:: Tom Lembeck topped off a three-month ‘Cuda convertible buying frenzy with this rare gem… a ’71 Winchester Gray export.
Let’s be honest. We don’t call ourselves Mopar nuts with out good reason. After all, to champion the underdog muscle car marque with blind devotion as we do, we’ve got to be a little off-center. It’s just that some of us have more nuts stashed away than others.
As a trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Tom Lembeck has worked hard to collect enough nuts to play the Mopar game the way most of us can only dream about. Early last year Tom decided to put his pile of nuts to work on his obsession with Hemi ‘Cudas. Following an eight or nine-year slump in Mopar purchases, Tom made up for lost time in a big way — four Hemi convertibles acquired in a three-month period. The jewel of the lot is this 1971 four speed convertible originally exported to France, complete with matching numbers, build sheet, and French title. Whew!
Tom’s interest in the car piqued as he watched the ‘Cuda’s price drop in a Hemming’s Motor News ad from stratospheric to mere atmospheric. Enroute to his cousin’s wedding in San Diego, Tom decided to trade some frequent flyer miles and a little cash for a detour to Denver in order to see the car in person. He wasn’t exactly blown away by the convertible at first blush. Yeah, the car has more goodies than a candy store — Dana, Hemi four-speed, Rallye dash in kilometers (because the car was ordered for European export), power windows, heavy-duty underpinnings, power brakes and steering, Rallye wheels, and basically anything you could want in a Hemi drop-top and more — but that subdued silver/gray topcoat just didn’t seem to match the hardware underneath.
But that didn’t mean he wasn’t interested. Back home in Chicago a few days later, Tom moved to buy the drop-top from owner John Burns. The initial bargaining session produced no results, so Tom proceeded to fill his garage with a couple of ’70 four-speed ‘Cuda convertibles be bought through friend Steve Klein. Still, Tom couldn’t shake the allure of Burns’ French Cuda.
So Tom placed another call to Denver. The new price was close, but not close enough. Tom called again and threw out another figure. Burns took a day to mull it over, then called Tom back saying he would work out a one-day offer the next day.
“Send the money, take the car.”
Three weeks later the elusive ‘Cuda was delivered to Chicago.
“Immediately after getting the car from outside Denver back to Chicago,” says Tom, “I drove it up to Aloha Automotive in Wisconsin to check it on the road and there Tom White and the boys at Aloha gave it a full inspection. By the way, it was a two-and-a-half hour drive through nasty Chicago/Milwaukee traffic.
“Basically we tried to analyze what the previous restoration shop had done to the car, what needed to be fixed or reworked, replaced, tweaked, massaged, or, to make a long story short, where the money needed to be put to get the car to a level it deserved, being as rare as it is. The quality of the restoration needed to be fine tuned. The inside door handles were wrong [Challenger]; the front header panel to fender area needed to be reworked; the bumpers were poor quality and need to be ‘show’ chrome; the car ran poorly because the carburetors needed reworking and one lifter was bad; the fan clutch was incorrect; the power windows worked erratically and with a poor fit; the rear tail light was filled in, resulting in a poor line definition between the quarterpanel and tail light panel; and the alternator belt was loose due to a tripped upper bolt in the engine block. These items and more showed that attention to detail was lacking in the previous restoration.”
Working diligently, Aloha Automotive in Port Washington, Wisconsin managed to whip the ‘Cuda into shape in time for the 2000 Mopar Nationals. The most difficult aspect of the glossing process was acquiring the correct parts and researching the Winchester gray topcoat color for comparison.
“The price, the color, the restoration, and the articles on the car all combined to prevent any serious buyers from actually going out to see the car when it was [originally] done,” says Tom. “The anecdote, therefore, is to check something out for yourself instead of relying on others who may or may not know the real story.”
Now there’s some real advice all of us can use, no matter how many nuts we have to play with.
Story by : Mopar Muscle