December 2012 CarsinBarns.com Calendar Car
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1970 Plymouth Superbirds
Father and Son Birds
This is the story of how I bought two Superbirds from a nice older gentleman here in my hometown. I had known about these cars since I was in high school, (1983) and remember seeing them parked up on a hill. As you passed by, you could just get a glimpse of the wings from the road. I had been told by many people that the man that owned them was a "mean guy". BIG DOG in yard and would meet you in front with a shotgun if you even pulled up in his yard.
The local story was that the guy had been bugged by so many people about the cars, that he had drug them back in the woods behind his house and they would NEVER be sold.
Well, in 2006 my son (then eleven years old) and I bought a 1969 charger and also bought the Daytona conversion kit sold by Stinger fiberglass to build a Daytona clone. Well, I am no body man, and I was at a complete loss at how to even begin to hang the nose cone on the charger.
One day, I was in our hometown post office and I saw an older friend of mine (who is also into cars) and I told him of how I had bought the Daytona kit and he said, "Ya know, if you go up to this guy's house, with the parts in your truck, proving you are truly working on a wing car clone, he may let you look at his cars."
I figured, what the heck, so that afternoon, my son and I loaded the truck with the nosecone, z brackets, headlight buckets and drove to this guys house. Just as I suspected as soon as he heard my truck pulling in his yard he came out the front door. I was kinda speechless, my son was worried to say the least.
The first words out of my mouth were, "Sir, my son and I are working on a Daytona Clone and I was told that you may still have a Superbird back on your land." He quickly said, "Nope, I don't have one...I've got two of em."
I quickly jumped out of my truck and reached in the bed, and lifted the fiberglass nose cone over my head to show him I wasn't "pulling his chain." He walked off the porch, looked at my parts and said, "What do you need to know?"
"How does the nose attach to the car," I asked. He said, "First off, MY CARS ARE NOT FOR SALE...UNDERSTOOD?" I said, "Yes, I do, all I'm asking is if I can take a few pics of your car so that i can hang the nose on mine." He said, "Got your camera?" I almost snatched the door off my truck, quickly motioning for my son to get out the other side and follow us.
As we walked back in his yard, there was a grave yard of old cars and jeeps, then back in some DEEP BRUSH, I saw the two wings appear. I really felt my heart race, even though I knew they were not for sale, just seeing them sitting side by side really got my adrenaline pumping.
He said, "There they are, that's my children. Take all the pictures you want, just don't show them off to people. I've been approached by over a hundred guys over the years, and i tell them all, not for sale."
I said, "I can respect that." I also added, "I'm also sure you know what you have here." "Yes, I do," he said. He then went on to say how he was sick of guys over the years, saying "How much for them old Plymouth's? You know they are not worth much." I laughed and went about my business snapping pics of the nosecone, z brackets, mounting bolts, etc.
As I'm on my back, under the car taking pictures, the old guy starts talking to my son, asking him where he went to school, what were his hobby's, etc. I must admit, my son is a very well mannered boy. I felt good when he answered with, "yes sir" and "no sir" and "I like helping my dad with his cars." I didn't know how important that last line was until later.
I added that my son is a straight "A" student and he was big into riding dirt bikes. Little did I know , the old guy was a old motocross rider also. He and my son talked about different things for the next ten minutes, while I took over 100 pics of the nose of the car.
When I was finished, I dusted the dirt off my clothes and I told him how much I appreciated him taking the time to allow me and my son to see his cars and taking the pics. As we walked back to the truck, he told me how impressed he was with my son and how he liked the fact that we did things together.
As I got in my truck, I reached over and took one of my company business cards along with a ten dollar bill and handed it to the man and he said, "What's this for?". I said, "I know you didn't have to let me see those cars, but you did, and your time is worth something." He offered me the ten dollars back. I said, "I'm also giving you the ten dollars just so you will KEEP MY CARD, I know your cars are NOT for sale, BUT if for some reason you ever decide to send your 'Kids' to a good local home (talking about the cars), give me a call, or if it's twenty years down the road, call my son, haha. I will give you YOUR price for them."
With that said, my son and I got in the truck and drove home. Now I must admit, I was still shocked from the site of seeing two real Superbirds, "sitting side by side" in the year 2006, right in this guys back yard. My son, realized (by my ongoing chattering) how rare of a site he had just witnessed.
