1970 Plymouth Barracuda – Finding Harmony
https://www.hotrod.com/articles/1970-pl ... g-harmony/
This is an amazing machine!A boyhood dream pushed Paul Lee to do more than he ever imagined, and it’s all manifested in this amazing ’70 ’Cuda.
For every car guy, there is a magic moment that locks in the passion for life. In the case of Paul Lee, that defining day came in the summer of 1971. Curiosity aroused, Paul begged his father to drop him off at the front gate of Atco Dragway—the legendary South Jersey quarter-mile that to this day has the reputation as one of the fastest, best-hooking tracks anywhere on the planet.
The 13-year-old pressed his face against the chain-link fence. The explosive crackle of a nitro-burning Funny Car instantly changed to a wail, and rattled the bones of his inner ear to the point of physical pain. Paul seemed unfazed as his steely eyes locked onto the blue Chevy of “Jungle Jim” Liberman. A thousand feet down the track, Liberman finally lifted, and the packed crowd roared to its feet. The reverberation of the nitro-injected Hemi died away, its pungent energy gradually swallowed by the pine barrens.
In the other lane, Leroy Goldstein did the same in the Ramchargers Challenger; the white and red Mopar incinerated its swollen rear slicks, in the process creating long hot trails that would propel the missile down track. He backed the flopper into the staging area where Liberman waited. The two Hemis beat the air with a barrage of cannon fire, like two juggernaut ironclads locked in battle. The announcer’s tinny voice on the PA somehow cut through the thunder, his unbridled excitement bouncing off the grandstands. Lights flashed and the two sleek machines bolted down track in lockstep, stiletto-thin yellow flames erupting from zoomie headers and stabbing the blue sky. Paul took in the sights, sounds, and smells of that scene, and in that moment found harmony in the universe.
In the coming months, years, and decades, this singular boyhood experience in the pine barrens of South Jersey would give shape and purpose to Paul’s life, informing his actions through both conscious decision and by an unconscious and relentless gravitational pull. And as you’ll see, it’s also what shaped his decision to build the ’70 ‘Cuda you see here.
At the age of 17, Paul began surreptitiously drag racing his mother’s six-cylinder Duster. Then he got his own ’73 Camaro, coincidentally the same kind driven by his hero, “Jungle Jim” Liberman. A full-chassis Super Pro bracket car came in 1983, which ran a steady string of 9.30s and 9.20s. Then in 1988, Paul made the life-altering move into an Alcohol Funny Car, which he owned and drove until 1993.
Here is where the story might end, except for two things: Paul has the rare capability of seeing the world with a much bigger picture, and he’s one tenacious pit bull. Life as the owner of a struggling Alcohol Funny Car team means everything else is sacrificed for those precious five seconds of nirvana. It means giving up control of a huge chunk of your existence for a really small slice of exquisite bliss. As Paul put it, “I wanted to be more in control of my destiny, and to do that you have to be successful in business.”
When that lightbulb blinked on, Paul wasted no time. He sold the Funny Car and went to work driving for other teams, gaining more experience, making more connections, and forging friendships that would stand the test of time. Meanwhile, Paul was quietly amassing an arsenal of degrees that would give him the skills to succeed in business, from an undergraduate degree in finance from the esteemed Wharton Business School, to a master’s in finance and a law degree, both from Rutgers University. Did we mention Paul was tenacious?
Armed with the right education, Paul began his economic emancipation, working at various financial securities firms, then at the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. His driving career likewise took a fortuitous turn, culminating in a Top 10 points total in NHRA’s Alcohol Funny Car category in 2004 after winning events in Englishtown, Topeka, and Atlanta. In 2005, Paul moved from the Alcohol Funny Car ranks to nitro Funny Car where he became the shoe for J&B Motorsports. The change was exhilarating for Paul, where he quickly became the student once again. Paul told us, “An alcohol Funny Car is very hard to drive. You’ve got to rev it up, you’ve got to dump the clutch, you have to hit the shift points, and you’ve got to steer it. The nitro Funny Car is like a bucking bronco—it’s all manhandling. You don’t have to shift it, you just have to steer it. It’s so much quicker. The nitro Funny Car moves faster that you can think, you just drive it by feel. The alcohol Funny Car is a pretty forgiving car, but the nitro isn’t. You can have a bad day real fast in a nitro Funny Car.”
