranny. He even decided to leave the fresh chrome goodies on the beast.
In 1993, four years after taking his virgin plunge into the world of musclecar restoration, Bob emerged victorious...and just in time to drive the Barracuda to that year's Mopar Nationals. Since then, Bob has driven his car to numerous shows throughout the country, including a trip to the '98 Don Garlitts show in Florida, and to Canada.
And that '73 Cuda which started it all? Well, Bob says he'll get around to it eventually. Probably after he finishes restoring the '70 Barracuda convertible and builds the '48 Plymouth street rod now taking up his garage space.
Seems like Bob Gilles liked the restoration waters after all. Now you can find him having fun in the deep end.