In 1967 Detroit's Big Three (plus AMC) continued the ongoing battle of horsepower that is the subject of tales today. Dragstrips across the country were hosting weekly match races, putting each of the manufacturers in position to prove their wares, either overtly (like Ford and Mopar) or covertly (read: GM). At the start of 1968, with the new big-block Camaros, Firebirds, and Cobra Jet Mustangs taking a hold, the Chrysler Corporation announced that local Plymouth and Dodge dealerships would take orders from the public for brand-new Super Stock-legal door cars. The only requirement was signing a waiver stating you knew you were buying a factory-built, non-D.O.T.-approved race machine. That was it; unlike the others, Chrysler didn't limit their performance wares to an elite group of professionals; these things ended up on dealership lots!
Had the resources been available, we would have all jumped at the chance to get one, but most of the buying public probably thought the idea of buying a car you couldn't drive on the street was absurd. Just picture Archie Bunker sitting in his chair saying, "Who in da world would buy a car dey can't drive to da store, ya Meathead!" Still, with drag racing growing in popularity, the factory did two short production runs of the cars in February and May of that year that resulted in 70 Barracudas and around 80 Darts for what was then SS/B drag racing. A Hurst plant in the Detroit region did the conversions, using incomplete 383-equipped machines as the starting point.
Super Stock means Hemi, but putting the venerable rodent-stomping elephant in one of these little shells produced several problems, so lots of tricks were employed. Consider the flexible lines on the master cylinder of these cars. With mechanical lifters in the Hemi (and the radical cam profiles guaranteed to be installed by end users), regular valve adjustments needed to be made. However, the wide Hemi valve cover already almost touched the master cylinder. The flexible lines allowed the master cylinder to be removed from the firewall and laid on the fender so the valve cover could be removed. Still, an additional relocating block was needed to offset the master cylinder for clearance. The fenders and hood were made of fiberglass, while the bumpers and doors were either acid-dipped or stamped from lighter gauge material.
These cars were shipped from Hurst in primer and the front ends toned with black or blue Gel-coat. When this four-speed car left the Hurst facility, it became the property of a racer named Ray Christian, who drove the car with the four-speed for three weeks until a missed shift made the transmission's internals go external. Indeed, the violent launches made many owners convert to the TorqueFlite squad, with notable exceptions like Ronnie Sox and Arlen Vanke, who both, of course, retained a four-speed. After Ray sold the car, it continued to race, ending up in the bracket racket with a 440 Six Pack engine and automatic trans.
Fast forward to 1987. Paul Emiro was a lad in college when the program was announced, and academic survival rather than adrenaline-pumping power was a priority. So, having become established, Paul placed an ad in Hemming's Motor News, looking for one of these cars. Shortly thereafter, he got a lead and purchased a true-to-life Hurst Hemi Plymouth from a doctor in Wausau, Wisconsin, minus engine and trans. Since he was already a Mopar guy, he took a Hemi short-block that was just lying around-one which just happened to be '68 vintage-over to Don Scinto Automotive in Stratford, Connecticut, for use in the car. This block was bored a scant .005 inch to clean it up and utilized the stock crank and rods, building its compression with a brace of "massaged" 12.5:1 "low-top" pistons. The stock cast-iron heads (no aluminum heads on these '68 cars) allow the motor to breathe through the original valves seated by Crane springs.
This behemoth is fed race gas through the stock magnesium intake supporting two correct Holley carbs. Shifting chores are handled by a Hurst competition shifter with the original reverse lock-out mechanism mounted to an A-833 18-spline transmission, which in turn easily spins the rear tires via the 4.88:1-cogged Dana 60 rear. When it came time to cover the freshened sheetmetal/fiberglass combination, Paul wanted to stand out, so he had GOS Motorsport Graphics design something noticeable, which was applied by A Perfect Image and Soft Touch Studios-both in Florida-in shades of House of Kolor paint. The spartan interior is also the same as it left Hurst in 1968, and for rolling stock, Paul chose Bogart Racing Wheels of Santee, California, then wrapped them in Hoosier rubber. Finally, Paul replaced the thin Corning racing glass with safety glass so he could drive the car over bumps.
Bumps? Well, unlike most of its peers, this '68 Hurst hauler is street-tagged and gets some cruise time in. Given both the value and the viciousness of this beast, you gotta admit it takes some courage to even pull it out of the driveway. I had the privilege of going for a short blast with Paul and can report that he indeed drives this thing like it should be driven; I had goose bumps and a smile, and we got the pictures. Even the police officers who showed up, Deputies Bamford and Gordon of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, got a kick out of it (it's OK, Paul called them for the photo shoot). Deep Purple's big hit was "Smoke on the Water"; despite those big stickies, Paul's machine can smoke 'em Anyplace.
1968 Hurst Built SS/B Barracuda
- Owner: Paul Emiro
- Engine: 426 Cross-Ram Hemi
- Built By: Don Scinto Automotive, (203) 377-7676
- Graphics: GOS Motorsports Graphics
- Applied by: A Perfect Image, Tampa, Florida and Soft Touch Studios, Holiday, Florida
- Wheels: Bogart
- Tires (lots of 'em): Hoosier
- Hardware: Milodon
- Bits 'n' Pieces: Kramer Automotive, Herman, Pennsylvania
- Ignition Gear: Jacobs Electronics