This story appeared in the November/December Connected, the official publication of Mopar Muscle Association of Great Britain, and is used with permission.
It's been many months, indeed years since I last sat down to write a piece for this fine publication, mainly due to the fact we are constantly up to our armpits in work, but continued pressure from Tony [Oksien] has forced me to sit at this keyboard and produce something.
The problem is, where do I start.
Both Martin and I have been fortunate during the last few years to visit virtually all the big prominent Mopar collectors, the likes of Howard Sullivan in Michigan, Kevin Suydam in Portland, Otis Chandler in LA, and to the restoration shops of Dennis Kohr, of Kohr's Kustoms in PA, and of course Roger Gibson's facility in Missouri, to name a few. Everyone of them in their own right constituting fascinating Mopar tales, but I thought for this article I would concentrate on one particular car we were asked to locate and purchase, a Hemi Daytona.
As many of you are aware, we work closely with prominent musclecar collector, Carlos Monteverde and it was at one of our regular meetings the decision was made to add a pair of wing cars to the collection. The brief went something like this: "We need a Daytona, what's the rarest and best one out there". Time to knuckle down and get the thinking caps on.
Firstly, lets look at the numbers. The car had to be Hemi powered so we were looking at one of the 70 produced, out of those 70 cars only 22 were 4-speeds. According to Galen Govier's register, of those 22 4-speeds built, possibly only 11 survive. So of those possible 11 survivors, which example was the most desirable. This is where the chase gets interesting.
I recall from around 1987, a friend and fellow 'Moparite', Greg Lane from Colorado, he and I were sitting around in the parking lot of the host hotel to the annual Colorado Mopar gathering, and in pulled a B5 blue/automatic Hemi Daytona, I believe the only remaining original owner car left. This belongs to a guy by the name of Bob Kerbs.
(As a side note, I remember Bob asking if I wanted to ride with him in the car back to his house as he has a '70 440 Six Pack Cuda for sale, which ultimately became Alan Tansley's car. We got talking and Bob showed me the TWO brand new, NOS complete Hemi engines he had on stands in his garage, "just in case" he said. Also shown to me was the paperwork and history on the car, he said he went into his local Dodge dealership, in August '68, immediately after returning home from his tour of duty in 'Nam with a pocket full of dollars. He said to the salesman, "I want the fastest Dodge car available", the dealer, remembering a recent in-house press release from Chrysler regarding the arrival of the Daytona, drew him a sketch of what he remembered the car to look like. On the strength of this sketch, he ordered the car! He still has that sketch to this day!)
Anyway, I mentioned to Greg the B5 colour was unusual and possibly unique in a Hemi Daytona, but I remember his response was "No, Chrysler built one black/white interior/white wing 4-speed car, and I towed it back from the Carolinas to here". Interesting, I thought, then carried on watching the Mopars pull in.
Fast forward to 1996 and a trip to upstate New York to buy the first Hemi Cuda convertible from the then owner, Wayne Hartye. Naturally the conversation led on to exotic and desirable musclecars, and completely out of the blue he mentioned he had just bought, in partnership with Greg Joseph of LA (the curator of the ex: Otis Chandler musclecar collection) a black Hemi Daytona with white interior and a four speed trans! This had to be the same car Greg mentioned nine years earlier. Wayne stated the car needed a total restoration which would take around three years to complete, but when finished the car would be sold at a record price! both Martin and I expressed interest and asked for the exclusive right to purchase the car upon completion.
Fast forward again to 1999, phone Wayne to see how the car was progressing. By now it was in Los Angeles at the resto shop of Kenn Funk. In some aspect this news was a little disappointing as I knew the car was due to go into Gibson's shop, indeed this happened, but a disagreement between Gibson and Joseph on pricing prevented the car being completed.
August 2000, we were finally told the car was completed and ready to go. Perfect, I thought, as the following month we were due to fly to LA to purchase a 1970 545ci LS-6 El Camino (try finding a genuine LS-6!) and we could finally get to view the car. After dealing on the El Camino the following day we traveled south from Long Beach to Joseph's apartments.
Finally after all these years, here we were, about to see the Daytona in the flesh for the first time. The electric motor buzzed on the garage door, the bright California sun pierced the ever enlarging gap, until finally, exposed to daylight and shining in all its glory, a black Hemi Daytona. Could there be a better sight in the world I thought, well yes actually, because sitting beside the Daytona was an EV2, 4-speed Hemi Superbird! with 9,500 original miles. "I see you've noticed the Hemi Bird" quotes Joseph, "I kinda like to think of these two cars as my book ends" he continues in his southern California drawl. 'BOOKENDS' I stutter back at him, in my southern England slang! Oh well.
There is something about that first encounter with a car, all your emotions, be it delight or disappointment over within a millisecond. In my case, total euphoria. We proceeded to push the Daytona out of the garage and into the bright sunlight so we could photograph and document the car the best we could. I checked all the necessary body numbers and Martin did the same with the engine, trans and rear end. I noticed the fender tag was a repro (there is a difference) but the original was removed for safety reasons, and went with the car. A quick check of the engine components, carbs, intake, alternator, exhaust manifolds, radiator, etc, with the help of Govier's 'white book', we confirmed everything was in order, except for one small item, the engine block was a replacement! Naturally, we showed concern at this fact but were immediately shown a six page letter from the original owner explaining, amongst other things, why this had occurred. (I will not elaborate on this letter now as it forms part two of this tale.)
