A good mystery is part of what makes car collecting a great hobby. This '72 Demon 340 belongs to Sharleen Barbagallo of Bristol, Connecticut, and its possible connection to a legendary batch of musclecars makes it a classic head-scratcher.
Sharleen and her husband, Ralph, believe they may have a Grand Spaulding Special (GSS) edition that was upgraded at the Chicago dealership. There is no documented proof that Sharleen's Demon is a GSS upgrade car, and chances are slim there ever will be. Ralph and Sharleen attempted to have the car authenticated, but word came back that the records for VINs as high as theirs had been destroyed by flood damage.
But there are several clues that point to the possibility of Grand Spaulding heritage. First, the "Mr. Norm's Dyno Tested" and "Mr. Norm's Grand Spaulding Dodge" decals, which every car received, indicate the car may have been purchased there. The hood was also modified to accommodate an Air Grabber air cleaner. "It is obvious whoever did the modifications to the hood really knew what they were doing," Ralph notes.
However, a case could also be made against this car being the work of Mr. Norm's gang because the '72 GSS Demons typically had twin-scooped hoods. They were also equipped with Paxton superchargers, and Sharleen's car is not.
If the case were to be solved, it would be up to the man himself. At the Grand Spaulding Dodge reunion during the '97 Mopar Nationals, Ralph and Sharleen got the chance to meet Mr. Norm and see if he could recognize his handiwork.
"Basically, he said he did whatever the customer wanted back then," Ralph says. "When he saw there was no supercharger, he said he had an original one on the shelf and offered to put it on. But he said [Grand Spaulding] put out a lot of cars, and there was really no way he could say for sure it was [or wasn't] his work." So much for that.
Still, GSS or not, Ralph and Sharleen couldn't pass up the opportunity to have Mr. Norm autograph the air cleaner. "It was pretty exciting to meet him because he took what Chrysler was doing at the time and multiplied it by two," Sharleen says. "He is a legend in this arena, but he was very approachable, very nice."
The story doesn't end there. Galen Govier's research shows the VIN occurred late in the production year, meaning this may have been the last Demon ever made. Plus, when the Barbagallos found this Demon, it had the Sizzler stripe package on it, which it retains. But, Sizzlers weren't available with 340s, so a previous owner must have liked the way they looked and added them. "Sharleen's known for having an odd car," Ralph says.
It was at the '91 Mopar Nationals that Sharleen purchased the car. "I had two Dusters in high school-nothing fancy-but that was the car I was looking for," Sharleen says. Having had no luck, she was packing to leave on the last day while Ralph went back for another look. "Ralph said 'You've got to come back and see this car.' To my untrained eye, the body style looked [like a Duster], it was in good condition, and the price was right, so I said, 'That's the one.' "
The car had been well cared for. "The way you see it is pretty much how it was when she bought it," Ralph says. The original upholstery was still on the front seats, and it had a new coat of black from PPG that matched the original. The repaint, however, did not include the black stripes on the hood, sides, and tailpanel, so those have since been applied. After a few years of use as a driver, the front seat upholstery was also replaced with Legendary skin.
The most notable modification is the spoiler. It was one of the few factory options not originally ordered on the buildsheet. "I didn't want [Ralph] to put it on," Sharleen says. "I was adamant about it. I liked my car the way it was, and I didn't want him cutting it up. But he took the liberty." "The back of the car needed something," Ralph says. "I found an original spoiler, and after I [put it on], she liked it."
This Demon features nearly every factory option available: Dual chrome racing mirrors, power steering, power brakes, console automatic, Rallye wheels, exhaust tips, Tuff steering wheel, wheel lip moldings, and bucket seats, to name a few.
"It wasn't what I was originally looking for," Sharleen says. "But I was happier having something more unique than a Duster. I felt like I had a million-dollar car. I blame my father for all this. He worked at a Plymouth dealership. He had a Charger and my uncle had a Road Runner. [My car] is just an object, but it becomes part of your family. I am going to enjoy it for a long time."
Mr. Norm's Mighty MoparsIn 1962, Norm Klaus and his brother, Leonard, left the used-car business to open a Dodge dealership in Chicago. But it wasn't going to be just another Dodge dealership. Grand Spaulding Dodge's mission was to cater to the young high-performance demographic. Grand Spaulding specialized in performance upgrades not available from the factory.
The gambit paid off. Within a few years, Grand Spaulding became the highest-volume Dodge dealership in the world and the center of the Dodge high-performance universe. Meanwhile, Norm Klaus became "Mr. Norm."
Part of Mr. Norm's appeal was the family-like atmosphere generated among his customers. Everyone who bought a car was inducted into Mr. Norm's Sport Club, earning discount parts and services, club apparel, and special events.
The GSS performance upgrades not only delivered power to the kids, they also opened up new possibilities for the factory. Dart 383s were coming out of Grand Spaulding in 1967, and the '68 Dodge Dart 383 GTS soon followed from the factory. Likewise, after GSS 440 Darts showed up at Grand Spaulding, the factory-produced 440 Darts came along in 1969. But the Demons did not share the same fate, as Dodge discontinued them after 1972. The '72 Demons were the last of the GSS cars. After that, Grand Spaulding backed away from the performance upgrades (mostly because of emissions regulations) and specialized in supplying police cars and other vehicles for state use. But Mr. Norm has remained a key figure in the world of high performance. He is a member of the Mopar Hall of Fame and the Super Stock A/FX Hall of Fame.