Parts & Pieces
Hot rodders see things differently; we’re ornithologists of steel and rubber rather than feather and flock. Whenever we come across any sort of old car, we subconsciously start figuring out what exactly we’re looking at. The more cars you see—albeit it in books, magazines, the Internet or in the wild—the easier the classification seems to get. From a young age you start picking out the Deuces and the A’s, the coupes and the roadsters, and so on and so forth. And then, once you get the makes, models and years sorted out, you find yourself digging a little deeper.
Engines, transmissions, wheels, tires, carbs, grilles, rearends, taillights—yes! You soon realize there’s so much to these things and no two of them are ever really the same. You start noticing subtitles like louver angle and windshield wiper placement. Trim models start making sense. You’re learning. You feel good. And then you discover the deeper you dive into your studies, the more there is to learn.
Like countless hot rodders and customizers around the globe, model cars were my gateway into this sport. As a kid, I’d beg my parents to take me to the hobby shop across town to see if they had any of the new kits in stock. More often than not, they obliged. Just like that, I was a hot rodder. I was a customizer. My hand-me-down razor saw was my Sawzall and my glue was my welder. My workbench was my garage and my driveway was my spray booth. Mags, slicks, blowers, injectors, panel paint—there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. I was building cars just like the ones in the magazines. It seems so simple, but at the time I felt like I was doing something big—even if it was small.
These days, I’m always thinking about the parts that make up the whole. Where’d that come from? How’d they make that? Those are the pieces of the puzzle that make up these cars that we’ve grown to love. And even though several years have passed since I’ve worked in styrene, I sometimes find myself looking at a full-size car and wondering what kits I’d have to raid to bring the car to life in 1/25th scale.
That thought process is nothing new. Back in the 1960s, articles, supplements and even complete magazines were dedicated to these plastic fantastics, ultimately creating a new subset of our hobby. I was well aware of the fact that models were immensely popular, yet I was somewhat surprised when I came across the “Modelcraft” column in the middle of the December 1965 issue of Car Craft. At this stage of the game, CC was well on its way to becoming the diehard drag racing magazine of record, yet they still made room for some small-scale fun. Their subject? The Plymouth Dealers Association “Hemi-Cuda:” a mid-engined predecessor to the Funny Car built by the folks at B&M under the guidance of high-rollin’ team owner Lou Baney. And yes, it’s the one that Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen crashed at Lions. The Hemi-Cuda must have been big news during the second part of ’65, because the radical little late model also showed up front and center on the cover of the December issue of Rod & Custom. “INSIDE FACTS: HEMI CUDA” blurted the headline.
With Baney, The Mongoose, Dave Zeuschel, Fred Goeske and the rest of the cast, there’s more to this car than we have room for today. Instead, I’d like to take a minute to highlight the how-to guide for building this tire-smoking terror in miniature penned by William A. Moore in 1965. Small scale, big fun, ya see?
Side Note: AMT actually went on to produce a mid-engined Barracuda kit that looked much like this illustration. As far as I know, they ended up changing the body to a ’66 and re-marketing it as the “Hemi Under Glass” with the blown 426. // “Modelcraft” from Car Craft, December 1965—additional photos from the H.A.M.B. and across the web. If they’re yours, please let me know.