Around that time, Paul left the Philadelphia Stock Exchange to take a job as CFO of Boninfante Friction, who are among other things the manufacturers of clutches for nitro funny cars. See how things have started to come full circle? First a spectator, then a driver, and now on the product side making commitments and contributions where it really counts. The experience at Boninfante provided Paul with a learning-rich environment for the performance aftermarket, and when the opportunity came to purchase McLeod Racing from B&M in 2008, Paul jumped on it. Says Paul, “McLeod was a brand name I grew up with. It was a dream job to actually own McLeod. I loved the clutch business working with Boninfante and driving Funny Cars, and I was a clutch guy as a driver—I’ve always been interested in the clutch business. They had already been building high-quality clutches for 40 years before I bought it, so it’s a dream come true.”
The perfect storm had started; the new CEO of a legacy performance driveline aftermarket manufacturer was not only a financial guru with connections to Wall Street, he had serious cred as a driver and a product guy. (His best 1,000-foot e.t. of 4.03/310 behind the wheel of Gary Densham’s Dodge Charger certifies him as one of the fastest land-bound pilots on the planet.) And while most bean counters at big companies spend their days trying to arbitrarily squeeze ever lower costs and higher margins out of a product line, Paul knows as a racer that people bet their lives on McLeod components. He also knows that quality and excellence can make the difference between having a crappy weekend at the track, and having a memorable one.
At the end of the day, however, all Paul really wanted was to drive a fast hot rod. (“I’m still 13 in my head,” Paul joked.) His life has been dedicated to putting himself in the position where he could build (without financial remorse!) the ultimate street machine. Beyond that, he’s also been able to do it in such a way that enhances and validates the product he sells while at the same time projects McLeod Racing’s visibility in new, exciting ways. Such was the motivation behind the McLeod-red ’70 ‘Cuda.
Its conception was simple: When you drive a 4-second nitro Funny Car on the weekend, the long stints behind the wheel in daily traffic can be mind-numbing to the point of torture. The choice of cars was a no-brainer for Paul: “A 70 ‘Cuda has always been my idea of an ultimate street car. This is my 20-year dream. I just love the look of that car. And, of course, it has to have a Hemi.” And not just any Hemi. Being an industry insider, all the arrows pointed to Arrington Performance, one of the best in the business at building powerful Mopars. Pete Basica and the Arrington team got to work speccing out a 528ci Gen II Hemi that cranks out an easy 1,129 hp on 93 octane at a loafing 5,500 rpm. That all-aluminum mill is hung with the best stuff out there, including an F2 ProCharger, Holley Dominator EFI, and Edelbrock’s new aluminum Hemi heads (just the second set in existence).
The car itself—a 318 automatic car originally built in California—was sourced from Paul’s brother, Barry, who is a respected Mopar restoration expert in Middleburg, Florida. Once back in its home state of California, Bones Fabrication of Camarillo, California, was tasked with the ‘Cuda’s transformation. The metamorphosis wasn’t easy, as most of the original body panels were damaged and had to be sacrificed for new ones. Moreover, the plan was to put all that Hemi power to the ground with a modern performance chassis, a process that involved cutting out the entire OE suspension and subframe, and replacing it with an Art Morrison Max-G chassis. The car’s body was skillfully channeled over the Morrison chassis, which features a C6-derived IFS with RideTech coilovers in front, and a three-link with Watt’s linkage and RideTech coilovers in the rear. As a result, the McLeod Racing ‘Cuda is as capable as its silhouette is stunning.
Maintaining the same mechanical excellence in other areas, Paul called upon brake components from Wilwood, RT-S forged wheels from Weld, Sportsman S/R tires from Mickey Thompson, a rearend from Strange, a shifter from Hurst, ignition components from MSD and Crane, and a fuel system from Aeromotive. We noticed something about this list immediately: At some point in his racing career, Paul owed part of his success and/or survival to all these manufacturers’ parts. Now he’s putting that out there for all to see.
Naturally, McLeod Racing components are a big part of the mix, such as McLeod’s renowned RXT dual-disc clutch, which is rated at 1,000 hp, but as this example suggests is clearly capable of much more. Likewise, McLeod’s revolutionary new Muscle Car 5 manual overdrive transmission is a featured product in the ’70 ‘Cuda. With a modest torque rating of 600 lb-ft, it too is clearly capable of handling quite a bit more with deft use. And finally, the McLeod ‘Cuda makes use of the company’s popular hydraulic throw-out bearing assembly.