We'd decided we've seen everything necessary to prove the cars authenticity, but before we left, Joseph pointed us in the direction of another garage door and insisted we take a look, "I suppose you've got another Hemi wing car inside" I muttered to Joseph, "no" he said, "it's a 1970 Hemi Coronet R/T convertible, four speed". Oh, just one of 2 built, I thought (actually one of three, as a Swiss export car is now known to exist. ) Enough excitement for one day, time to retire to the Holiday Inn and a well deserved beer, as the next day we were flying back to Blighty.
On the fight home the next day, my mind was full of questions I'd wished I'd asked Joseph about the car, but never did. All I had was a file full of history and a mind full of memories. Suddenly, I thought, we didn't hear it running, more on that later.
It's now Christmas 2000, negotiations are in full swing, Joseph has threatened to tell the world about the car unless we paid the full (plus a bit more!) asking price for the car. We were in a deadlock.
April 2001, after insisting we would NOT fly to NY and on to LA with a suitcase full of cash, (yes, really!) we were finally able to agree to purchase terms, with the use of multiple cashiers checks. So the return itinerary was planned. Martin felt that it would be in ours, and the car's best interests if we were to oversee the containerization whilst in LA, just to ensure a safe passage. Our proposed itinerary went something like this: Fly out Thursday morning, arrive mid afternoon LA. Hire car, Holiday Inn, bar, pay for Daytona next day, see it to the docks, two days on the beach, flight home Monday afternoon. I WISH.
In reality, we did fly out on Thursday and we did return on Monday, but everything in between went south!
Prior to these buying trips I like to think, in our precision planning, we have covered all and every eventuality that is likely to occur. I pre-arrange any meetings, arrange for transportation to be in a certain place at a certain time, even book the hotels and car prior to departure. So what went wrong this time, everything!
We had arranged to call Joseph upon our arrival on Thursday evening with a view to meeting with him at 12 mid-day, the following day. He's not in. Try again later, still no reply, great. The following day we try again, no answer, we try everywhere he's likely to be, no joy. At mid-day we turn up at the pre arranged meeting point, he finally turns up 45 minutes late. No problem we thought, we'll hand him the money, have one final look at the car, and relax for the rest of the day. Joseph decided he wasn't happy with the cashiers cheques and would not release the car until he'd presented one check at his bank for verification (strange, as the checks were drawn on the NY HSBC bank, out of the personal bank of someone would could regularly feature in the top 50 richest persons in the world!)
So, back at the hotel and hit the bar. That evening we decided to set up a meeting with the shipping company representative for Sunday morning, just to convince us they were capable of handling a near quarter million dollar car. Saturday we spent driving along route 1, the Pacific Coast highway, towards Simi Valley. We had scheduled a meeting with the owner of a 1970 454ci LS-6 Chevelle convertible, however after spending five hours, on what should have been a two hour trip, and now hopelessly lost, we decided to abandon. We weren't too disappointed as we knew the car was a fake, it had to be, the price was around $90,000, at least $50-$60,000 below the current market value for these cars, and I could not verify the history, so we headed back to Long Beach, not before we'd stopped at a big Harley dealership on route.
The following day, we met with the shipping rep, Lynn Lacey at her home in Long Beach and explained our requirements for shipping the Daytona, "no problem" came the reply, "the container will be delivered to Tammy's warehouse in downtown Long Beach by mid-day Monday. You are more than welcome to be present while the car is loaded and secured, we are happy to work with you guys any way we can".
Well, after a minor setback on Friday, we thought we were finally getting somewhere. We had a few hours free so it's down to seal beach for a stroll on the pier and an ice cream (What do you mean, we're getting old!) That evening after a rib and steak dinner, we again hit the bar. I order two MGD's (at least I think they were MGD's, it's hard to tell through the one inch thick layer of ice caked on the bottle!) Why is it, in a country that's electrical system runs on 110v, their beer fridges always maintain a constant temperature of about one degree above the polar ice cap!
Monday morning, 11:00 am, we are again outside the Joseph residence waiting for him to turn up. He makes his appearance about 10 minutes AFTER the transport guy has turned up to haul the car to Tammy's warehouse. He finally agrees to accept the cashiers cheques and we proceed to the garage.
Again, the electric door is raised and the Daytona makes an appearance, only this time we were going to fire it up, or so we thought! Joseph sold us a line that the car had not been started for some time and that we should remove the air cleaner and pour some fuel down the carbs, fair enough we thought.
After about five minutes of fuel pouring and cranking, it was plainly obvious the car had a major fault, i.e., it would not run for more than 5 seconds, or until the poured fuel had burnt. He continued to sell us a line about Hemi's being tempermental, etc, until Martin had seen enough and told him to stop. Martin noted the distributor clamp was loose so somebody, prior to our arrival had been messing with the timing in a vain effort to get it running. By this point the transport guy was threatening to bugger off, so we agreed to just get the car to the docks otherwise we would miss the pre-arranged container drop off. We successfully loaded, made our farewells and proceeded down the interstate towards the Long Beach shipping terminal. Little did we know what lay ahead.
