In the great Northwest, Mopars blossom in fertile fields. Lance Kelso knows this because he's harvested two of them.
According to Lance, "while I was deer hunting back in 1990, I found a '71 Sassy Grass Green 340 'Cuda sporting a four-speed sitting in a field in Eastern Washington. I bought the car, restored it, and I just sold it in August."
Lance's next find came 14 years later. his neighbor was into Mopars and ran a race car. Lance used to hang out in the garage with the guys and talk Mopars. One of the guys bragged about a '69 Hemi Road Runner that was just a rolling body sitting in a field. Lance had to have a look. Sure enough, there was a '69 Road Runner, sans the Hemi, sitting out in the field. Lance tracked the owner, Gordy, down in Southern Arizona.
Lance tells us, "Through phone calls and e-mails, I got hold of Gordy. I asked him if he'd be willing to part with the car. It took a little convincing, and he asked me if I was going to turn around and sell it for money. I promised him he gets to drive it when it gets done. I told him I wasn't buying it to turn it for money."
Lance wasn't kidding. He took the $25,000 he got for the '71, and put it toward building a house with a shop. Lance says the body is really straight, but it's got the typical rust that needs fixing. The Hemi and four-speed were missing, but the Dana 60 was there. The car was originally factory black with white interior and had once been repainted blue. It's currently a cheap flat black that has faded over the years.
Lance is having fun researching the history of the car. Apparently, the 426 was pulled in the early '70s and replaced with a 413. in the early '80s, a man bought the car for the Dana 60 and was going to scrap the body. That's when Gordy came to the rescue.
Lance's prime interest is tracking down the original 426 engine. The motor went to one of the guys in the Vancouver area hot rod club for his T-bucket. This man died and his wife moved to Las Vegas. She had the car on display at a casino. Eventually, the woman sold the T-bucket to a man in San Diego. The search goes on.
According to Lance, "I've still got my fingers crossed that I could come across the factory motor." Such restorations take a huge amount of patience, and Lance is settled in for the long haul. He had fun finding the car, and now every bit of information uncovered adds appreciation to the project.
He didn't run the numbers on the '71 'Cuda. He said, "I'm kicking myself today for selling it, but the guy who bought it from me had Galen Govier decode it, and it turned out to be the only green, 340, four-speed known to exist."
This time Lance is finding out just how rare his field find is. He knows there were 194 Road Runner sedans built with the Hemi engine in 1969. He is still wondering how many were factory black with white interior. The car has '68 door handles and a '68 style four-speed shifter. Apparently, Chrysler used leftover parts on some of their '69 cars.
Lance acquired this find for a paltry $2,500, and he says the vultures have already begun circling. One man offered him $10,000, sight unseen, when he found out the car was originally black.
Lance isn't interested in selling though. He was honest when he told Gordy he wanted the car to restore, not to resell. He explains, "I might not have a lot of money, but I've got all the time in the world."