In 1986 I was working part time with Roland Osborne at Chrysler Power Magazine along with owning my own construction business. I did mostly property management remodels with Home Savings Bank in Southern California which required only the highest standards of excellence for their most esteemed customers.
Roland so inspired me that I wanted to buy a HemiCar. Definitely a 426; B-Body would have been good but I am very fond of the E-Bodies. I already owned a 1970 Challenger that had won many first place trophies for its 25 coats of hand rubbed black lacquer. Now I wanted something to drive. Remember, in the middle 80s, Hemi cars and for that matter muscle cars in general were a dime a dozen and everyone wanted to know why I wanted such a gas-guzzler. I didn’t care. A nice Street Hemi sounded like the ticket for me. Because of that decision, I was able to purchase the car of my dreams and preserve the most recognized HemiCuda on the planet and preserve it in the most complete manner possible.
In 1987 I walked into the Chrysler Power offices in Duarte, CA. The locals called it DU-ROCK because it was in the heart of the LA Basin gravel pits at the mouth of world famous Azusa Canyon. It was also the home of Mickey Thompson and his wife until they were brutally murdered one spring day and a host of other automotive performance entities including Justice Brothers and Ahltech Racing Restorations.
I mentioned to Roland that I was now seriously interested in owning a 426 Hemi Car; told him what I was looking for and he put the word out. Not very long after that I received a call from a guy in Canada that had a 1970 HemiCuda for sale. He was selling this car to put together enough cash to purchase some logging property. After a couple of weeks of telephone conversations he agreed to bring the car to southern California. On February 9, 1987 he entered the states with the car and was at my doorstep February 10th. There was a guy in Phoenix, AZ that knew the car very well and was second in line to buy the car if I didn’t want it. Fortunately it never got that far.
When I first saw the car it had parachutes wrapped around it with diesel exhaust all over it. What a mess! Once unveiled, the first thing I saw was silver prism tape on both quarter panels that spelled out “THE CAPTIAN” over a sublime base color with a burgundy stripe down the center and across the back. It was 426 Street Hemi, 4spd, Dana 60; the rear had been tubbed with a 4-link suspension right out of the old Direct Connection-Chrysler Performance suspension book. This car was classic race-stalgia. There was something about this car that when I saw it, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. It was mine.
The complete engine went to Dick Landy, the intake went to Arlen Vanke, the body went to Ahltech and was completely stripped and the engine bay was prepped for all new sublime green paint. When it came down to the rear fender wells, the only metal available at that time were donor cars. With Roland’s advice we decided to leave the tubs and remove the 4 link and keep just the leaf springs.
We wrestled with this decision for several weeks. In order to return the rear to original, we would have needed to find a complete rear clip out of another car. Roland’s wisdom was that then the car wouldn’t be original anyway so why not keep the original car intact — as modified — and recognize that that was its own important piece of history.
I liked that idea because I could put some huge meats (a set of 14X15 Weld Pro Stars and 18.5X31 Mickey Thompsons to be exact) in those rear wheel wells as Pro Street was just becoming the rage. The rest of the car except the hood is still the original metal. This decision turned out to be very important. This car is a huge piece of automotive history.
While the car at one time had been a ten second NHRA SS/D active racecar, it was now an awesome streetcar with only 37,000 original miles. It took almost three years to do the project and during this time the value increased ten fold. The car looked really nice but again I now owned another car that I wasn’t comfortable driving on the street.
In April of 1993 Roland got a call from BF Goodrich’s ad agency in LA as they were doing a new ad campaign and wanted to feature some sort of Mopar. Roland asked me if I wanted to help out and I fell all over myself to say, “You bet!!!” They very professionally transported the car to a sound stage in Hollywood where they meticulously prepared the car for the photo shoot.
They removed the rocker “gills,” the road lamps and painted the bumpers matching green with washable studio paint. The fender wells were also painted with the washable studio paint in black. These things were done so that nothing would distract the viewer from the tires/wheels. The only thing they left of minor distraction were the Hooker headers lurking in the shadows.
The car featured a nice set of Boyds wheels with BF Goodrich TA tires. Since that time, the car has been seen on the BF Goodrich road show trailer (in pink) and on millions of large wall posters and tire cover posters throughout the world. It is still an active poster car featured most recently with a Mustang and Corvette. Because of this, the car has been on display at several NHRA events on the west coast.
Soon after, the producers of SpeedVision used the car as part of a display for the opening of the new Speed Channel. The car was also used on the Exciting World of Speed and Beauty with Linda Vaughn and Dallas Raines driving during the beginning and ending of the program.
David Freiberger featured the car in the July, 1993 issue of Hot Rod Magazine and March 8th the car was also featured in Deuce Magazine by Kazuki Saito and Masato Tsukada called “The American Graffiti.” It was its first centerfold. On October 30, 1998 Scott Williamson & Scott Murphy at Photo Design did a full layout and spec sheet for there Encyclopedia of World History of Cars called “Hot Cars.” Finally, It was used by TTI Exhaust to prototype their Hemi headers and 3” exhaust systems for E-bodies.
Since the car’s completion in 1989, I have kept it tucked away. There were 44 - Y07 HemiCudas made for and sent to Canada with only 21 being four speeds. This car was number four according to Galen Govier. It’s an honor to share this car and its history with Chrysler Power’s esteemed readers. And its been an honor to minister my faith alongside Roland these 20+ years. Jesus is the reason!