About an hour later, we finally found Tammy's warehouse, at least we thought it was his warehouse, as we had pulled into what can only be described as a scrapyard. For some reason I had envisaged a nice clean yard, with lots of containers and nice big loading ramps, but no, this was a 'scrapyard', old broken up cars of every description, rusty and broken down plant, piles of scrapwood and anything else you care to imagine. One thing that was missing was any nice cars being loaded. We very gingerly unloaded the car, the transport driver even felt a little uneasy leaving us and a non running car here, but he was already late for his next pick-up, so he had to leave.
Now, picture the scene. Martin and myself have been abandoned in the centre of a 'scrapyard' in the most notorious downtown region of LA, with a car worth in excess of $200,000 that didn't run. Two English guys, standing there hoping for a miracle that the car would perhaps start. To make matters worse we did not have a cell phone that worked in the US!, so we could not find Tammy and no one spoke English as everyone was Mexican!
Right, said Martin, you wait here and I'll try and find Tammy. Ok, I said, as I hastily scrambled to lock the doors and look inconspicuous. Martin returned shortly saying Tammy's 'shed' was at the end of the compound, and can we get the car up there. We proceeded to push the Daytona across the yard to Tammy's shed, whereas he shouted to us in barely recognizable English "leave it over in the corner, the container's not getting here until tomorrow, and I'll load it then". NO WAY JOSE.
I decided to confront Tammy and tell him in no uncertain terms, that the car WAS going inside the warehouse tonight. "You get it up the loading ramp then" he said. We had to try and get the damn thing running, but with zero tools, what could we do? Then, just when you least need it, along came the 'expert', you always find one wherever in the world you are, you know the sort, "my mates got one of these, move over and I'll take a look". Yes, we've found the only Australian, working in an LA scrapyard, who thought he was Dick Landy! Martin checked the ignition again whilst I wondered off to try and find an old HT lead to test for a spark. We had something, just enough to fire a lawn mower I thought, not enough to fire eight cylinders of dual carbed Hemi. I decided to drive to the nearest NAPA motorist store and buy a coil, just in case the original was duff. We then found an old piece of wire on the floor, to hot wire the distributor from the battery, still nothing.
Martin then checked to see if the accelerator pumps were squirting fuel, nothing. Great, now we had a fuel problem as well, why did that ba***rd Joseph not tell us the motor had these problems, we could have been fixing them yesterday instead of eating ice cream on the pier! Tammy then said if we don't get the car up the loading ramp in the next five minutes, he was going home. It was about 90°, neither of us had eaten or drunk anything all day, we were tired and frustrated.
"Try this matey, I'll get her going for you" said the Australian master of all things mechanical. **** OFF said I, the master of diplomacy.
Tammy then approached us with a suggestion, how about he brings over the fork lift (yes, you know what's coming next) and carefully lift the car up on to the loading platform! Both Martin and myself look at him, and give out one of those nervous little laughs thinking it must be a joke, but no, he was serious. Imagine what would of happened if we weren't there, exactly the reason we had to oversee the containerization. We suggested, if we line the car up backwards facing the ramp, we could tie a length of rope to the Dana and use the fork lift truck to pull the Daytona up the ramp. Martin sat in the car and carefully aligned the wheels, Tammy started the fork lift and I went to the toilet! Slowly we pulled the car up the ramp and, finally into the warehouse. Thank God.
The container didn't arrive that day, and the next day was the Tuesday we were flying home. We drove back to the hotel and hit the bar (can you see a trend emerging here!) and worked out a plan for the following day. If we could get to the warehouse by 10:00am, get the Daytona loaded and scoot off to LAX by 12:00am, we stood a chance. We arrived at the scrapyard to find the container had been delivered overnight, great, things were looking up. Only one problem, no Tammy, he couldn't be bothered to get there until 11:30am. Finally he turned up and started to unlock, we went in and inspected the car, only to find the hood and fenders covered in fine scratches, "Don't worry about that" said Tammy, "I'd locked the cat in last night by mistake,. he was trying to get out, I expect." For God's sake, I thought, Let's just get the car loaded and we can get home.
One hour later, we finally locked the doors to the container, a tip. If anyone else ever ships a wing car by container, use a 40' and not a 20', as it's damn tight. Later that day, whilst on the flight home we were able to reflect on the previous days problems. Oh well, I said to Martin, at the end of the day it's all worked out, it's in the container, the boat leaves tomorrow, what can possibly go wrong now!
Coming next issue: Did the Daytona arrive safely? Did we get it running? Did he car make Goodwood?
You may be curious to know whether the Hemi Daytona arrived into England? Yes it did, but not before continued controversy.
Martin and I arrived back in England from LA, and reflected on the events of the last trip. Buying this car had been four years in the making, and here we were, only three weeks away from it actually arriving. The thought of the only Hemi Daytona in Europe arriving on these shores was quite exciting. The next few days were spent, amongst other things, preparing all the necessary Customs paperwork and BTI forms to prove the car's historic significance, and hence it only being subject to 5 percent VAT.
Finally we had the call, the container had landed and was now in the de-vanning yard of Imorex shipping services in Ipswich. We instructed the agent that, in no uncertain terms was he to open the container without us being present. Having gone to all the trouble we had to oversee the containerization in LA, we were not going to risk damage at this late stage of the game. My main concern with this car had always been the nose cone. Should this had made contact with the container in any way, and become damaged, they are almost impossible to find, or repair to original.
