"The car started out to be a summer car to cruise with and take to a few shows," says Gerard Chandler of his '71 440 'Cuda. Of course, as you can see from these photos, Gerard and wife Maureen, residents of Livonia, Michigan, seem to have overshot that mark by a pretty big margin.
"It was in good shape when we purchased it," says Gerard. "No major rust or holes. The seats and dash were a little torn. It was tomato red, with an ugly black stripe, stock wheels and tires, and a 318 engine."
After purchasing the car in March of 1992 and driving it several years, the two began the dirty work of disassembling the beast to the bare shell in late 1997. Gerard sandblasted the undercarriage and engine compartment and painted the undercarriage with a rock-hard coat of POR-15 before sending it to Product One Autobody Center in Dearborn for some minor body work and the application of a Prowler Purple topcoat. They also modified the original steel hood to include the Six-Pack scoop.
While the body was getting its "makeover," Gerard and Maureen turned their attention to the powerplant. The couple ditched the 318 in favor of a 440. Far from stock, it now displaces 496 cubic inches, complete with Eagle rods, Ross flat-top pistons, and a 7-quart Milodon oil pan. Gerard chose -452 ported heads fitted with Ferra valves (2.14 intake and 1.81 exhaust), Isky springs, Indy 1.5 rocker arms, and Competition solid lifters, all actuated by an Ultradyne .586 lift/286 duration cam. Atop this was seated a Mopar Performance single-plane intake and Holley's 950 CFM Pro Series carburetor. Two-inch Hooker headers were added to help exhaust flow, trailed by a 3-inch ceramic-coated stainless steel H-pipe and tailpipe made by Watson Engineering, and Flowmaster mufflers.
On the transmission side, the Chandlers beefed up the 727 Torqueflite with an 8-bolt MP flex plate, Coan 10-inch street torque converter, A&A reverse-pattern shift kit, and a Winters shifter.
Nine months after the 'Cuda went to the body shop, it arrived back home just in time for Gerard and Maureen to spend their Christmas vacation beginning the assembly process.
With the help of Maureen, her brother, and friend Pat Hassa, Gerard and crew spent several months piecing the 'Cuda back together...with a few twists. To help the car's handling match the increased output delivered by the modified 440 drivetrain, special attention was given to the suspension. They added all-new polyurethane bushings up front, as well as heavy-duty 111/416-inch tie rods and large 0.90-inch torsion bars.
Out back, MP Super Stock rear springs were moved inboard three inches and mated to the 3.91:1 Sure-Grip-equipped 831/44 rear end. The front and rear suspensions were tied together by 2x3-inch tubing under the floor. Power transfer is aided by an adjustable pinion snubber, Dynotech chrome-moly driveshaft, and KYB gas shocks. Wheels are Weld Pro Stars (15x3.5 front, 15x12 rear), with Hoosier rubber (26x4.5x15 front, 29x14.5x15 rear) rounding out the rolling stock. Naturally, the back seat had to be modified to accommodate the mini-tubs.
Since completing the buildup, Gerard and Maureen hit the cruise and show scene with a vengeance. And it's paid off. At the February 2000 Detroit Autorama, the wild street 'Cuda grabbed a First Place trophy followed by many others, including a First at the Mopar Nationals, and a Mopar Nationals Best of Show pick selected by Mopar Muscle magazine.
As Gerard told us earlier, the 'Cuda was originally destined to be a summer fun car. "It turned out to be a lot more than that," he admits. "After four First places and Best of Show at the Mopar Nationals, this is way more than we ever dreamed it would be."