The Thundercolt

CarMichael Angelo

clearly, I’ve got something going on in that hole
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Nov 29, 1999
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THE THUNDERCOLT

For those of you that have read my stupid story collection, this follows a line that dates back to the late seventies.

I had a 69 mach 1 that I had repainted over the winter of 1978 using a race car inspired theme. While taking it back home, a series of “unfortunate events” occurred while trying to put it back in the garage. I ended up w/ a badly scratched door on a paint job that because of a combination of metallic’s and pearls “couldn’t be touched up”. I was told by the painter that even repainting the door probably wouldn’t match, and his best advice to me to fix my scratch was to “cover it”.
My inspiration for the paint job came out of a photo spread Hot Rod magazine was featuring on the then current Summer nationals. The Pro Stock team of Sox and Martin were racing a red, white ,and blue 69 Barracuda, and I fell in love w/ the paint scheme. My painter convinced me to change the colors to something less conventional, so I chose a “new penny” copper, and white scheme, and covered it all in a gold pearl. We called the end result “period authentic Pro Stock”.
The car had the outward appearance that fit the part. ( Kinda Pro Street, even before Hot Rod coined the style Pro Street) Centerline Auto/Drag 15 x 3.5” wheels on 5.60 15’s in front, and 15 x 10’s w/ Firestone 11.5 x 28.5 x 15 drag slicks on back. Street driven. It had a 351 W w/ the requisite Holley 750 DP. A radical sounding Crane flat tappet cam, A Hurst 3500 stall converter living in my cast Iron FMX auto Trans. The rear was the venerable 9” w/ a set of over the top 4.88 rear end gears, tied to the ground through a real live ratcheting Detroit Locker. The nose was so low to the ground that snakes were likely to get skinned before getting ran over.

We chose to letter the car it the current “fad” material. Prism Tape. My painters wife outlined the letters in black, and after a couple of hours, I had fixed the gash in the paint by covering the entire door in my car’s new name. THUNDERCOLT. With the top of the two “T’s” capped by one long Lightning bolt.

I drove the car all over Omaha Ne. that next spring and summer. The car was starting to get a reputation as a street driven race car. By mid July, I was starting to become known by the car’s name, instead of my own. At the local hang out on any given week end night, the typical “race-pimp” conversation went something like this:

“Hey Thundercolt, you wanna run that ( insert car brand) over there for 25$? The dude wants to know if you’ll spot him a length?”

Don't laugh. Remember, this was 1978. Minimum wage was $2.65 an hour. I was making a whole $3.25 an hour at that time. That meant that after a whole 40 hour week of "working," I took home $100.00. Yeah,...100 bucks. So in retrospect, 25.00 was a HUGE loss.

I worked at a speed shop, in Omahe Ne.( One Stop Performance). The car always sat in the lot up front letting every gearhead that frequented the place know that I was there. While my boss didn’t like all of the
“ Strokes” as he called them hanging around , he didn’t mind the additional revenue that typically came as a result of it either.

One day this young kid comes in with his two friends in tow, and comes straight up to me and says: “I have $2000.00. I wanna buy everything I need to beat your car” Now I gotta tell you, I found this pretty amusing and after we all had a pretty good laugh both at the kid, and at the notion that my car was the reference standard for fast. I couldn’t help but be intrigued by/ the notion that I get to build this kids car. So I set off w/ a series of questions ’Well what are we working with here?” A Duster w/ a 340. ”What Trans?” 727 Torqueflight. “What Rear?” 8.34. “How are you gonna hook it to the street”. Street tires, my dad won’t let me have slicks. “Kid, you’ll never beat me on street tires, not on a car that you have to drive to school and work, You gotta at least have a set mounted on spare wheels that you can use when you race it” Naw, I don’t want my dad to know I’m gonna race. “What does he think you’re doing?” Oh, he knows I’m improving the power, he just doesn’t know that I’m doing this.

So with that, we start piling stuff on the counter. Carb; intake; cam, lifters, springs; headers; converter; trans pak; mufflers; gears. Done! He spends almost every dime. “Now are you gonna install all this stuff yourself?” No I got a guy. “Are you prepared for how much this is gonna cost you to get installed”? Yeah, I know already he told me he would do it for 2,000.00. “ So you just bought 2 grand worth of stuff and you’re gonna pay another 2 grand to have it installed all just to beat me?” Yeah, I always wanted a fast car, beating you gives me a start.

