Let's shift gears a little bit this month and trade the junkyard for the backyard. While local government may cite eminent domain when it occasionally invades private property to push through a new turnpike off-ramp, hot rodders like you and me have been known to do a little well-intentioned trespassing of our own to get a closer look at an irresistible morsel.
Way back in the fall of 1983-that's 23 years ago-I grabbed my camera and silently invaded a few backyards in my native rural Massachusetts to capture the images shown here. Though we can't condone trespassing on private property-especially if it involves any form of fence hopping or defying posted signs, no harm is done by snapping a few photos for posterity. But get a case of sticky fingers or start messing with the merchandise and a trip to the emergency room for rock-salt removal may be the rightful result!
I spotted this dual-quad 409-powered '63 Impala station wagon sitting behind a body shop. My not-yet-fully-informed 18-year-old mind assumed it was a factory-built RPO L80 425hp rarity. I got so excited I even mailed photos to mega collector Reggie Jackson via Super Chevy magazine. Little did I realize its column-shifted Powerglide automatic betrayed the car as being powered by a more mundane L33 409, the 340hp, single-quad, hydraulic-cam version of the W-motor, one of 10,586 sold that year. I never found out whether the dual-quad induction was swapped onto the original low-po 409 or if it was an actual L80 engine swap. This car is believed to have been parted out around 1985.
I went nuts when my buddies told me about a mystery Hemi 'Cuda sitting on a lawn in Warren. It turned out to be this false-alarm '72 'Cuda 340, four-speed with a swapped-in Dodge Red Ram baby Hemi. The Red Ram was a '50s relic with 325 ci, not quite the same thing as a 426. Its owner made the swap and even mated the baby Hemi to the 'Cuda's four-speed. Almost a decade later, the owner did the right thing by reuniting the 340 with the car and performing a proper restoration. Dig the leaves, another bone-chilling winter was just around the corner.
This '65 GTO coupe was parked along Route 67 in Warren, Massachusetts, for several years before I caught up with it in 1983. A factory four-speed car, its original 389 had been replaced by a 327 Chevy, a none-too-uncommon fate back then. Besides the engine swap, it was still fairly pure, and the intentionally mismatched 14-inch Americans and Ansen slots give it great vibes that still buzz today. The word around town was it had spun rod bearings. The rare pillared coupe sat in the same spot unsheltered for a few more years then disappeared around 1986.
Here's another Hemi rumor goose chase from the spring of 1984. This one paid off when I spotted this extremely well-preserved, original-paint '67 four-speed Hemi Charger on a side street in Worcester, MA. Though the engine was out for rebuilding, its owner, a plumber named Greg, said he was aware of its rarity (one of 59 built) and wouldn't sell it for "anything under 12 grand," which was actually kind of high for 1984. Check out the still-present aluminum decklid spoiler.