We were at Beach Hop the year af­ter I’d bought the Cuda, and my daugh­ter asked me what plate I’d get for it if I were to buy one. I said it’d have to be ‘BAD440’,” Jim says. “She asked me why, so I told her: Be­cause it’s got a 440, and it’s a bad moth­erf#cker!” There’s no deny­ing that state­ment, although it may come as a sur­prise to learn that Jim’s pride and joy was al­ways sup­posed to be a ’57 Chev. “I’ve al­ways wanted a blown ’57 Chev, like the Run­ning on Empty car,” he ex­plains — and he’s now build­ing one, 11 years af­ter the Cuda pushed that dream to the side. “We were at Beach Hop one year, hav­ing break­fast, and I had my back to the street. Ev­ery time I heard a car [that] I liked the sound of, I’d turn around, and it was al­ways a Mopar!” The other thing worth know­ing about Jim is that he doesn’t muck around. Putting his Bowtie-badged as­pi­ra­tions on hold, he’d found what seemed to be the per­fect car al­most as soon as he got home. Hav­ing set­tled on a Dodge Chal­lenger af­ter de­cid­ing that a Cuda would be too ex­pen­sive, it seemed that luck was on his side, with a ’74 Ply­mouth Cuda pop­ping up for sale in Kerik­eri. Again, know­ing that Jim’s not the sort to muck around, you

bet­ter be­lieve that it took a full decade to bring the Cuda up to the stan­dard you see here. “We didn’t plan to do what we did; it evolved into this,” Jim says. “I just wanted a quick tidy-up, so [that] I could get it on the road and use it.” The stripped Cuda was taken to Mike’s Auto Body for Mike Dunn to demon­strate his skills, and all seemed to be go­ing to plan — un­til the in­ter­net got in­volved. Jim went into work one day only to have Stephen Saun­ders show him the Mag­num Force on­line cat­a­logue, and that was that. He couldn’t shake the thought of swap­ping the front tor­sion bars for tubu­lar A-arms, and the rear leaves for a four-link with Watt’s link­age. This proved to be the be­gin­ning of the snow­ball ef­fect, as Jim soon dis­cov­ered that the Mag­num Force K-mem­ber front end was not com­pli­ant with New Zealand stan­dards. Get­ting in touch with Justin Hansen at the LVVTA, Jim was pro­vided with all the in­for­ma­tion needed to bring the Mag­num Force front up to scratch. “Justin made it very easy to fol­low, and I’d re­ally like to thank him for that,” Jim says. “He gets a bad rap from a lot of peo­ple, but he’s a car guy like us who wants to see peo­ple build their cars prop­erly and safely.” The front end changes in­cluded swap­ping the sup­plied two-inch drop spin­dles for Nis­san Navara units, which had the same drop and al­most iden­ti­cal mount­ing points, and fit­ting Toy­ota Hi­ace tie-rod ends. Just like that, the in­her­ent bump­steer is­sues of the de­sign were a thing of the past. While this was hap­pen­ing, the sup­plied rub­ber rear bushes were swapped out for No­lathane items, while the four-link set-up saw a touch of re-en­gi­neer­ing to bring its driv­ing dy­nam­ics up to stan­dard. More im­pres­sively, all of this work was done by Jim, Brother Ed, and a hand­ful of the

boys at Jim’s com­pany, McIn­doe Group. Com­plet­ing the un­der­pin­nings to such a stan­dard sud­denly meant that noth­ing less would suf­fice. Mike Dunn was given in­struc­tions on ex­actly what Jim wanted for the ex­te­rior, and, while there’s no doubt that he’s de­liv­ered, it wasn’t an easy process. Take that rear valance, for ex­am­ple. Jim wanted four ex­haust ex­its with rolled edges to com­ple­ment the quad tail lights. Start­ing with a sheet of panel steel, Mike spent weeks per­fect­ing Jim’s vi­sion. This in­cluded a flush-mounted rear bumper, made en­tirely by hand, while the front bumper was nar­rowed and shaved of its bulky over-riders. While all this was hap­pen­ing, Dave West, from Dave West Au­to­mo­tive En­gi­neer­ing, was screw­ing to­gether a lit­tle some­thing to sit inside the shaved and smoothed engine bay. The brief was a high-com­pres­sion 440ci big block, and that is what he de­liv­ered. The big block was bolted to a 727 TorqueFlite auto, and backed by a beefed-up Chrysler 8¾-inch diff. How­ever, while the Cuda was be­ing built to be driven hard and fast, the build it­self was slow and steady. The hand­i­work of Mikey Sa­muel­son at Class A Kus­toms is per­fectly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of this ethos, with PPG Sub­lime cho­sen for the main colour, Cuda stripes painstak­ingly ap­plied by hand, and 14 lay­ers of clear yield­ing an un­be­liev­ably smooth fin­ish. That high-stan­dard fin­ish cov­ers ev­ery part of the car, in­clud­ing the in­te­rior, which has been swathed in Dy­na­mat. De­spite the fact that no one will see the in­te­rior paint, it had to be done to the same ex­act­ing level so that Jim would be happy with it.

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