Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tom's Trippin Fish

This 1970 Plymouth ‘cuda has a story to tell.  A story that goes beyond the incredible build that turned it into the dazzling Super Stock D Automatic that it is now.  It has a family history, and the family has a history within the NHRA world.

For my purpose here, however, I will forgo the depths of the familial story and give you a brief rundown of the two year long build and the Trippin Fish’s first meet.  That’s the story you really want anyway, right? 

Late in 2010, Tom decided to breathe new life into the old muscle car.  It began with a 12-point chromoly roll cage, meticulously installed by the master welder, himself.  (For those who don’t know, Tom is the master welder.)  He took his time with it.  It had to fit in the car so the door handles were accessible, it invaded the dash as little as possible, and it was hidden from the view of admirers and spectators.

In the fall of 2011, Tom began stripping the car to bare metal.  The ‘cuda then went to Hilltop Body & Paint where Mark Dumar gave it the white pearl base.  When it came home, it gleamed in the sun like fresh snow.

Flake & scales, & first time out with the new wheels.
Overhead shot
Lace in red.  Scales in blue
Once it came home, the laying of the lines began.  Tom and I spent countless hours measuring, and pulling and stretching tape to mark the patterns that became the inlay designs that give the ‘cuda its SS/DA look.  Tom then spent more incalculable hours flake bombing silver and gold before breaking out his old air brush.

A close look reveals assorted details hidden within the candy colors covering the flake.  Look closely, and you will see the lace and fish scales beneath the outer candy coats of red and blue.  The color changes are subtle and artistic.

Into the trailer, heading for a front-end set-up
All this time, the hemi block was in Glen Rock, PA where Jim Bowen was putting it together.  It was put on the dyno in September.  When Bowen and Tom were finished pulling the motor, the readings showed a top horsepower of 836 and 730 foot-pounds of torque.  Tom was ecstatic, of course.

Capitol Raceway staging lanes

The build was kept a closely guarded secret until the night of October 26, 2012 when Tom took the ‘cuda out for her maiden quarter-mile pass at Capitol Raceway in Crofton, MD.  But the “big reveal” was for the next day.

MIR staging lanes
Maryland International Raceway, or Bud’s Creek, held an invitational hemi shootout and an exhibition including great racers from when these cars ruled the strip.  Tom’s ‘cuda, still incomplete at the time, was included in the shootout, obliging him to show and run.  

And he made an impression.  Spectators walking through the pit area paused for a walk around and photo op when they came to the Trippin Fish.  In the lanes it drew other racers, and at the line the announcer’s voice exuded excitement over the car.

Two “qualifying” rounds revealed what seemed to be an electrical issue with the motor “breaking up” as it went down the track.  Everyone had an answer to the problem, but few of them agreed with each other.  Being a man who changes one thing at a time in order to figure out the problem, Tom chose to keep the charger on the battery while in the pits.  It helped a little.

In the first round of eliminations, Tom and his Trippin Fish got a by-run, where he ran the quarter-mile by himself with no one in the next lane.  He was automatically advanced to the next round just for reaching the finish line.  

But these hemi guys were bracket racing, and that calls for some serious driving.  Tom won the next couple rounds by using his driving skills, forcing his opponents to “run out,” or run faster than the time they stated, disqualifying them.  Even though he didn’t want to go any further than the second round because of how the ‘cuda was acting, Tom’s proficiency behind the wheel and his desire to make the races close took him to the finals.

The final race was as close as they come.  Tom, being the handicapped car with a dial-in time of 11.20, left first.  The AAR ‘cuda in the other lane had to chase him down to make up for the almost 3 second lead.  In a complex finish, where both cars ran out, Tom came out in second place.  He had made it to the line first, but he ran under his dial-in time by more than his opponent.  

Runner-up in his first meet with his “new” hemi ‘cuda isn’t bad at all.  On the whole, Tom is very happy with the results.  He was even invited to appear at the Legends race on November 10.  

Tom with his runner-up trophy
Please leave comments, either here on the blog or on the Facebook link, to let Tom know what you think of the car and his first time out with it.  He loves to hear what other people think.

Also, I will keep everyone posted if the car gets a feature in a magazine, as we hope.

Hemi Shootout Burno

1 comment:

  1. Hey Tom -- I really don't know a thing about cars other than they need gas and an occasional oil change. So, I don't understand the 'lingo' or am capable of appreciating all your hard work. The only thing I can tell you is 'that sure is a pretty car' :)

    Congratulations on your win!!