It all started back in 1979, when 9-year-old Brett Johnson of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, had a ride in a friend's older brother's car. That older brother, Randy Schmidt, owned a '68 Barracuda 340-S. It was the first Mopar Brett had ever ridden in, and he liked it. In 1986, Randy decided to sell the 'Cuda, but Brett didn't have the resources to buy it.
Fast forward to March 1998. Brett was working at a new car dealership that had a '69 Road Runner for sale. Monte Stark came into the dealership to give the Road runner a look. Brett told Monte that he too was a Mopar fan and had always wanted a '68 Barracuda 340-S. Monte suggested Brett look in a local trader magazine and see what he could find. He did just that and found a '68 Barracuda 340-S. The odd thing was it resembled the one from his childhood owned by his friend's older brother, Randy. The car had aluminum slots on it, a black stripe down the side, and was blue. The only difference-it was an automatic and Randy's was a four-speed. Brett talked to the owner and told him he was really looking for a four-speed car. The owner then told him the car used to have a four-speed, but his son kept blowing clutches out of it, so he installed an automatic. Brett asked him if he could remember who he bought the car from. The owner paused a moment or two, and said he bought it from a guy named Randy Schmidt in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1986. After a short conversation they struck a deal, and Brett left the next day to pick up the car.
When Brett saw the car, it was just like he remembered it. He talked with the owner about what had been done to the car in the last 12 years. The owner replaced the quarters and had the car painted exactly as he bought it. He also restored the interior.
Brett made a few small upgrades here and there, but nothing major until he became friends with Steve Engberg. Steve owns a '69 Mach 1 Mustang with a 428 Cobra Jet and a four-speed. They had a little competition going about small-blocks and big-blocks, Mopars versus Fords, and the race was on. Brett had a tired stock 340, so Steve was faster than Brett at first.
To remedy that, Brett hired Doug Swailes and Jim Shepherd at AMS Machine in Iowa City, Iowa, to build a stout 340 in the fall of 1999. They handled all the required machine work and installed a set of ported Edelbrock heads. Steve and Brett continued to race each other over the next four years. after Brett's upgrades, they stayed pretty even. but Brett heard about stroker kits and was getting a little bored with the 340. He made a call to the guys at AMS Machine to come up with a plan for the 340. It was about to become a 416-inch monster. Doug and Jim were ready when Brett dropped off the 340, and even committed to having the transformation done in four days. They chose a Mopar steel 4-inch crank, Ross pistons with 11.6 compression, Eagle rods, and a Comp Cams solid roller cam. Brett reused the Edelbrock heads, but installed new springs. Jim cleaned up the ports a bit and reassembled them. With the new combination, the carburetor he was using was beyond inadequate, so he contacted Jessie Bignell at Big's Performance Products and ordered a new stage 5 Holley 950HP to mount on the new M1 single plane that friend Scotty St. Cyr prepped. The combination was pumping a lot more air now, so better headers and exhaust were also needed. Scott Brown at Straightline Performance supplied the street/strip mufflers and a Dr. Gas X pipe, and Ron Olsen Dodge in Omaha supplied the tti step headers and tailpipes. Once the motor was back in, traction was now a problem. Brett installed a set of Cal Tracs to help with traction. In this trim, the 'Cuda ran a best of 11.11 at 119.47 mph. At this point, Brett had owned the car five years and decided to put the four-speed back in it.