We arrived at the depot just in time to see the yard workers opening the container and there is was, gleaming in the damp, rainy overcast skies of Suffolk! We were a little apprehensive as the workers slid down the sides of the car to release the rear tie-downs, no overalls, just belt buckles and zippers rubbing the jet black paint! Martin decided it was more appropriate if he climbed through the window and into the driving seat, and steer the car out backwards. (A quick note here on how different shipping company's handle de-embarkation. Imorex shipping services, for instance do not unload dockside, the container is off loaded directly onto the truck and transported to their inland warehouse. The container stays on the truck bed, whereas a massive sort of metal ramp, like the steps which are pushed to the side of aircraft, are wheeled up to the container.) So far so good, everything's fine until the rear wheels have cleared the lower section of the ramp, then just as the front wheels meet the tarmac, the spoiler grounds out, 'great' I thought, it's just traveled 6000 miles only to get here with zero damage, and now the spoiler's bashed and dented.
We extensively photographed the whole episode, just in case we wished to make an insurance claim, then proceeded to push the car into the warehouse, whereas we were able to inspect the front spoiler. On reflection the damage wasn't too bad and should repair and repaint with ease.
After the barrage of questions like, 'What is it mate' and 'Who made the rear spoiler'. And of course the obvious one, 'My mate had one of these, used to race it at Santa's Pod'! Oh no. We quickly cleaned off the travel dirt, covered it up and left for the day.
The following day the car went through the customs procedure (they think of a figure, you sent them lots of money!) A cheque for £8020.00 was duly dispatched and the car was released from Her Majesty's control and into ours. We organized suitable enclosed transportation from Ipswich to RPM's workshop in Aldershot, and finally, late one Friday evening in June 2001 the Daytona was 'home'.
The following Monday morning, Martin, Steve and I gathered around the car to give it the 'once over'. It's always nice to give a car a good looking over once it's on neutral ground, and you always seem to find little small items that weren't there before. A plan of attack was formulated, Martin was to deal with the motor, Steve the headlamp pods which were inoperative, and I made the tea! It didn't take Martin long to diagnose the problems with the motor, (you may recall from part one of this article the car had no fuel deliver to the carbs, and no spark.) The lack of fuel to the carbs was caused by a badly worn fuel pump pushrod, in fact the rod had worn right through the hardening. Why it was not replaced when the engine was rebuilt is anyone's guess, the rods are the same for 440's and are a $15 item. Nothing short of bad engine building practice. The lack of spark was a little more confusing, but an electrical check showed the distributor was at fault. Martin stripped and rebuilt the unit using quality Accell components, re-installed it into the block and set the timing roughly to fire the engine.
So, finally for the first time we were about to hear the Hemi fire into life. One final check over and the key was turned, instantly the engine fired and quickly settled down to a nice idle. Martin set the timing at 38 degrees total with the mechanical advance all in, checked the fuel pressure and shut it down.
So here we were, the Hemi was running, the sun was shining so what is a person to do other than strap on a pair of trade plates and take it out for a blast. Apart from the shift rods being a little out of adjustment and a slight rumbling from the throwout bearing, the car drove surprisingly well. In some ways it seemed a little surreal driving a Hemi Daytona around the roads of Hampshire, every metre you travel you think no-one has done this before, no-one has driven a Hemi Daytona on the streets of England, or indeed possibly Europe, strange that.
Right, down to other matters, we only had two weeks until "Goodwood Festival of Speed" and the car was scheduled to appear in the musclecar section of the 'Style-et-luxe" display area. Steve tore into the headlamp buckets and found an important bracket missing (see diagram at end of story-item #30). Also item #s 39 and 44, stop assembly were incorrect. Forget trying to locate any of this stuff through the usual N.O.S. dealers as it simply doesn't exist. Steve fabricated what was necessary to get the buckets working again and duly assembled them back into the nose. Other items missing from the car was the correct scissor jack and hold-down bracket from the trunk, and the front fender wheel arch trims. A quick call to Roger Gibson turned up a good used jack, a bargain at $900! plus $100 to refurbish back to the original colour (red). The front fender trims are almost impossible to obtain, don't forget they were an option on Daytona's and out of the 503 built, how many came with this item (code M26). Yes, you guessed it, this one did! Steve found an old front fender trim from a '69 Charger in our store room and offered it up to the Daytona, we feel with a bit of clever snipping, brazing and bending, a '69 piece can be modified to fit. After all, it's only the front 4" that needs modification where the nose mounts to the fender. At that time, John Houlihan's Daytona was in the shop, 'I wonder if John knows he has fender trims' I thought! (Only kidding John, you needn't rush out to the garage, they are still there.)
Later that week the car was MOT'd with no problems or modifications being needed, registered and now displaying a tax disc (and RPM sticker in the window.) A total lube change was carried out, just to be on the safe side. Finally we could legally take it out on the highway. An extensive valet followed to remove all the transport dirt and it was ready to go to Goodwood.
The following day arrangements were made for enclosed transportation to Sussex. As a rule, we always use the same classic car transport company, based just outside of Guilford.
