Refined RideThe AAR 'Cuda and its Dodge counterpart, the T/A Challenger, were built mainly for homologation purposes, to make them legal to race in Trans Am competitions. a dealer's flyer dated late 1969 touted that Chrysler was going Trans Am racing, and the effort was spearheaded by Dan Gurney. Dan was only planning to build four or so cars, but you could either buy your very own Dan Gurney-prepped All American Racer 'Cuda race car for the then hefty sum of $18,000, or you could go to the nearest Chrysler dealer, plunk down $4,000, plus the cost of destination charges, state and local taxes, optional equipment, and equipment required by state law, and own a factory-built AAR.
Tom Myers, who now resides in Knoxville, Illinois, was one of the lucky 2,700 or so that took advantage of the AAR program. Tom was home on Christmas leave from the Army when he decided to take a drive in his '67 Mustang and peruse the local car dealerships. When he hit Gottenborg Chrysler/Plymouth in Galesburg, Illinois, he found his car. After a deal was struck, a grand total of 18 payments of $101.87 each would need to be made to the bank. Tom got to drive his new car for a week and then had to return to duty. Tom has fond memories of driving his girlfriend Deb to her senior prom in 1971 in the 'Cuda, and then driving the same Deb to their honeymoon location after their wedding in 1972.
Fast forward to November 2000, the kids are now raised, and Tom decides it's time to get the 'Cuda out of the garage. Yep, Tom kept the AAR in storage all those years. With the help of Rich Watters, the AAR became the recipient of a partial restoration. We say "partial" since Tom owned the car all its life, he knew how well it had been taken care of.
The engine was given to Wayne Palmer of Galesburg Machine where the cylinder walls were honed, new rings placed on the stock pistons, and new bearings and camshaft installed. The transmission was given to Dave Whittaker, also in Galesburg, for the required "freshening." For the next six months, Tom and Rich spent countless hours in the home garage disassembling the car and documenting everything. Luckily, Tom has an understanding wife because any spare room in the house was filled with restored parts waiting for reassembly. With the car disassembled, it was given to friend, Larry Lynch. Larry runs Carr Street Custom paint and body, and he spent the next 18 months working with Tom to make sure the restoration was correct for this car. Finally, in February 2003, the final coat of paint was applied. Since all of the parts had either been restored or replaced, the assembly could begin. Then in the late summer of 2003, it was finally finished.
A lot of the pieces used in the "restoration" are the very pieces that were on the car from the factory. Items like the rear tires, (albeit a little thin in the tread department), the exhaust system, belts and hoses, even most of the light bulbs are the factory-installed pieces.
The crowning achievement for Tom was the Silver O.E status his car achieved at the 2004 Mopar Nationals. A fitting achievement for this refined portion of our odd couple.
Bold AchievementDavid Freeman met Matt Delaney of Delaney Auto Designs at the Mopar Nats in 2000. At the time, Matt was sparking a lot of interest with his Viper-powered '68 Charger. Over the next year, the two men became good friends, and began to design a car that would follow the Charger. During that year, John Mihalopoulos came up with the idea of building a new-age-style AAR 'Cuda. John mentioned adding a few twists to the concept; an independent rear suspension and a coil-sprung front suspension were two good ideas. To power the pseudo-AAR, nothing less than a Hemi would do. Before you get all "AARs never came with a Hemi" on us, we said they were building a new-age-type car, and anything was possible.
With the basic idea outlined, it was time to locate the right parts to pull off this bold achievement. It was decided that a Heidt's Superide independent rear suspension would fit nicely. the narrowest assembly that Heidts makes fits between the stock 'Cuda framerails with some minor bracket fabricating. With the rear suspension decided on, it was time to focus on the front. An Alter-K-tion front K-member was used because of its good design, and its incorporation of the needed coil-over shock mounts as part of the kit. This eliminated the stock torsion bar front suspension, and opened a lot of area for miscellaneous items, such as headers for the Hemi. It also converted the steering to a rack-and-pinion style that would out perform any stock-style system. To make sure the 'Cuda could stop with enough force to pop your eyes out of their sockets, Wilwood six-piston calipers were installed on the front and four-piston units on the back. Aiding the brake function is a neat piece called a Hydroboost. These hydraulic brake-assist retrofit systems are designed to be a direct bolt-in replacement for your factory vacuum brake booster, or used to upgrade your factory manual brake system to power assist. Since building a machine that handles like it's on rails is a moot point without good rubber, Nitto 17- and 18-inch Z-rated tires hold on to the tarmac for dear life.
We mentioned earlier that header clearance for a Hemi was needed, and John Arruzza got the nod to build 540 ci of it. The Keith Black block is filled with goodies from companies like Stage V, Callies, Eagle, Ross, Edelbrock, MSD, Indy, and Comp Cams. Following up the Hemi is a Viper six-speed kit by Keisler Automotive Engineering.
Adding a few accessories to the 'Cuda would be needed in keeping with the modern theme. The stock gauges were revamped and updated, and the speedometer was converted to an electronic unit to work with the Viper transmission. Vintage air was installed to cool the passengers, and the custom seats were covered in black and gray leather. Hi-tech tunes are a must, so an XM Radio with Fosgate and infinity components let the tunes shake the car.