The kid leaves w/ a trunk full of stuff in his yellow 340 Duster. I wondered if I’d ever see his ass again.

Turns out I would. It was late late August, I was standing around w/ my friends when this kid comes out of the crowd and wants to know if I wanna run a MOPAR. “Let’s see your MOPAR” I said and as I walked over to where the car was parked, there it was: A yellow 1970 Duster complete w/ it’s newly added $4,000.00 worth of modifications. It still had street tires. “So looks like you got all of your stuff done, how does it run?” I ask. He says "I think it’ll take you".
I had to see this. “Sure, I’ll run you, let’s make it easy, say,….$25.00?”
Twenty five dollars? I don’t have twenty five tonight. “Well” I said w/ half a laugh “ I’m not gonna risk hurting my car, or getting a drag racing ticket just because you wanna beat me, better get your buddies together and scrape it up.” He wanders off, and comes back 5 minutes later. All we got is 22 bucks, he said. If I lose, I’ll come into One Stop and pay you the 3 bucks. I busted out laughing at the kid and said “ No, you can keep your 3 dollars, and yes, I’ll run you for the Blue light special of 22 dollars tonight only!”

The race happened at the normal destination industrial complex out in “West O”. I Had drag slicks and dude had L 60 15’s w/ a 4.30 rear end gear. This was gonna be over in about the first 60 feet. I decided I didn’t even need to heat the tires, and let him get out on me before I stood on it, and that is how it went down.

We were flagged, and the Duster left first, smoke rolling out both quarters as it made its way down the ¼. I was kind of surprised that he was pulling away so fast that I stood on it . Not heating the tires proved a dumb decision as I left tires spinning tires as well. That stopped about 30’ out. By the 1/8th I had caught him and only put two on him by the end of the quarter. It needs to be said, that despite the reputation of having a fast car, It wasn’t all that fast ( It only mustered 13.20’s back in the day, ported stock heads were only good for so much)

When we came back to the start line, the money man handed me my 22.00. Quick as he did, the owner of the Duster was right there wanting a rematch. I said “Man! I beat you, and besides, It’s 25.00 per race” He replies No, I think I can get you off the line better and if I lose, I’ll bring you the 25 to One Stop when I bring the other 3.00.
I figured what the hell, I knew I’d beat him, and we were there already, only this time He was gonna get the full treatment, along w/ the requisite second gear burnout.

My car having such a deep gear was pretty well spent by the 1/8, . Getting it to hook w/ the rake it had was almost always a joke, and the fact that the drag slicks were driven on daily made them no where near as good as they could’ve been. It might be hard for some to believe that I was sort of an exhibitionist but the ritual of the pre race burnout was always something I liked about drag racing. Nothing says “In Your Face” quite like a 6000 RPM across the line burnout to “set the mood” for the other guy.
If all the stars aligned, and the tires hooked, I was hell.

For 60 feet.

Duster dude got the full dose. All big whoop 13.20 in the ¼ worth. Everything worked for me like it was supposed to, and by 100 feet I was so far out on him that all I had to do was watch the finish line come. I wasn’t pulling away, and he wasn’t catching up. I think we ended up about 4-5 cars apart at the finish.
He was disappointed to say the least and when it was all said and done, I told him he didn’t need to worry about the other 25.00. He said thanks, he and his boys piled in his Duster and left.

I was surprised when he showed up on Monday w/ my 28.00. He said that I had helped him and that he owed me so that was that. He said he would be back when he saved enough to buy a set of slicks and he’d want another rematch. I never saw him again though. I’m kinda glad I didn’t.
 
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CarMichael Angelo

clearly, I’ve got something going on in that hole
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Just buggin'

I was in diapers in 79 while you were out hot roddin'

I know, but I originally answered you on my iphone so I couldn't add this::)
But just for the sake of what it would cost for the same casual race based on the value of todays' dollar VS 1979, I googled it.

Todays dollar is worth $3.10 in 1979 adjusted for inflation and the cost of living. In other words, it took .31 to buy the same thing in 1979 that it takes a buck to buy today. A gallon of regular gas was .89. That means that the casual week end race would've cost Duster dude a little over 75.00.

Now I don't know about you, but I'd feel 75.00 if I lost it. And I'd definitely take it if I won it.
 

