Coolest car wars pits son’s twice made-over ’Cuda against Dad’s Road Runner.
By Al Dente Photos by TheBruntBros
Father and son rivalries have been going on since there have been fathers and sons. Back in the caveman days it was who could make or buy the biggest club for whacking those mammoths for Sunday dinner. Then it was who could build a bigger fire, grow the longest beard, create more menacing cave drawings and on and on.
Fast forward a few hundred thousand years. Father and son club one-upsmanship has evolved into car one-upsmanship. Take Ron Wille, Jr. and his dad, Ron Wille (“Dad”), for example. Dad had a ’72 Road Runner that had been parked in the garage for a number of years. He pulled it out in 1997 when Ron was 13 and started a restoration. ’Course Ron couldn’t one-up Dad not having anything to one-up him with. So the following year, Dad bought him a ’74 318 ’Cuda that he found in the local paper. The car showed some shoddy Bondowork
underneath the gray primered flanks. But it ran and drove. Still, Dad’s Road Runner had the upper hand in
the cooler car derby. Advantage: Dad.
Ron drove the car to high school in its primered state until he put some coins together and went for a Rally red paint job. He did up the ’Cuda like and AAR complete with AAR hood. The 318 went bye-bye and the hungry engine mounts got fed with a 360 stroked to 408 cubes fed by a 6-pack. The 904 trans gave way to a 727 with the shifter moved from the column to the floor. The paint job was OK, but not super nice as the ’Cuda still served as a high school beater with occasional excursions to cruises and car shows. After 5 years of driving, the car started showing rust bubbles around the rear glass and rocker panels. Ron raced the ’Cuda several times, laying sown consistent 12.5s. On the dyno, the printout showed 380 RWHP and 400 ft.-lbs. TQ. Advantage: Ron.
Dad, having restored his original-owner Beeper started looking for another ’72 to modify. He found a one- owner ’Runner with a 400/727 drivetrain on the Internet being offered by Muscle Car Restorations. It was Tor
Red and came with the Air Grabber hood. The original plan was to go with a stroker motor, but Dad had put his name on the list for the new 472 crate Hemi. His number came up and it turned out the Hemi was only 2 grand more than the stroker wedge. Seemed like a no-brainer.
But the Hemi proved troublesome leaking as it did from the rear main bearing seal. Dad replaced one seal after another to no avail. The retainer was out of round. By the 5th go-round, he had the swap down to 40 minutes. Indy Cylinder Head to the rescue: They came out with a new CNC billet retainer. Problem solved.
Dad took the car down to a rolling shell and then over to Stencil’s Rods & Wrecks for the required bodywork and a DuPont Hot Hues Molten Orange paint job. Dad reassembled the car himself, beefing the suspension with heavier T-bars and swaybars, adding Caltrac bars and installing frame connectors. The trans went out
to be fortified to stand up to the Hemi which dyno’d at 580 HP and 550 TQ. The interior was redone with seat covers from PUI. Just Dashes redid the crash pad and the stock gauges were rebuilt. All told, the entire job, off and on, took five years. Advantage: Dad.
Not one to take that lying down, Ron, who had driven the ’Cuda in its Rally red regalia from 2001 until 2007, was planning his next move, gathering ideas on how to one-up Dad. Pulling the trigger, he tore the ’Cuda own to a rolling shell and sent it packing to Stencil’s Rod & Wrecks. They installed frame connectors and reinforced some of the body seams that were cracking due to Ron’s shenanigans with the stroker.
Stencil’s beefed the suspension with 6-leaf rear springs, bigger torsion bars and swaybars. Then they sprayed a splendid coat of DuPont’s Hot Hue Purple Rhapsody. Still, Ron felt the body needed more bling (whatever that is). So on went window louvers, fender gills and a rear spoiler for a ’71 ’Cuda. Ron dusted off his Gold Card for all NOS goodies to make sure they fit right. Now for the bullet. A trip to Dave Pagel was next on Ron’s to-do list. Dave works at Advance Auto by day and builds engines by night. Dave mind-melded with Ray Barton for something that would give Dad’s Hemi Road Runner a run for its feathers. Ray put together all the hardware to build a 440 into a 496 stroker. Components included Scatt crank, and I-beam rods, Diamond domed 10:1 pistons with valve 915 ported and polished closed chamber heads, Barton’s solid cam with 0.638˝ lift and 230 deg. duration, Barton’s roller rockers, Crane valvetrain, Smith pushrods, Ferrera 2.10/1.80 valves, and Mopar 6-pack intake supporting Barry Grant 6-Shooter carbs.
The engine was installed after with the car was already painted. It took 3 guys 3 hours and a multitude of fender covers and bed sheets to prevent marring the engine compartment.
Ron propped up the 2˝ Hooker Super Comp headers on the inner fenders before the engine was lowered away and bolted ’em up once the stroker was mounted. (Now you know why we drop the finished unibody over the engine/suspension/tranny/K-member). When we photo’d the car at the 2011 Monster Mopar weekend, Ron had backed the Barton mill with a 4-speed. Dad must’ve upgraded his beeper, because since the shoot, Ron went for his third trans—a Tremec TKO 600 that feeds back to a Moser M60 rear with 4.33 gears. The overdrive tranny coupled with 30-inch tires gives him a 70 MPH cruising speed at 2800 RPM. Ron also upgraded the rear with Super Stock springs and Caltrac bars.
Turning to the interior, Ron shopped around picking up what he needed from Legendary, Allen Fox and Year One. He stuffed the dash full of Autometer dials and topped it all off with a hand-made console cover hewed from solid maple.
So the big question is, did Ron succeed in topping Dad’s beeper, or is it a tie or does Dad still hold the edge? We’ll let you decide.