Generally they offer an excellent service, but sadly not this time. This particular morning a new driver turned up, his first week on the job. He was hauling two cars to Goodwood for us, the Daytona and a Hemi Charger 500, the 500 was loaded into the truck and the Daytona onto a trailer behind. Now, loading a Daytona onto a trailer designed for an average sized European classic car was quite a feat in itself, coupled with the fact the driver was nursing a back injury, things were looking a tad tricky. The driver was a big guy, so easing his body up the side of the car to strap the front down was a major feat in dexterity, however he seemed to manage it okay, so we all left for Goodwood.
Upon arrival we proceeded to un-strap the 500 and back it from the truck, left the car ticking over, and assisted with the unloading of the Daytona. Martin carefully eased the car backwards off the trailer and parked both cars together. We said our farewells and proceeded to drive the cars to the main display area.
A few hundred yards further on, Martin, who was driving the Daytona did not look to be slowing down for a sweeping right hand turn, in fact, narrowly missing a set of metal railings separating the car park enclosure from Goodwood house, he gingerly managed to stop the car and I pulled alongside, 'What's wrong' I said, 'No front brakes' was the reply. A quick look underneath revealed our suspicions correct. The truck driver, in his infinite wisdom, had strapped the front of the Daytona through the lower control arms, trapping the front brake flexi hoses and fracturing them, to make matters worse, brake fluid was spilling onto the nicely detailed front suspension! There was nothing we could do at this late stage of the game, the car was very carefully driven to it's allocated spot, the suspension wiped down the best we could manage, and left for the weekend for all to view.
So...after much heartache, the car had finally made it to Goodwood. Generally it was very well received from all regions of the motoring fraternity, simply, a car so outrageous as this, cannot fail to attract attention. Many members of the public were complementary, including a retired US Navy Captain who mentioned he bought a Daytona new in Florida in '69. The dealership had two, a 440ci and a Hemi. At the time his wife needed a new car so he went for the cheaper one, the 440ci! He politely asked me not to continue with the conversation as he had heard it a thousand times before, yes, he should of opted for the Hemi!
Let's move on, it's all to easy to walk around a car like this and pick up on items that are not "factory" correct, like, is the wiper motor correctly finished and date coded, shouldn't the brake booster have a yellow paint mark on the top surface to signify the system's been bled, etc, etc.
Many people have asked me what I personally think of the car, well, to be honest the car is 'weak' in a few areas. The interior could use some fine detailing to the dash and instruments, the underside could use some correction, and the few "Year One" repro items on the car, like the fuel filler cap and Hemi door badges, should be replaced with N.O.S. items, but lets not lose sight of the reason this car was built in the first instance.
When Henry Watkins Jr (the original owner) walked into his local Dodge/Plymouth dealership on 30th September 1969 and ordered this car, he had one, and only one intention. Anyone who orders a 'B' body with Hemi, 4 speed trans and 4:10 Dana, it will be raced, be it oval track or drag, it was going to the track [or street]!
Below is a letter from the said original owner, to Jim Radke, who at the time (1986) was the third owner of the car. Jim had the foresight to write to Henry Watkins Jr and here is his fascinating reply: (reproduced exactly as written)
March 30, 1986
Excuse me for not writing sooner, I've been very busy with my full time job and part-time school, etc.
Your name seems familiar. I believe I may have met you at Talladega back about 1976 or 1977. The Daytona-Superbird association had meetings there, I was there in 1976 or so, in a 440ci Daytona, painted blue at the time as I recall, and in 1977 or so, in the hemi Daytona that you now own. Were you there?
Yes, I was the original owner of the Hemi Daytona. I got it 9.30.69, new from Western Cardina Dodge in Greenville, SC [actually closer to Eastly, SC], the car was originally registered in my Fathers name because minors could not register cars. I got the title transferred to me in 1970 or 1971, so actually according to the SC Highway dept, it was a used car when sold to me.
The car was originally black with white stripe, 426 Hemi engine, 4 speed transmission, heavy duty 9 3/4 [I think] "Dana" rear end with 4:10 gearing. It had a radio with 8-track player, tachometer. The dealer told me that when he got it, it had red line F70 X 15 tires and stock wheels with wheel covers. He thought that the wheels looked out of place on such an exotic car, so he changed them for some Dodge chrome "road wheels" and F60 X 14 white letter tires, if I remember correctly. He also mentioned that, as delivered to him, the paint job was rather poor so he had it repainted locally.
I saved the window 'sticker' although I have either misplaced it or lost it. The 'sticker' price was around $5,600 or $5,800 and I had to pay the full 'sticker' price. There was no discount. As I recall, in 1970 the Hemi was equipped with hydraulic lifters and the dealer said it had a 1970 engine so equipped. I later found out that the engine actually had solid lifters.
April 8th, 1986
I had put about 24,000 miles on the car the first 8 months I had it, and then the troubles started. I am really ashamed to admit what happened to the first engine, [or rather block] but here is the story.
The local Dodge dealer, [not Western Cardina, I think the name was Greenville Dodge] did some repair work on the engine. I have forgotten what the problem was, but I remember their work was unsatisfactorily done. They had evidently drained the cooling system and refilled it with water and no antifreeze. I either new this or suspected this, and one night when a hard freeze was expected, I drained the radiator, not realizing that the engine block was lower and therefore would not drain.
Anyway, the block froze and cracked. This must have been about January 1971.
I bought a new block from Petty Enterprises and had a local "speed shop" owner rebuild the engine. The engine lasted about 600 miles before it experienced bearing failure, [on a rod bearing, I believe it was].
