Back a large number of years ago, 1991, I got a call from a Steve Banker, Attorney at Law. It seems that he was thoroughly convinced that he had located the long-lost Chrysler Hemi ‘A’ Body test mule. Of course, he knew that I was the engineer in charge of its build up and was also the test driver. He indicated that it was not in good shape but that he intended to have it fully restored at his muscle car restoration facilities in Phoenix Arizona. He wanted me to certify that it was indeed the real thing. I had to inform him that it would be quite difficult because the test mule was built from a fugitive of the Chrysler Engineering road test garage and that it did not have a VIN. After a little back and forth I agreed to go to Phoenix if he would send me an airline ticket and pay for my time. Agreed, and off I went.
Fortunately, I had a complete file on the vehicle and I carried with me. When Steve saw the file he went ballistic, a restorer’s dream. One of the more interesting things I had in the file was a Plymouth dealers color brochure on which I had colored in the colors I wanted with a color marker. And, here’s the coup de gras, drum roll please, I had the paint color numbers inked in. Immediate call to master paint store and yes, they could duplicate the colors.
But first a very puzzling question was broached. Steve pull out a magazine photo of the test mule on the cover. Holy crap Batman, it was mostly a dark red/maroon (burgundy), with white inset and the lettering looked like it was machine turn. Sort of glittery. At first, I was taken back. It had been, what, almost thirty years. But the battle scars softened and I remembered it all.
The original test mule, as it went to Irwindale California, was indeed yellow and red/orange with black lettering. However, when we returned from CA I got a ration of crap from numerous sources that the car looked like a Pollock escapee from Hamtramck, which it was. After much debating I was “advised” to ship the car to the engineering paint shop and change the color scheme. Yes sir boss. One of the very few times I was calm and collected. The resulting color scheme was the aforementioned Red, White and Glitter. All the photos taken thereafter reflected this new super cool color scheme. As far as I could determine it never effected the performance one puny bit. But the powers to be where a very bunch of happy coconuts.
Now on to the more serious stuff, genetic verification. I didn’t really have a plan as to how I would go about the task of verifying the ancestral worth of the vehicle before me. The shop guys had cleaned the vehicle quite well. It did not resemble its former self. The original rear wheel wells were torched out and monster were welded in their place to accommodate gigantic tires. The engine appeared to have been moved back and the ‘firewall’ revised. The K-member was also modified. I pushed and poked trying to see something I recognized. Finally, I spotted the aluminum plate that was mounted on the ‘firewall’ to offset the brake master cylinder. The bulbous hemi heads were a serious intrusion in that ‘A’ body engine compartment. I unbolted the plate and what do you know, my own personal scribe marks were visible on the backside of the plate. I thought this would be sufficient proof of authenticity and Steve agreed. I gathered up my tools and briefcase and headed back home to write my report.
Just a note about Steve Banker. He had the largest collection of muscle cars I had every seen. It took me on a tour of his storage facilities. He had at least a hundred vehicles there, all in fully restored condition and double bagged. First the car was fitted with a custom cloth cover and then it was completely cover with a large plastic sheet. All the cars, muscle galore, were painted their original color schemes and lettered with the original owner/driver designation. Butch Leal, Grumpy Jenkins, Bob Glidden, and on and on. Un, freaken, believable. His plan for the future was to entice a major player to put up the building. At the time he was working on Coca-Cola. He would then provide the vehicles, maintain the facilities and open it to the public for viewing. It would have put the Peterson museum on the trailer. But alas, not all good people get to heaven. I do not know what happened, but the plan never came about.
But before that end came around the 25th anniversary of the Hemi A-Body program came to be at Carlisle Pennsylvania, 1993. I was invited to attend, and attend I did. They even made me sit in the car. I am now 4 inches shorter then I was in 1968 and I looked like a first-class dork. How the sturdy have fallen. BTW I never got invited to the 50th. Oh well, they probably thought I had passed on through?