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Words by Richard Kratz
Photos by Joe Huether, Ronnie Cloninger/Hot Rod High Photography, Ron Rairdon, and Tony Whitney
Joe Huether is a Mopar guy and always has been. Back in 1992 he had an accident in his sand rail and injured his back. As he recovered he thought about his life—he had two kids now and needed to take care of himself and think of his family. In the aftermath he sold his motorcycles, sand rail and, mistakenly, his 1973 Roadrunner. It would take a few years to realize that selling the Roadrunner was a vehicle too far and he lived with regret for over 20 years.
The Mopar bug reinfested Joe in October of 2008 when he bought and restored a 1972 Challenger. We covered this fantastic car in our May 2010 issue. Joe says that project satisfied him for a year or so, and then he started thinking about his old Roadrunner. Thinking turned to searching the Internet.
Searching actually led to discovering an ad for his actual old 1973 Roadrunner for sale. Happy ending? Unfortunately no, the car had been sold when he called on the ad and by the time Joe tracked down the new owner it was already at the shop being restored.
Joe thought he found his next car in another ad. The car looked good and the owner claimed that it was complete and all original and he was the original owner. It was original paint and so forth. So Joe hooked up his trailer and made the drive from Idaho to Sacramento only to find out the owner was a lying SOB. The car had a terrible repaint, was rusty and Joe noticed that the rear seats had been painted black with a paint brush and house paint. To add insult to injury on the way home Joe got a ticket. Ouch.
So now Joe was thinking it was a good idea to stay closer to home. Joe knew of a 1973 Roadrunner sitting in a field 200 miles from his house. He contacted the owner who sent him some photos. While the car was a mess, it was complete.
Joe figured he’s never happy unless he tears a car down and rebuilds it to his satisfaction anyway, so why waste time looking for a runner?
Joe hooked up his trailer again and drove 200 miles over the border to Oregon. When he got there he realized the car wasn’t a mess…it was a major mess. A cracked block, useless paint, completed trashed interior, body damage, a broken windshield, bee hives and field mice nests were hidden under 15 years of dust. But as he looked at it all, Joe realized that most of what needed replacing or fixing was stuff he’d do on any car this old. So he and the guy reached a deal, $600 changed hands and Joe dragged the car onto the trailer with the winch and four flat tires fighting him.
As he drove home with his new project Joe thought about what his wife was going to say when he got home.
Joe wasted no time getting to work. The engine and the transmission were yanked and junked, the interior was removed and set aside and the bees, mice and spiders were evicted. The car was sandblasted which revealed good news, almost all of the car was very sound. Joe and his son Zach went to work on the body which didn’t need that much work to get nice and straight.
The engine was sent off to Craig Brown at Block and Head shop in Boise, Idaho. Craig massaged the 440 into a 493 stroker with 452 cylinder heads, 9.7:1 compression, Hughes Whiplash cam, Edelbrock Performer intake, Holly 800 double pumper carb, MSD 6AL ignition and ceramic coated headers. The car has never been on a dyno but Craig’s estimate of 500 horsepower sounds very realistic to us.
The transmission was rebuilt by Dave McCallen who added a shift kit to the valve body and a 2,500 RPM stall converter.