SANDRA AND LARRY ROPER'S BLACK ICE SUPERBIRD

JIM RADKE -- EARLY OWNER OF THE SUPERBIRD: I purchased the Bird from a friend of mine, Mike, to help him out of a financial bind. He always wanted a Superbird, and found the car and bought it. I think he only had it for a month or so at best. Then he got caught cheating by his wife and needed to sell the car to raise money to get a lawyer for a divorce. It was yellow when he bought it. Then he primered the whole car, including the vinyl roof, with that Rustoleum brown color. I don't think he even got around to putting it in his name. I sort of looked at is as, "Wow, I can have both a Superbird and a Daytona again." I had the Charger 500 at the time as an every day car. I guess the most I can take credit for is doing some minor stuff to the car and that I had it parked inside in the garage, and not sitting outside in the elements. I don't think I took a picture of it on its own. It was ugly like that!

There is sort of an amusing store that goes with the car. One of the members in the club at that time drove out from Las Vegas to look at the car when I had it for sale. He was supposed to come by on a Saturday and look at it. He called later on that day and said he couldn't make it, and would be there Sunday. So Tom shows up on Sunday to look at the car. His wife speaks up and says, "Tell Jim why we weren't here yesterday," which naturally he was embarrassed to say. You know men generally don't ask for directions, or read them? He thought I lived in San Diego. I lived ON San Diego Drive, in Buena Park! So they drove down all the way to San Diego first.

I don't know if Tom will point it out or not, but I was impressed by the fact that he built a complete inner nose to help support the outer nose shell. It had been hit so many times and was really weak and flimsy. Tom may not toot his own horn, but he should. He's an excellent body and paint man.

TOM FERRY -- BOUGHT THE BIRD FROM JIM RADKE: When I was 13, I saw my first Superbird here on my island community of Ketchikan, Alaska. It left a huge impression on me and I knew someday I had to have one. It was orange with a four speed. Later, tragically, it was totaled out when it hit a truck out on the country highway and killed the priest driving the truck. It sat at a boneyard for a year while people stripped out the car. One good thing is my friend at 11-years-old rolled the car over and took out the four speed and has it in his Charger to this day.

Fast forward to 1985. I was in LA and saw a Superbird for sale. When I went there, I met Jim Radke and it was in his garage sitting next to his black Hemi Daytona. His other Hemi Daytona was in the restoration shop and he also had a mint 1970 440+6 4speed burnt orange with orange interior Bee for $1,500, and a 1969 Charger 500 aero car for $3,000. I initially put down $1,500 for the Charger 500 as it ran and drove. But when I came back a couple weeks later with the $1,500 to pay it off, I decided I had to have the Bird. I had a whole concept of making it into the baddest looking Bird on the planet. My band's name was Black Ice, so it, of course, had to be black. I had to find the most futuristic-looking wheels so I saw the Enkei rims at a tire shop and that sent purists into a tizzy.

When I and the band pulled up to Gazzaris or the Troubadour, people went nuts. I would not let the valet guy park it anywhere. I just went screaming past them. It was a great advertising car and was used to promote the band.

Late at night, I would go street racing in the Valley (lost once to a Cobra 427). But I always won when I pulled into all the cruise burger joints though. All the Chevy guys had fits as the hoard of people would descend like locusts on my car.

 

Photos above, first row: I pose with Black Ice; this photo was taken in an aircraft hangar at the Burbank Airport in about 1986 with the band members and a fog machine. I ran an aircraft paint shop there; the band members--I'm on the left; Black Ice album cover. Second row: Posing with the Bird for advertising photos; a professional photographer took the last two photos of Black Ice on Mulholland Drive overlooking San Fernando Valley.

One story of many is about Noel Blanc, son of the famous Mel Blanc, voice of the RoadRunner horn and Bugs Bunny and you all know the rest. Well, Noel and Mel were huge car guys and Noel kept his helicopter at the Burbank Airport. I did some paint work on his Bell Jet Ranger and he loved that car. I always went through the security gate and parked at my shop. One day Noel was hovering coming in and was waving to me, and in the back seat was Kirk Douglas. I then parked and ran right into Bob Hope and said "Hi". He remarked, "Nice car, son."

I also took the Bird a few times to the other side of the airport by the access road. I had to get permission from the tower to do so. One time I was a little crazy and took the car on the runway and went as fast as possible. I got into trouble for it, but the people in the tower and security just smiled at me as I was scolded. They actually loved it.

