Mopar Muscle - - Contents - TEXT AND PHO­TOS: JOHN MACHAQUE­IRO

After years of ne­glect at the hands of pre­vi­ous own­ers, Tim Nist’s 1971 ’Cuda con­vert­ible was given a proper makeover.

For those of you who still value the sig­nif­i­cance of print and are car en­thu­si­asts, you know get­ting your ride fea­tured in a mag­a­zine is al­ways a big deal, and if you land on the cover, con­sider that the cherry on top. At best, a cover is a 12 to 1 propo­si­tion each year, so you can bet that if a car is front and cen­ter, it’s usu­ally some­thing spe­cial. Land­ing on a cover twice is a dou­ble serv­ing of cher­ries and usu­ally a rare oc­cur­rence, but that’s ex­actly what Tim Nist has man­aged to do.

His first Mopar Mus­cle cover was back in De­cem­ber of 2011 with a 511ci Hemipow­ered ’68 Dodge Dart. That A-body even­tu­ally gave way to his lat­est ride, the Gen III Hemi-pow­ered ’71 Ply­mouth ’Cuda resto­mod that graces the cover of this is­sue.

Tim’s jour­ney with the ’Cuda be­gan when the one with the Dart ended in 2012. Some­one came along with a bucket of mad cash and drove off with it. That pile of money was burn­ing a hole in his pocket, so the hunt be­gan for an­other project. “I was first made aware of the car in the sum­mer of 2008, when the owner at that time was cloning it into a Hemi ’Cuda,” he re­calls. “I was asked to as­sem­ble it when the body­work was com­pleted, which was ac­tu­ally a few years in the mak­ing.” As you can prob­a­bly guess, this was orig­i­nally a 318-pow­ered Bar­racuda

when it rolled off the assem­bly line, how­ever, when the prices started to climb, es­pe­cially on drop-top E-bod­ies, the mad dash for cash took over and many lowly slant six and 318-pow­ered cars were trans­formed to look like their more mus­cu­lar brethren. It was also that spec­u­la­tion that even­tu­ally dropped this ’Cuda on Tim’s lap. He ex­plains, “In the fall of 2008, the eco­nomic crash came along and the owner lost in­ter­est and stored it away.” It’d be an­other four years un­til he was able to buy it.

Once the ti­tle was in his name and the car parked in his shop, he notes, “I quickly saw ma­jor prob­lems in the body­work. There was plenty of bad weld­ing, too much filler, and hid­den rust prob­lems. The car was a mess!” He does cut the pre­vi­ous body shop some slack be­cause most of the sheetmetal to prop­erly do the work wasn’t avail­able dur­ing the first years of its re­con­struc­tion; how­ever, slapping lip­stick on a pig wasn’t go­ing to be his ap­proach with this car. Thank­fully, much of the re­place­ment sheetmetal needed was al­ready be­ing re­pro­duced by Auto Metal Di­rect (AMD). After the de­con­struc­tion of the car, he was left with a bare body

that he then handed over to his body guy, Tom Row­ley to start the me­tal­work. Work­ing out of his home garage, Tom be­gan the re­con­struc­tion process by re­pair­ing the front and rear valances, and the header panel. Tim’s plan was to run all of the wiring un­der one fen­der and the plumb­ing for the A/C un­der the other, so the lower cowl was re­paired and smoothed, while the up­per cowl was re­placed. The in­ner fen­ders were also re­paired. The one thing that passed in­spec­tion was the floors, which were done cor­rectly prior to his pur­chase. The rest of the ex­te­rior pan­els were straight out of the AMD cat­a­log, ex­cept for the con­vert­ible rear quar­ters, which aren’t cur­rently re­pro­duced by any­one. That fix was set in mo­tion with the pur­chase of one NOS and one AMD coupe quar­ter, which were then sent off to Ken Hop­perdi­et­zel in Wausau, Wis­con­sin, for one of his coupe to con­vert­ible quar­ter con­ver­sions. Round­ing out the me­tal­work was the in­stal­la­tion of a pair of frame con­nec­tors.

As the body came to­gether with all new metal, it was then sent to Ul­ti­mate Col­li­sion in Wright­stown, New Jer­sey, for the primer and paint. At that point a color choice was still up in the air, how­ever, that de­ci­sion was defini­tively put to bed when the fifth-gen­er­a­tion Viper was in­tro­duced at the New York Auto Show wear­ing Stryker Red. He notes, “It took months for me to get the code from PPG, but I had to have that color.” On the July 4th week­end in 2012 it was wheeled into the paint booth for its bath of Stryker Red.