In the weeks and months after that day, my son and I on an almost daily basis, referenced that day. How dazed I was from seeing the birds "sitting side by side." My son would say, "Hey dad, how about those two birds sitting side by side in the woods?" And when it rained and we were working out on a project car he would say, "Ya know those two birds are sitting in the rain, side by side."
Fast forward about six months later, It was Jan 2, 2007 and my phone at work rang. I was taken aback by a voice that spoke quickly, "Hey , if you're still interested in those two birds, I'm ready to sell them to ya." At that point I felt a rush come over me, I asked if he was at home and he said yes. So I said, "I'll be right over."
Now I have heard of story's of guys letting cars slip through their hands due to not "sealing the deal " right then and there, so here I leave work, (didn't tell anyone I was going, or where I was going). I went by my local bank and withdrew 1000.00 cash, I then went and picked up my son to ride along with me. Knowing that I could leave the man 1000.00 and a hand shake that day would ensure I would end up with the cars as soon as a deal was finalized.
As I drove over to his house, I wondered what I was going to have to pay for the cars. When I pulled up to his house, I saw him standing in the front yard, he said, "Before we talk price, I want to give you my conditions I ask of you before I sell them to you. First off, your son is the number one reason I'm gonna sell these two cars to you. Your son is a good boy, well mannered, and reminds me of what a good kid should be. Second, I like the way you guys are a father/son team. When I see you guys working together, it is a great thing."
Then he went on to say, "Now 1st rule is this, do not sell them, only if you promise to do a father/son project. So that you end up with one car and your son ends up with the other. That's the only way I will do the deal. 2nd rule, I will need cash, no checks and no paper trail. 3rd, do not mention to anyone what amount I'm selling you the cars for."
They were not a steal, but as I agreed, I gave him HIS price. I didn't have the money to bring him all at once, but he said, pay me when you can, but you can start getting the cars out of the woods tomorrow.
The next day (after getting little sleep that night), I was at his house with two chainsaws, and a bunch of chain, woodblocks and portable air compressor. We worked for about three hours cutting trees, and being careful not to drop one on either of the cars.
When we freed the Red Superbird, we got a roll back and loaded it up. I literally had to duct tape the nose so that the rusted metal bottom would not come off on the way home. After it was safe in my backyard, we went back for the White Bird. The White car's nose had a tree starting to grow into the nosecone. He told me the White car had a few parts in the trunk that he wanted to keep, when we popped the trunk I saw a set of cross ram intakes, a set of barracuda louvers, and a complete six pack set up. He gave me the six pack set up to use on the Red car.
When we got the White Bird loaded on the rollback, he said, "Oh yea, come over to this old shack and I think I've got a few of the trim parts in it." Well, the "shack" had been blown over by Hurricane HUGO back in 1988 and it was literally at a forty five degree angle, I found myself crawling on my hands and knees inside to look around, he yelled to me, "On the bottom wooden shelf you should see the trim parts."
Well, there was no bottom shelf anymore, so as I sifted though the leaves and dirt, I found the two side mirrors, the complete nose trim and the "holy grail"...all four rear window trim pieces...wow they were in great shape, just buried in the dirt.
Now with all the parts and the second Bird loaded, my son and I shook his hand and told him we would uphold his request and do our best to finish both cars as father/son projects. We still go by and visit him about once every two months and always take him a nice Christmas gift. One important detail is this, he did have a third car in his yard that we were offered, but at that time I couldn't raise anymore money to buy a third car. The car that I left was Black on Black 68 Hemi roadrunner with 11,000 original miles.
Now for the details on the SUPERBIRDS:
The Red Superbird, RM23UOA167153, did not have a engine in it. He mentioned he had bought it from the junk yard in 1974 for $700. The car shows about 55,000 miles and is currently being restored with a date coded Hemi. It is an original dana 60 4-speed car. We found the build sheet under the front seat. After a 4 year and 7 month restoration, the Red Superbird is finally home and show-ready!
The White Superbird, RM23UOA173759, has the original engine and transmission. The fender tag is there and we found partial build sheets. We were able to start the engine in about a day. He mentioned that he drove the car while going to college and it was last on the road in 1983. Our plans for the White car will be to make it driver quality. No complete resto, just patched, fixed and driveable.
From Jim in Virginia
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