The car went to Seattle in 1989 and terrorized them for a while. I left it there and moved back to Alaska, and my brother got to enjoy it for a long time. I forgot when I brought it back to Alaska, but it only came out late at night twice a year and made kids' eyes pop.

I was in my garage one day with the door closed and heard a group of high-schoolers go by and one said, "That's where it is; right in that garage." It almost got into a movie called War Party.

Photos above, left to right: the Bird is displayed at a car show in Lake Sammamish, east of Seattle; this is the custom under nose spoiler I built for the Bird out of aluminum and rubber; my first car show trophy with Black Ice.

Photos above: Black Ice is loaded into a container to be shipped to Seattle.

Larry (Roper) has the car now as I thought it was time to let go and it deserves to be in Larry and Sandra's good hands. It is driven and enjoyed as it should be. I couldn't ask for better caretakers of the Black Ice.

LARRY AND SANDRA ROPER -- CURRENT OWNERS OF THE BIRD: The Black Ice Superbird is a great car and we love driving it. Sandra decided that she wanted a Superbird around 2001. We had a couple of Cudas and a Charger but she wanted something with a little more wow factor. We were on a limited budget at the time, having just purchased a new home and most of the Birds, even way back then, were simply out of reach.

In 2003, Sandra was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. I just couldn't believe that someone so young and so intelligent could have a disease so devastating. At that point, I realized that I needed to kick the search for a Bird up a notch.

Still, I just couldn't find the right car. The Birds that were in our budget needed so much work and I just kept thinking that time certainly wasn't on our side. About four years ago, I started gathering the parts to build a clone. I hadn't given up on finding the right Bird, but I wanted a back-up plan just in case. Sandra's condition was fairly stable and I felt that we still had some time to find a car. In 2009, that all changed. The Alzheimer's was starting to take its toll and I knew that it was now or never.

I had seen videos of the Black Ice Superbird on Youtube and always liked the car. Stuart Sutton mentioned, in a thread on the Dodge Charger board, that Tom Ferry, the owner of Black Ice, was planning to restore the car back to original and then sell it.

I immediately emailed Tom and told him that I would like to purchase the car "as is". I had to email him a second time to tell him that I was serious and also explain why I was interested in the car.

We came to an agreement, money was sent, and the car was loaded into a container and shipped from Ketchikan, Alaska to Seattle. The Bird was then transported from Seattle to Arkansas in late November of 2009. I was very pleased to see just how solid the car was. It was virtually rust-free other than a few pinholes in the lower quarters that Tom had already repaired. In fact, Tom repaired several areas of the car where there were dings, paint chips, etc.

Tom went out of his way to make sure we had a pleasant experience. He knew that I wouldn't have a lot of time to get the car ready for Sandra to enjoy. Over the winter, I finished the body work, painted and re-assembled the car. I left the car black and removed the console and installed the correct non-console shifter. I replace the carpet and seat covers and that was pretty much all I had to do.

Our first show was in April 2010. Unfortunately, Sandra was no longer able to drive so she had to settle for being a passenger. She didn't seem to mind at all. With our 14-month-old grandson, Lucas, buckled into his car seat in the back, we headed out for our first show. As soon as we pulled out onto the highway and started going through the gears, Lucas let out a "wheeeeee". It was priceless. We drove the car as much as possible this past summer (2010) and attended as many cruise-ins and car shows as time allowed.

Sandra's health held out long enough to make the national wing car meet in Branson and the Monster Mopar Weekend wing car gathering in St Louis. The highlight of that weekend was driving around the speedway with all of the other wing cars. Sandra was all smiles that day. Every time I told the story in the following weeks, it would bring a smile to her face.

Unfortunately, the Monster Mopar Weekend show was the last show for Sandra and her Black Ice Bird. Her condition has deteriorated to the point that she is not longer able to travel. I plan to keep the Black Ice Superbird and continue to drive and show it. I want to thank Tom and everyone else who made it possible for Sandra's dream of owning a Superbird come true. The Black Ice Bird is very special to all of us.

Photos above: Black Ice gets ready for new paint at the Roper's; Black Ice sits next to Larry's Daytona clone; Sandra poses with Black Ice at the Monster Mopar Weekend in St Louis.

 

  

 

 



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