Typically when you read about guys who build trend-setting g-Machines, there’s plenty of chest beating about hitting the pro autocross, car show, or open road race circuits and setting the world on fire. When you’re Paul Lee, you’ve already done so much more than that. I mean, what else is there to do in life once you’ve stuffed your right foot into Gary Densham’s 10,000hp nitro-burning Hemi and kept it there for over four seconds? Paul running his ‘Cuda at a local autocross would kind of be like George W. Bush running for mayor of Crawford, Texas. Nevertheless, Paul intends to let his customers see what the car is capable of, and that includes racing. “We’re going to use it and take it to lots of different shows,” Paul says. “It’s got so much power and is so much fun; we’ll try it out on the autocross and the dragstrip to see what it will do. It just blows the tires off right now, but it’s designed to go low 9s or high 8s. I don’t know—the car’s fast.” The next time you’ll see it is at Moparty At The Strip, scheduled for March 27-29, 2015.
Forty-three years later, Paul sits behind the wheel of his ’70 ‘Cuda, and pauses momentarily before stabbing the start button. The last glimmer of the sun slips below the Spring Mountains, and he contemplates the twinkling Las Vegas skyline in the distance. It is, however, the faint tincture of nitromethane in the air that freezes him in place. As we wrap up our photo shoot the Saturday after the SEMA show, nitro Funny Cars are making qualifying passes at the strip across the road. An almost inaudible rumble turns to a muted whine, then stops. The decaying moan chases playfully across the surrounding hillsides. “Sounds like a good run. Maybe a 4.18,” Paul stated matter-of-factly. I shoot a questioning glance at photog Machaqueiro and both of us squint through rolling waves of heat at the distant scoreboard. Dumbfounded, we make out a 4.18. In that moment, I can’t help but imagine a 13-year-old boy pressing his face into a chain-link fence, wanting more than anything to drive a badass hot rod—to find harmony in the universe. My reverie ends suddenly as Paul’s Hemi shatters the night air. That’s right, he already has.
1970 Plymouth Barracuda
Car owner: Paul Lee • Orange, CA
Type: 528ci Gen II Hemi
Bore & Stroke: 4.500 x 4.150 inches
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Block: Mopar Performance aluminum
Rotating Assembly: Molnar forged crank and rods, custom Diamond forged pistons
Cylinder Heads: box-stock Edelbrock Hemi, 2.32-/1.94-inch valves, CNC-contoured combustion chambers and CNC-blended seats
Camshaft: Arrington-spec solid roller, 252/260 degrees at .050-inch lift, .684-/.674-inch lift, 114 LSA
Valvetrain: Comp Cams 829-16 solid roller lifters, Indy/T&D shaft rocker system
Induction: ProCharger F2 supercharger, custom Arrington intake manifold with integrated ProCharger carb bonnet, Arrington 88mm billet throttle body (drive-by-wire control), Holley Dominator ECU with universal MPFI harness, Holley 83-lb/hr injectors and Holley rails
Intake Manifold: Arrington-modified Mopar single-plane
Fuel System: Aeromotive pump and regulator
Oiling: wet sump lube circuit, Milodon pan, Indy oil pump and pick-up
Exhaust: custom 2.125-inch primary long-tube headers into custom 3.5-inch dual exhaust with oval 3.5-inch side-exits, custom Flowmaster mufflers
Ignition: Crane Hi-6 box and coil, MSD Super Conductor ignition wires, MSD flying trigger
Cooling: Griffin radiator, SPAL electric fans, Mopar water pump
Output: 1,129 hp at 5,500 rpm, 1,077 lb-ft at 5,500 rpm (93-octane fuel)
Built by: Arrington Performance, Martinsville, VA
Transmission: McLeod Muscle Car 5 manual overdrive (2.95, 1.99, 1.34, 1.00, and .63 ratio)
Clutch: McLeod RXT Twin-Disc, McLeod flywheel and hydraulic throw-out bearing
Rearend: Strange S60, 3.73 gears
Chassis: Art Morrison Max-G chassis
Front Suspension: C6 type IFS by Art Morrison, RideTech coilovers
Rear Suspension: Art Morrison three-link with RideTech coilovers and Watt’s linkage
Steering: Art Morrison power rack & pinion
Brakes: Wilwood 14-inch discs with six-piston calipers up front, 14-inch discs with four-piston calipers in the rear, Wilwood master cylinder, Hydratech hydraulic brake assist
Car Built by: Bones Fabrication, Camarillo, CA
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Weld RT-S SR-71, 18×10 (6.6-inch backspace) and 20×13 (6.4-inch backspace)
Tires: Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R, 26x12R18 (front), 29x15R20 (rear)
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