Next, I had a mechanic from a local garage rebuild the engine. He had the block bored just enough to clean up the cylinders. He wasn't happy with the job the machine shop did on one of the cylinders, so he had them put a "sleeve" on that cylinder. [This was the block in the car when I sold it.]
This time the engine lasted about 2000-4000 miles, [over a couple of years] and then again experienced bearing failure.
Finally, in 1975 I had a guy named Steve Cooper rebuild the engine. Steve had a long history of drag racing with Chrysler products, and at the time had a "pro stock" Hemi drag car. I believe he told me he once bought a dozen street Hemi engines. He said from what he could tell that the previous mechanic had broken most, or all of the piston rings during installation.
Anyway, the engine Steve built for me ran OK from 1975 until I sold it in 1983. What I mean is that it did not have any more internal engine problems, although it always smoked somewhat. In this 8 year period I only drove it roughly 1000 miles per year. The car had approx. 33,000-35,000 original miles on it when I sold it. [I have the exact odometer reading noted down somewhere, I am telling you all of this from memory.]
The heads, cam, lifters, most of the pistons and rods, manifolds and carburetor's were all the original one's. The heads have been shaved somewhat. I don't know why I had such trouble with the engine as I never abused it. I never revved it over 6500 rpm and never ran it hard while it was cold, etc.
I believe that much of the trouble was due to incompetent mechanics that I made the mistake of trusting.
The oil pan was enlarged by the mechanic who built the engine the second time.
He felt that the standard 7 quart capacity was too small and he added about 2 quarts worth to make the total capacity of 9 quarts. He also fabricated a "homemade" skid plate to offer more protection to the oil pan from rough places in the road, etc. This consisted of a 1/4 inch steel plate approx. 18 inches square, and this was what the studs welded to the K-member for. The plate had holes in it and could be unbolted. The whole thing was unsightly, but it was functional.
When the car was fairly new, I did a certain amount of 'street racing' in it. This usually involved racing another car, either from a standstill or a rolling start, and up to a speed where there either was a clear winner, or traffic and/or road conditions forced us to slow down.
I always thought that my particular engine was more powerful than the average Hemi. I proved this on the fact that I beat a '69 Charger R/T Hemi 4 speed and a '69 Road Runner Hemi automatic, both by a good margin.
Some other victories were over 440 "6-Pack" Cuda's, 428 Talladega, 428 Mach 1 Mustang, Trans am's, Z/28's, etc. I lost a few races to cars I believe I could have beat otherwise, when my engine was out of tune, or the clutch was slipping, etc. The only car I can ever remember beating me legitimacy was a 427 (454ci?) Corvette that must have been geared with a 4.88 or 5.13 rear gear because it "topped out" about 110 m.p.h. Of course, I could beat him out on top end speed, but from 0-110 he could beat me. With the tallest tires I ever had on the rear (Goodyear dirt track racing tires) I could reach approx. 140 m.p.h. which I felt was pretty good for a 4.10 gear.
I do have some pictures of the car, at least one was taken when it was brand new, [the day I got it.] When I have time I will try and hunt up the negatives and make you some prints. I really never intended to sell the car, I had had plenty of offers all during the time I owned it and turned everyone down. When John McBryde came by my place, I was replacing the starter, for what seamed like the millionth time! It was hot and I was aggravated with the car. He made me an offer on both the Hemi Daytona and a 440ci automatic Daytona I had owned since 1975 or 1976.
I accepted his offer and almost immediately began regretting it. He called me (I lived about 60 miles away) a couple of days later to arrange for the sale, etc. and I almost called the deal off, but I didn't because I felt I had made an agreement that I should honor.
He told me he intended to restore them (particularly the Hemi). I asked him to let me know when he got it painted, etc. because I wanted to see it. I never heard from him and never got around to contacting him. I thought about trying to buy back the Hemi, but I never did.
I would really like you to keep me in mind if you decide to sell it, depending on the price, current condition, etc. I probably be very interested in owning it again. I would also be interested in learning what you paid for it, if you would care to indulge this information.
I probably could rumble on forever about the car, but I will go ahead and get this in the mail to you. If you have anymore questions, etc. feel free to ask. Please remember what I said about selling it.
I apologize for taking so long in responding,
in the past two weeks I've had my mother in the
hospital, income taxes to worry with, exams at
school, overtime work on Saturdays, Sundays, etc.
Also, please let me know how the restoration is
going. I may be vacationing in California this
summer or fall and maybe I could come by to meet
you and "visit" the car.
Henry Watkins Jr.
Well, I guess there is not much more I can add. The letter above says it all! It shows how important it is to try and trace the history of these old Mopar's, and certainly this original document is every bit as important as the build sheet. Time is running out, the original owners are becoming few and far between.
Finally to end the Daytona diaries, I was contacted by a prominent Mopar collector of Hemi cars in Illinois [who, for the sake of this article should remain anonymous] within two weeks of the car arriving in England. The conversation went something like this:
"Hi Peter, I understand you have recently been successful in buying the black/white 4 speed Hemi Daytona for the collector in England", "yes, I said, after four years we finally got there". "You knew I desperately wanted that car and now it's in England, listen to this, I don't care what you paid for the car but I will pay you a third more, now. Let me know later, bye."