While the body was be­ing worked on, Tim was also busy sort­ing out the driv­e­train. The pre­vi­ous owner never man­aged to in­stall a Hemi, but early in the car’s life the 318 did get re­placed with a 440, and that was what pro­pelled the car for many years, and what was in it when he pur­chased it. His plan was to in­stall a Hemi, and in keep­ing with the fla­vor un­der the hood of the Dart, it too would be slightly over the top. He ex­plains, “I bought a 572 Gen II Hemi from Mark Wor­man of Grave­yard Carz fame that came from a project in his shop.” After get­ting it back to New

Jer­sey, it was sent to Mark Bit­ner at Bit­ner Au­to­mo­tive in Hamil­ton, New Jer­sey, for the re­build. After that re­fresh, it pro­duced a whop­ping 800 horses on the dyno. The rest of the driv­e­train con­sisted of an 18-spline A833 four-speed and a Ford 9-inch rear with 3.76:1 gears. The stock sus­pen­sion was also ditched in fa­vor of a Reilly Mo­tor­sports Street/strip Al­terk­tion coilover sys­tem at the front, and their Mo­tor­sports Street-lynx tri­an­gu­lated four-bar sus­pen­sion at the rear. Ad­di­tional up­grades in­cluded QA1 shocks and Wil­wood calipers and rotors at all four cor­ners. Rolling stock came cour­tesy of a set of Ford GT40 Style Replica Wheels wrapped in some sticky Nitto NT555 Ex­treme ZR Rac­ing rub­ber.

The in­te­rior was also des­tined for some up­grades. As soon as the ’Cuda was able to move un­der its own power, it was sent off to Back In Time Auto Up­hol­stery in Mount Holly, New Jer­sey, for its in­te­rior makeover. The plan was to in­fuse some mod­ern el­e­ments into the ex­ist­ing in­te­rior, and that started with re­plac­ing the stock front seats with a set from a Nis­san 350 Z. Once in­stalled,

they were wrapped in a twotone black and gray com­bi­na­tion, which also car­ried over to the front and rear pan­els. They also did the in­stal­la­tion of the black cloth top. Power win­dows were added, and a cus­tom in­stru­ment clus­ter and con­sole built by The Rod 1 Shop in Pittman, New Jer­sey, in­stalled.

The pieces all came to­gether in 2015 when he took the ’Cuda for its maiden voy­age. What was meant to be an ex­pe­ri­ence to sa­vor ended up be­ing a tu­mul­tuous love af­fair that reached its in­evitable con­clu­sion in 2016. He ex­plains, “After driv­ing the car for over a year, I con­cluded that this mo­tor — with all its power and the draw­backs that go with it — wasn’t made for this beauty. It just wasn’t fun at all, and changes had to be made.” He fur­ther adds, “I sold the 572, from ra­di­a­tor to drive­shaft, and the Shaker hood setup, and used that money to pur­chase the New Gen setup.”

With the hy­per Hemi sent pack­ing, a quick call was made to Randy Bouch­illon at Bouch­illon Per­for­mance En­gi­neer­ing in Hana­han, South Carolina, for one of his crate Gen III Hemi’s. Back­ing that new mill was a Tremec T56 Mag­num six-speed from Sil­ver Sport Trans­mis­sions (SST). With the ad­di­tion of this new driv­e­train and the loss of the Shaker hood, it meant go­ing back to Ul­ti­mate Col­li­sion for a re­paint of the new Golden Star re­pro­duc­tion Sport hood, and a re­work­ing of the en­gine com­part­ment where plumb­ing changes needed to be up­graded for the new mo­tor. They also had to cut up the ex­ist­ing trans­mis­sion tun­nel to ac­com­mo­date the larger di­men­sions of the T56.

The en­tire process took sev­eral weeks to com­plete, and when it was again taken on an­other maiden voy­age, the out­come was much dif­fer­ent. “The change was mag­nif­i­cent,” Tim notes. “The car gets 20 mpg, and I don’t have any more over­heat­ing is­sues or oil leaks. It’s fun to drive, and with the 500 hp, it re­ally goes. It’s not a clas­sic Hemi, but from the minute I started it, I knew that this was where the fu­ture is.” The ques­tion that we’re left with is, what will Tim do for yet an­other en­core, and a po­ten­tial third Mopar Mus­cle mag­a­zine cover?

“It’s fun to drive, and with the 500 hp, it re­ally goes. It’s not a clas­sic Hemi, but from the minute I started it, I knew that this was where the fu­ture is.”

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