Most of the cars we come across that suffer from some personality disorder or another are usually the result of creative tinkering on the part of the owner. It's amazing what you can do with seemingly disparate parts, and despite all logical analysis, people can crossbreed some pretty weird blends. In June 1994 mechanic Ken Whittaker of Valparaiso, Indiana, picked up a '71 Demon he found through a local classified paper. Ken said it was a bargain, but evidently "bargain" is a subjective term.
"The car was totally molested," said Ken. "The engine was a '78 360, the rearend was out of a six-cylinder car, the hood was butchered with hoodscoops and pins in the wrong place, and the air conditioning was missing from the firewall forward."
But that wasn't the worst of it. The Demon, you see, suffered from an identity crisis.
"The bucket seats were from a very early-model Dart," said Ken. "The rear tailpanel and the trunk were damaged and had been replaced with a Duster tailpanel. My wife called it a 'Demster'!"
Fortunately, Ken wasn't easily dissuaded.
"I was originally going to make a street car out of it, but after some research, I found that there weren't too many of these cars around, so I decided to do it right."
Ken began the Demon's exhaustive restoration (or reorientation, depending on how you look at it) by completely disassembling what was left of the car and stripping the whole lot with aviation stripper. The back end of the car (trunk, trunk extensions, quarter-panels, and the abominable Duster tailpanel) was cut out. After locating a good, used Demon tailpanel and purchasing new sheetmetal from Harden's Muscle Car, Ken welded in the new components and even recreated the factory spot welds. Following a thorough sandblasting, Ken handed the car to friends Ralph and Rico Maldonado for the paint and bodywork.
In the interim, the search was on for a proper driveline. Ken eventually located an early '71 340, 831/44-inch rear and a 3.91 Sure Grip differential-all of which he rebuilt to factory specs. The Demon's 727 TorqueFlite was given to friend Larry Van Vleek, owner of Discount Transmissions in Lake Station, Indiana, for a complete rebuild and upgrade. During the freshening up, Larry installed heavy-duty clutches and a TCI manual valvebody.
Eventually, the Maldonados finished the bodywork and laid on a striking coat of Plum Crazy (a big step up from the original Dark Green Metallic), and Ken completed the small parts by detailing and rounding up the necessary N.O.S. parts. The most difficult part was treating the hood to a quality black-out.
"Trying to find someone to paint my hood black-out was nerve-wracking," said Ken. "I asked around and was referred to Mike Abraham of Abraham Custom Paint Studio in Valparaiso. He told me he hadn't painted a Demon hood before, but I was impressed with his work. So after the engine and the transmission were installed, the car was taken to his shop. Having seen many bad hood black-outs, I took him a factory brochure that I picked up at a swap meet. There was a nice picture on the front cover for him to use. He taped it off and called me to come look at it. It was perfect. He shot a few sample panels for the matte-black finish [then got to work]."
At this point, said Ken, the real fun began. Thirty shelves of restored, refurbished, new, and N.O.S. parts were gradually depleted. Whenever he needed a "third hand," his mother, Christine, helped, so the assembly process was completed in about a year. Ken also gives credit to his wife, Kathy, "for tolerating my obsession with this car."
Since the Demon's personality quirks have been tended to, Ken tries to set the fiery V8 on the road two or three times a week; and whenever the weekends allow, quality highway cruising. An iron mistress indeed, the once forlorn machine is now looking for a good time with a high-class attitude.