Pete, Martin and Steve at RPM
Now here's the beginning of the Hemi Daytona's story, as told by two of it's owners, Jim Radke and Mike McGuire, although Mike only had the pleasure of owning it for a couple of weeks!
Back in 1983, I owned a 440 Daytona. At that time I decided to make it a "Hemi" Daytona, as I missed the power of my old blue one. So I bought a 1970 'Cuda that had a Hemi, with the intentions of pulling the engine and K-member out of it and putting them into the Daytona. The local guys told me that it would be a nice looking car when it was done. But no matter how nice it was, it wouldn't have that "J" in the fifth digit of the serial number to show that it was a real Hemi Daytona. That kept weighing on my mind to the point that I decided to sell the 'Cuda and the Daytona, and look for a real Hemi Daytona.
On June 4th, the John McBryde family came out to California for a visit, and I was able to meet them to spend time bench racing. I told John of my plans to look for a Hemi Daytona, and trying to buy it. So we got to discussing ones that we knew of. I mentioned to John about the black Hemi Daytona 4-speed car, and he had never heard of it. I told him that it showed up for the 1976 National Meet at Talladega, and only came in for the day of the race itself on Sunday. John told me that if I came up with a name and address for the car to let him know, and he would see what he could do for me.
Time rolled by, and I finally got serious about a Hemi Daytona towards the end of August. I looked up the info on the black Daytona, and sent it off to John. A week or so passed by and John called me. He said that car was only like a hundred miles or so from his house and that he'd go check on it for me.
September 12, 1983, I had just gotten off work and pulled into the driveway of my house. As I got out of the car, I heard the phone ringing. So I hurriedly ran for the door, and fumbled with my keys to get the door open, as no one was home at the time. Finally managing to get the door open (you know how it is when you're in a hurry-nothing seems to want to go right), I ran to the phone out of breath a and answered, "Hello?" To which I heard, "I've got your car." Puzzled, I replied, "Huh?" John goes on to say, "Black, Hemi, 4-speed-it's here." Smiling ear to ear I asked how much. John replies, "Well, that's the problem. You see he has two of them. A Hemi and a 440. He won't sell them separately. It's all or nothing." I was quiet for a moment, and then I replied, "Okay, John, I'll take both of them." Suddenly there was silence on John's end, and he replies excitedly, "Jim, I want one of them!" No problem I replied, "I want the Hemi and you can have the 440." So the deal was struck then.
When John went back to pay for the cars, Henry was a real gentleman. John had caught him at a weak moment when he was experiencing mechanical problems with both Daytonas, and was in one of those moods where he agreed to sell. He wished after-wards that he hadn't agreed to sell them, but kept his word when John showed up with the money.
John was nice enough to store the Daytona at his house until I could figure out how I was going to get it out here to Southern California. One thing led to another, and I paid to have it trailered up to a friend of Mike McGuire's. The game plan was to make the car road worthy to drive across country. Mike would drive it out to the National Meet in Denver, CO in June of 1984, and I, in turn, would drive it home from Colorado. This is probably the last Hemi Daytona to drive clear across the U.S. under it's own power!
I wrote to Mike before he left to go on the trip and told him that I wanted him to go down to K-Mart and buy 10 cans of white spray paint, and "paint" the car. Naturally Mike thought I crazy. I told him that I could tell that the black paint on the car was already shot in the pictures of it, so I wasn't hurting the value any. Why paint it white? As I told him, I wasn't about to drive a black car across the desert in the summertime during the day with no air conditioning in it.
My wife, Sue and I took the train to Denver on our honeymoon to the National Meet, and drove the Daytona home. We had been married only the week before! She should have known better, ha-ha!
The first thing I said to Mike when I saw the Daytona was, "How many cans of white did you use?" Mike replied that he only used five cans of white. So to me, it sort of looked like a WWII German fighter plane at the Russian front in the winter time. All light and dark blotchy spots. So I said, "Come on, jump in the car and let's go." "Go where?" and I replied, "Down to K-Mart to buy 5 more cans of white paint!" So that's what we did. We drove to the nearest K-Mart and bought the paint. I returned to the motel parking lot, and parked it in the back where I proceeded to paint the car once again, filling in the dark spots so that it would more or less look like one color. I thought I should have gotten the trophy for "Best Paint"-or at least the freshest! Looking back on it now, and thinking a bit about it, the car at that time sort of reminded me of how the "Joe Dirt" car would later look.....inside and out!
Sunday morning we left Denver around 5:00 am to head back to California. I had to be back to work Monday morning. We were lucky in a way, because it started snowing at the top of the Sierras. I was afraid we might be stopped for snow chains, and we didn't have any with us. Fortunately, it was a light snow and so we soldiered on. Tom Hackett rode along on the trip home to help out on driving chores. He only drove one segment though. Every time he would pull over to stop or slow down for something he'd forget to put the clutch in, and this worried me. I didn't want any mechanical clutch problems on the way home, so I did the rest of the driving.
Everything went smoothly until we pulled into Las Vegas, Nevada around 7:45 in the evening for gas. It was still daylight outside. I was tired of driving by now, and got careless. I made the mistake of pulling too fast on the oil dipstick to check the oil and found myself standing there with the dipstick and the dipstick tube in my hand. The tab on the dipstick tube that mounted to the motor mount bolt wasn't there! Naturally, I was not a happy camper. If you've ever tried to put a dipstick tube back into a Hemi in a hot engine compartment that is dark underneath, in Vegas heat, you don't know what you've missed. Needless to say, I didn't get it back into the hole until almost 11:00 that night. We finally pulled into our driveway about a quarter after 2 in the morning.
