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ONE COOL ‘CUDA
Detroit and American muscle have long gone hand in hand, so it comes as no surprise that a guy rooted in that particular city would emerge a fan of classic cars capable of great power. Although Larry Hill has long called Hickory, Kentucky, home, he sure hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
Well known on the NHRA circuit, Hill and his easily recognized 1971 Plymouth Barracuda compete regularly in the A/SA Stock Eliminator class. The car is a real head-turner, painted the shocking pink Plymouth factory color known formally as Moulin Rouge, and it can be seen at both national and divisional events. He and his wife, Patsy, have traversed the country in their retirement in search of adventure and, of course, trophies.
In 1980, Hill bought the car for $600 with the intention of making it a racecar. His Barracuda is technically a 1971 model at heart but has been modified aesthetically to fit the 1970 profile.
“We studied the NHRA rulebook, looking for cars with flexibility so that you could race with several engine combinations,” explained Hill. “You can race a Barracuda, either automatic or manual, with everything from a six-cylinder, slant six to a two four-barrel HEMI® engine.”
Hill considers his wife, Patsy, indispensable. As his not-so-secret weapon, Patsy keeps detailed records of each opponent and can easily summon a driver’s nuances from her file in order to prepare her husband for what he is up against. They’ve been a successful team, — along with son Chris who attends races as often as possible.
One of the highlights of Hill’s career behind the wheel of his colorful ‘Cuda was at the 1990 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis — the most prestigious race on the NHRA tour and one that draws a tremendous amount of Stock Eliminator racecars competing for class trophies before the main event.
“The very first time I went to Indy with the ‘Cuda, we won class,” said Hill. “I thought, boy, this is easy. But I haven’t won one since. Been close, but haven’t been able to do it.”
Skillful driving and effective use of the 440 Six-Pack under the hood have taken Hill far during eliminations at several key races. His first final round at a national event ended in victory as he scored the win light at the 1995 NHRA Nationals in Atlanta. Hill made another final at the Chicago Route 66 Nationals in 1999 and then notched his second win in 2012 with a final-round defeat of former Stock Eliminator champion Randy Wilkes in Norwalk, Ohio. That same year, he was runner-up in Charlotte.
“We’ve won a couple of national events and been to the finals two or three times,” said a humble Hill. “We haven’t had as much success as some of the other guys, but we sure have an awful lot of fun doing this.”