Remember when the Mopars that won the best of show awards were driven on and off trailers more often than on the open highway?

It wasn't that long ago. Even the pages of this magazine were focusing on chalk marks and correct finishes, spending less time on the subject of enhancing and delivering rear-wheel drive performance and, perhaps more importantly, reliability. Maybe we forgot that it was performance that made muscle Mopars so revered and, as a result, so valuable today.

What we've learned through our travels to see exquisitely restored concours Mopars is how to take that uncompromised aesthetic appearance and apply it to the cars that we prefer to drive every day. Impossible? Not anymore!

The truth of the matter is, there are no fewer trailered show cars now than in previous years, but there are many more well driven Mopars attending shows, competing for awards, and blasting down the quarter-mile. Some call what we are experiencing in Mopar circles the Muscle Car Renaissance. We'd prefer to call it natural selection. Certainly you'd rather enjoy every facet of your Mopar-not just what it looks like. The best Mopars run, race, and rule the show field all at the same time.

Natural selection surmises that we're building cars we want to show, drive, and race. Today's Mopar enthusiasts want to drive their show car not simply to prove that it's a driver, but rather to enjoy everything available from four wheels, a four-speed, and gobs of V8 power. They not only can win Best of Show and drive home, but the enjoyment of getting behind the wheel makes the experience multi-dimensional. It's our natural selection as Mopar enthusiasts to choose cars that run, drive, and look good all in equal, yet exceptional, balance.

That's the impetus behind our latest project with Muscle Car Restorations of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. As a follow-up to the no-holds-barred Holley Road Runner, it was determined that we needed a "real-world head-turner." The Road Runner was a great magazine project car, yet it was nearly a blank check project. We needed to build a musclecar for the masses-delivered in a manner that is far more realistic to duplicate, yet offers so much curb appeal that you simply cannot give it just a casual glance.

John Balow recommended the convertible '67 Barracuda as a popular platform still available for a reasonable sum. There's certainly no better car to drive than a convertible for pure "on the road" pleasure, and with our intentions of invading events like the Hot Rod Power Tour with exciting and well-accomplished Mopars, the jaded world of Camaros and Mustangs would soon realize that the Mopars may have an advantage to reach new enthusiasts.

In our first installment, we offer a photo essay of the car that John chose, and what the preliminary steps in building a show-winning street driver would require from a body and paint perspective.

In the coming months, we'll bring you additional installments, including the Mopar Performance Parts crate engine drivetrain, the best of the performance aftermarket by providing both creature comforts such as the Classic Auto Air R-134a air conditioning, as well as the bulletproof TCI 727 TorqueFlite and National Drivetrain-equipped 831/44 rearend. We'll show just how much coverage there is from Year One right from their A- and C-Body catalog, as well as conduct an interior color change, replace the convertible top, and assemble a Barracuda that has so much panache that you'd swear it came in on the trailer. But trust us, it didn't.