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.
They got some help via the local newspaper in Laramie-which fed the story to The Associated Press, that in turn passed it along to AP-member papers and broadcasters around the country-spreading the word to "friends" that wanted to help out. Bill says, "We had people calling from Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California, saying, 'We want to help out on this car. we think it's a great thing you're doing.'" The project focus then changed from clean-it-up-and-get-it-running-again to giving Andrew something special.
That's also when donated parts started arriving at Wyotech's door. For the 'Cuda's body, that included new rear quarters and trunk floor extensions from YearOne, which the volunteer body crew skillfully welded in.
Andrew finds the driver seat...
Andrew finds the driver seat of his restified 'Cuda fits just right.
Andrew (center) with some...
Andrew (center) with some of the WyoTech volunteers who converted his '73 'Cuda from project to prize-worthy within five months.
The 'Cuda is driven into the...
The 'Cuda is driven into the trailer for its 13-hour trip back to Oklahoma. Handprint graphics on the taillight panel represent Andrew's daughters, Heather Sue and Kaylee Lynn.
For under the hood (a scooped one that was already on the car), the original 318 was replaced by a 5.7L Hemi that was salvaged from an '03 Dodge Ram pickup, which also yielded a five-speed automatic-overdrive transmission to replace the 904. The 8-3/4-inch rearend was rebuilt with a Detroit Tru Track differential wearing 4.10 gears to replace the worn-out original.
New pieces also went in at all four corners of the chassis. That included new control arms and torsion bars up front, Mopar Performance leaf springs and shackles in back, plus Edelbrock shocks all around. Each corner also gained a 14-inch Baer disc brake, along with a 17x8-inch American Racing "Rogue" wheel shod with a 235/55R17 Bridgestone Potenza. "We could've actually stepped up a little more [on tire size], but we were trying to judge how much we could fit in there and not take too much time," Bill says. "They fit nice."
Inside, a new sound system replaced the original AM radio, and the dashpad/seat covers that Andrew had already installed were retained. The console-mounted Slap Stick shifter was replaced with a Lokar unit to accommodate the new five-speed automatic mounted underneath it.
The body and paint crew got the restored E-Body good and ready for paint before spraying on the three-stage Sherwin-Williams "John Moss Yellow" color.
The 'Cuda was finished on schedule, and then loaded into a trailer for the long drive from Laramie to Andrew's church in Oklahoma, where the unveiling took place. Needless to say, Andrew was very surprised.
Remember, all work was done at the WyoTech facility by students. In our opinion, the finished car speaks volumes about the ability of WyoTech to get Young Guns on the right path.
For more photos and video of the car, check out www.moparmusclemagazine.com.
These partners provided parts and services for restifying Andrew Stiles' '73 'Cuda.
- Advanced Auto, Laramie, WY: Modified engine PCM
- Baer: Four-wheel disc brake system
- Brown & Gold, Laramie, WY: Shirts for build team; custom leather jacket for Andrew
- Carquest Auto Parts, Laramie, WY: Miscellaneous engine bolts, fasteners, bulbs
- Charlie's Oil Pans: Custom aluminum oil pan
- Classic Auto Air: Retro-fit A/C system
- Cowboy Glass & Mirror, Laramie, WY: Replacement windshield and rear window
- Edelbrock: Shock absorbers (4)
- K&N Filters: Air cleaner for 5.7L Hemi
- Laramie GM, Laramie, WY: Corvette fuel filter
- MagnaFlow Exhaust: 21/2-inch exhaust system
- NAPA Auto Parts, Laramie, WY: Miscellaneous engine bolts, fasteners, bulbs
- Redline Gauges: Retrofit rally gauges to modern electronics
- Rinkers Salvage, Laramie, WY: '03 Dodge Ram 5.7L Hemi engine and five-speed automatic transmission
- Rock Valley Stainless Fuel Tanks: Customized fuel tank
- Rockford Fosgate: Sound system amplifier/speakers/wiring (all but head unit)
- Sherwin-Williams: All paint products
- Street & Performance: Engine wiring harness, Lokar shifter
- Summit Racing Equipment: Brake booster, brake lines
- The Music Box, Laramie, WY: Head unit for sound system
- Valvoline: All fluids (motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid)
- Western Upholstery: Headliner, carpets, vinyl for trunk and rear deck
- WyoTech, Laramie, WY: All labor, transportation, and financial obligations during build
- WyoTech grad Tim Ryan of Totally Auto: Factory rally gauge cluster
- YearOne: Reproduction quarter-panels, floorpans, and trunk floor extensions
The '70-vintage "hockey stick"...
The '70-vintage "hockey stick" stripes advertise 5.7L Hemi power up front.
Andrew replaced the well-worn...
Andrew replaced the well-worn original seat covers in his 'Cuda's cabin before he shipped out.
The '73 hood wears the 'Cuda...
The '73 hood wears the 'Cuda 340 badge and Sherwin-Williams' three-stage paint well.
'73 Plymouth Barracuda
Andrew Stiles, Coweta, Ok
Restored/modified by students at WyoTech, Laramie, WY
- Engine: Yeah, it's got a Hemi-one that's smaller and lighter than the 318 the car was built with. WyoTech's all-volunteer crew swapped in a 5.7L Hemi salvaged from an '03 Dodge Ram pickup.
- Transmission: from the same '03 Dodge Ram pickup as the 5.7L Hemi; the five-speed overdrive automatic that succeeded the OEM A-904 was transplanted. Shifter's a Lokar five-speed go forward/go backward unit, replacing the original Slap Stick.
- Rearend: The stock 8 3/4-incher was rebuilt, gaining a 4.10-geared Detroit Tru-Track limited-slip differential in the process.
- Suspension: (Front) New torsion bars, lower control arms, and Edelbrock shocks replaced the worn-out stock pieces. (Rear) Mopar Performance leaf springs and shackles, plus Edelbrock shocks and rear sway bar-reason enough to scrap the OEM hardware.
- Brakes: 14-inch Baer discs at each corner replaced the stock front disc/rear drum setup.
- Wheels: 17x8-inch American Racing "Rogue" wheels on all four corners not only look good, they also give the big Baers plenty of room while wearing a set of 235/55R17 Bridgestone Potenzas.
- Body: Restored and refinished at WyoTech's Laramie campus, it received new floorpans, quarters, and trunk floor extensions from YearOne.
- Paint: Sherwin-Williams' three-stage John Moss Yellow, sprayed on by volunteers from WyoTech's refinishing program, who also did the pre-paint metal finishing.
- Interior: Andrew had already replaced the dashpad and seat covers, so those stayed. The gauge cluster was restored; new carpets installed; and the console shifter was adapted to a new OD automatic transmission. Aftermarket sound system replaced the OEM AM radio.
This project began in January 2008 and was finished three days before Andrew's arrival home from Iraq in mid-May.