1991notchbackLX

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Dec 25, 2007
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Very cool Mike! PS that duster had an 8-3/4" rear, not an 8.34, but simple typo. I have the same rear in my Barracuda and in my Duster project car. Wanna run my Duster next? It's a '71 with no motor or trans, so I think you might have me off the line :rlaugh:
 

CarMichael Angelo

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Very cool Mike! PS that duster had an 8-3/4" rear, not an 8.34, but simple typo. I have the same rear in my Barracuda and in my Duster project car. Wanna run my Duster next? It's a '71 with no motor or trans, so I think you might have me off the line :rlaugh:

Yeah I was thinking 8-3/4" but my hand is stuck in the decimal world.

As for our race It'd be real close, The engine is out of mine so I guess it'll come down to who can push harder.:D It'll cost you 75.30 to find out though.:)

I always liked the Duster/Demon. Matter of fact I'm a Chrysler fan big time. I actually love just about every body style. Fav is 66/67 B body. If there was ever a car built to drag race, it was that one. Most of the Stock elim. classes were dominated by Mopar back then. I probably don't have to tell you that they have one of the best leaf spring rear suspensions ever designed by the factory. I had some pics back then of a friends 70 GTX hitting the springs so hard on a launch that every leaf was unwrapped and the rim was almost touching the track.
 

1991notchbackLX

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Yeah I was thinking 8-3/4" but my hand is stuck in the decimal world.

As for our race It'd be real close, The engine is out of mine so I guess it'll come down to who can push harder.:D It'll cost you 75.30 to find out though.:)

I always liked the Duster/Demon. Matter of fact I'm a Chrysler fan big time. I actually love just about every body style. Fav is 66/67 B body. If there was ever a car built to drag race, it was that one. Most of the Stock elim. classes were dominated by Mopar back then. I probably don't have to tell you that they have one of the best leaf spring rear suspensions ever designed by the factory. I had some pics back then of a friends 70 GTX hitting the springs so hard on a launch that every leaf was unwrapped and the rim was almost touching the track.

Haha, maybe we can just plasma cut the floor boards out and race Fred Flintstone style? :D

I'm glad to see there's another Mopar fan on here besides myself and LarsD. I just "finished" the restoration on my '67 fish and 80% through the paint and body on the '71 Duster. I'm with you on the 66/67 B body platform. Those cars look all business even when they're sitting still. I'd love a '67 Coronet, although my dream Mopar is a '62 Savoy post (off the beaten path, I know, but rare enough to stand out and cool enough to make it worth every penny).

Here's my current junk: (forgive the derailment)

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CarMichael Angelo

clearly, I’ve got something going on in that hole
15 Year Member
Nov 29, 1999
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No need to worry about the thread going off on a tangent, it's probably been read by anybody that gives a rats ass already.

I've ck'd your cars out on some of the threads you have posted. The Barracuda is very cool.:nice:

I missed my chance to buy the only Barracuda I could afford back in 07'.
It was only a coupe, and probably had a slant 6, but I was so tied up in the last drag car I had, that I was spending every dime I made on that stupid waste of money.

I find it incredible that Mopar has had a resurgence in popularity like they have had since they became "collectable". Put a hemi in anything that has a pentastar on it and it becomes instantly worth 30,000 or more. Have an original Hemi car, and it's automatically worth 6 figures. Damn Collectors, I hate them:nonono:

Back when this story was happening, I remember the cars being the least desirable of the big 3 by almost everyone. I myself skoffed at the used car dealer that wanted 4500.00 for the low mile 340 6 pack AAR 'Cuda at the lot next to my house.( Yeah, the nerve of that guy, wanting 4500.00 for a 340 6 pack AAR cuda.) How much is it worth today?

Fast forward to today, Though I've always been a Ford guy, If I was gonna buy a new car and it was between the Camaro, Mustang and the Challenger, I'd have an SRT8 challenger in a heartbeat.
 

smokin joe

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Sep 30, 2000
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another great story Mike.
I don't think I have ever expressed a dislike for mopars. my top two are 1970 Super Bee and 1971 Roadrunner. But, since this is a Mustang site that is what I try to discuss.
 

CarMichael Angelo

clearly, I’ve got something going on in that hole
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Great story! But all the kids sitting at your feet (me included) want to know........Will THUNDERCOLT ride again?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Thanks, and No. The 70's were a weird decade. The crazier the concept, the more it seemed it was accepted.

I could only imagine the response to my first post here if I had that same car now, and I was still "that" guy.
:nutkick:
:loser:
:chair:.