I didn't want to attract attention to myself going home (as in "ticket") so I didn't go over 55 mph on the way home, which was the maximum speed limit at that time. I did open it up about two miles from my house on the freeway pushing it to just over 100 mph. You could definitely feel that the power was there! For those of you who say Hemis don't get good gas mileage, the best we got during one segment of driving on the way home was 16.7 miles to the gallon. The rest of the time, the gas mileage was in the 15s. Mind you, this was with a 4-speed, and a 4.10 Dana rear end.
I drove the Daytona one other time after that, which was two weeks later to the local Mopar club meeting. I told the guys to take a good look at it, as this was probably the last time that they'd see it this way. Occasionally after that, I would drive it around the block to keep the battery charged up. I finally got tired of guys pulling up late (very late) at night parking out front and then hurriedly "leaving" when I would pull the curtain back to look outside. So I made room for it in the garage, and parked it in there out of sight, which gave me peace of mind.
I finally sold it because the person who wanted to buy it, I knew, had the big bucks to finish the car the right way. I wanted to see it restored to its original glory, and this was the best way to do it. In turn, I knew that this person bought it with the intention of eventually reselling it down the line, which he did. Do I miss it, or wish I had it back? Translation, "But Jim, it's worth so much money now!" No. Money's nice but there's more to life than just that.
I did get to see the car after it was restored, and before it was sold. I had heard that the headlight system didn't work. So I peeked inside underneath the nose to see what I could see. That's when I noticed that the headlight springs and retainer brackets were missing. I'm sure this has been corrected by now. I saw a couple of other oversights and flaws, but all in all, it was a nice job. It has come a long ways from where it had been.
By the way, since you're wondering, the white "paint job" worked like a charm. It was hot outside in the desert. Inside the car, it was nice and comfortable!
I still have memories of owning the car, and you can't take those from me. As to it being the "ultimate" Daytona, I never considered it to be that. But I do know that there is a certain element who think that a black car is "the" car. I'm sure old Henry Ford is smiling down on those people because of that.
Photos below (from upper left to lower right): Photo #1 was taken at Talladega in 1976. It is the only photo I took of the car there, as we were getting in line for the caravan to the track from the motel and I didn't have any more time. Photo #2 is how the Daytona looked when it arrived at Denver. It needed more white paint to cover that black. Photos #3 and #4 are me spray painting the Daytona white at the Denver meet. Onlookers who are supervising and laughing at me are Glen Peters, Wayne Perkins and Rick Edwards (far left person is unknown). (**Sue's note: Photo #3 appeared in the September, 1984 newsletter with the caption "I'll paint any car for $29.95!") Photo #5 shows the Daytona with it's "new" white paint job! Photo #6 shows me sitting on the wing out in the front of my house in Buena Park.
|This is a posting from some website that Doug Schellinger sent to me. I tried to get a hold of them but couldn't. They also posted "remarks" on a Spoiler II that Lou Whitfield had, and he tried to get a hold of them to protest too, but without any luck. Shows what the "power of the press" can do to twist the facts. This Daytona was nowhere near as rusty as they say it was, nor did it "smoke" like they claimed.|
Short Lived Ownership!
by Mike McGuire
When Jim Radke bought his 4-speed Hemi Daytona back in 1984, since it was from the Carolinas, he asked me about any ideas I had to get it to California. I told him that if he paid the gas and I could get my buddy to agree to get it running (at Jim's expense), I would drive it to the Denver National Meet that year and fly back home. Then he could drive it home. This sounds far-fetched now, but we were a LOT younger both in mind and body 20 years ago!
Jim thought this would be workable and a cheap way to get the car back home so he agreed. It was worked out with John McBryde, who had the car in North Carolina, to tow it up to my mechanic buddy's house in Alexandra, VA. This was in the early spring as I recall.
He got the car running with no major problems and I got it over to my house. Before I did that, though, I inquired with the DMV on what kind of license plate I would need for the trip. It turned out that drive-away plates were available but had significant restrictions. So we decided that it was best just to get it licensed so it could be tested and made fully ready for the long trip. So I had the old title signed over to me and got a Virginia title. At this time, the car was a black primer with the remnants of a white interior. The carpeting was gone so the interior was pretty sparse.
The trip to Denver was in July and there is nothing quite like driving 1,700 miles in a car that puts out plenty of heat even in the dead of winter! I recall having to drive most of the way with the front window down. My left arm got a rather good sunburn from the trip.
When I pulled into the meet motel, the skies were very menacing. I pulled under the motel canopy and registered. When I came out, I was unsure whether to proceed to the motel room or just stay under the canopy. I eventually decided to drive to the room, but by the time I was there in the next 30 seconds, it had began hailing hard. Fortunately, the hail was small and caused no problems to "real" metal although I recall many of the newer cars with dozens of pockmarks and the body shop owners having big grins on their face.
Jim Radke arrived the next day and took possession of the car. A highlight was his imitation of Earl Schibe, using spray cans to paint the outside white so it would be cooler driving it back across the desert. In summary, I did own another Hemi Daytona for a few weeks-at least on paper!
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