When Andrew Stiles returned home to Oklahoma from his tour of duty in Iraq with the Army National Guard, he had a big surprise waiting for him.
Andrew has owned this '73 'Cuda for 30 years. He bought it in the late '70s complete with a 318 engine with a 904 transmission, standard-level interior trim, and all the looks of the E-Body without the weight and expense of a big-block powertrain. It was among the 19,281 Barracudas built that year, which was a slight uptick over 1972, and the best sales year for the E-Body since its debut year of 1970.
It was his regular driver for many years, but was parked in 1999 and not driven after that. Andrew had started on a restoration, but replacing the dashpad and seat covers was as far as he'd gotten before orders for his tour of duty in Iraq with his Army National Guard unit (Alpha Company, 641st Aviation Regiment) came through, sending him overseas.
After Andrew deployed, one of his neighbors (the pastor of his church) had an idea: Why not have Andrew's Barracuda made drivable? Pastor Gary Rogers of the Coweta, Oklahoma, First Assembly of God church talked with another of Andrew's neighbors, Joe Davis, who had two nephews who had completed the WyoTech program.
WyoTech is a college-level, career-oriented, educator in the automotive, diesel, motorcycle, HVAC, watercraft, and collision/refinishing industries. Each program is designed to provide students with the skills they need to achieve their career goals. Most WyoTech diploma programs can be completed in less than a year and a half, and there are currently six WyoTech campuses across the country. WyoTech's primary objectives are to impart specific knowledge and skills, to graduate each and every student who begins training, and to place them in their chosen field. WyoTech prepares students for the post-graduation working world by teaching on a work day, not a school day schedule. Most students attend classes approximately eight hours a day, five days a week.
Bill Mikkelson, coordinator of the collision, refinishing, trim, and upholstery programs at Wyotech's Laramie, Wyoming, campus, picks up the story, "Joe Davis got in touch with Guy Warpness, our president, and explained what they were thinking of doing and asked if we would help out."
The initial plan was just to have the car cleaned, tuned, and drivable again. Bill says, "Originally, we had no intention of doing as much as we did. We just thought, Let's do what we can. Let's clean it up and make it into a drivable car again so when he gets home, he can get in it and drive it."
The immobile E-Body-still wearing its '99-vintage Oklahoma plates-arrived at Wyotech's Laramie campus in January 2008. It was a "30-footer" that looked good at a distance, but one whose flaws-especially rust and flaking Bondo-were visible upon closer inspection. "We pondered about what we should do with this car when we got it out here," Bill recalls. "We put together a team of all the department coordinators, and I was selected to oversee the project. We got around it in a big circle, looked at the car, and said, 'What are we going to do? what can we do? and how much time do we have?'"
They didn't have much time-no more than five months, at most. "Our time frame was to get it done by May because we knew he was coming home in the middle of May, but we didn't have a for-sure date," Bill says. "We made May 1 our projected finish date, and then we found out that Andrew was coming home from Iraq on May 17. We got the car done on May 14, which gave us time to transport it to Oklahoma."
New rear quarters from YearOne...
New rear quarters from YearOne were the major items replaced on this E-Body. Color is Sherwin-Williams' John Moss Yellow.
A 5.7L Hemi from an '03 Dodge...
A 5.7L Hemi from an '03 Dodge Ram pickup found a new home in the 'Cuda's engine bay. Note custom-fabbed air cleaner cover.
Here's how Andrew's '73 E-Body...
Here's how Andrew's '73 E-Body looked after it arrived at WyoTech's Laramie, Wyoming, facility. The car had not been driven since 1999.
Think these quarters look...
Think these quarters look good? Closer inspection revealed lots of rust, collision repairs, and Bondo. New ones from YearOne went on in place of these.
Before loading it up for the...
Before loading it up for the trip back to Oklahoma, the 'Cuda got a four-wheel alignment. New chassis pieces are complemented by American Racing "Rogue" wheels on Bridgestone Potenza tires.
Andrew Stiles gets his first...
Andrew Stiles gets his first look at his restified '73 'Cuda.