Where Are They Now?
I was looking in the bathroom mirror the other day when it hit me. Inanimate objects have it made. Unlike animate objects – cats, dogs, people – they don’t get old and can be revived time and time again. To demonstrate, lets consider muscle Mopars and their ability, unlike living things (Dolly Parton excluded), to be restored to like-new condition. Naaah, I’m not getting all nostalgic here, just marveling at the fact that underneath virtually every brightly polished Mopar at the show lies decades of untold stories of previous lives lived.
The current owner is often the tenth, but he tricks himself into thinking he’s the first. We play this same psychological trick on ourselves when we settle in to sleep at any hotel or motel, thinking “I’m the first one to use this room” but oh boy, if the joint could talk! This got me to thinking back to the tons of cool Mopars I grew up around as a kid in West Brookfield, Massachusetts during the seventies and eighties. Where are they now?
I remember a clean 1970 Sport Fury GT parked in a driveway on Foster Hill Road. It wore its original EW-1 Alpine White paint and had those cool pencil thin black strobe stripes running down its flanks. Of course, being a GT, standard equipment included the U-code 440 Super Commando, high-upshift Torqueflite, 15-inch chrome slot styled wheels and 3.23 Sure Grip. Mrs. Ryan, a trim housewife, drove this one and I’d frequently see it as I rode my bicycle around town with my buddies. I’d always point out the subtle 440 emblems and the twin hood bulges then listen to the Magnum rumble as it motored by. I last saw this car around 1983. It still looked great but the word was it had sold to a guy who swapped in a 318 for better fuel economy. Soon after, it faded away.
Then there was Madman Doherty’s ’69 Super Bee WM21 post-coupe. This guy was from Warren, the next town over, and was well know for his penchant for successfully running from the cops whenever the contents of the Bee – or his head - proved to be too risky to allow a search. Another original paint car (albeit spotted with primer and hastily performed body repairs), this one was F-5 Medium Green Metallic and had the H-code 383 Magnum with a 4-speed stick. I’d see this one parked outside Ye Olde Tavern and slowly roll past on my bike. I made sure I never touched it or lingered too long (these were tough dudes).
I’ll never forget the cracked remains of the white bumblebee tail stripe, the domed hood, the surface rusted 5-spoke Rocket mags with 60-series bias ply rubber and the way a red bandanna replaced the rubber shift boot. To my adolescent mind, this thing was awesome. Word was, Doherty kept a set of slicks in the trunk and the dozens of burn-out marks plastered on Route 67 in Warren proved it. The last time I saw this car, it was on the bottom row of a stack of cars at Balicky’s Auto Wrecking in Ware. Waiting to be crushed, it lived fast and died young around 1984 at 15 years of age.
Another hotbed of Mopar activity in my town was old man Brodak’s compound on the edge of Lake Wickaboag. After hearing tales of a fleet of wing cars, around 1980 I finally worked up the nerve and rode my bike across town and to the end of Lake Shore Drive for a look-see. Brodak’s compound was at the bottom of a steep cul-de-sac, so there could be no subtle, unnoticed visits for this shy and awkward kid. But what I saw from the top of the driveway was irresistible, a Charger Daytona, a SuperBird and two Charger R/T’s. I coasted down the driveway and immediately, Brodak walked out of his house and asked what I wanted. After a stammering statement of my interest in Mopars, he took pity and gave me a guided tour.
The Daytona was a blue L-code 440 Magnum car with a console-mounted Torqueflite, 8-3/4 and rare power windows. Word was that it was originally ordered by Dodge PR guy, Moon Mullins who sold it to a guy named Blanchard over in Palmer before Brodak got it. The blue SuperBird (non stock, it was purportedly an original J-6 Sassy Grass Green car) was a U-code 440 Super Commando 4-barrel with a pistol grip 4-speed and 3.54 Dana. I remember the nose cone of the Bird had been molded to the front fenders with filler and that both cars wore 15-inch rally wheels with later 1972-up center caps. The wheels on the Bird were painted blue to match the body.