HE CAN’T GET OVER ANXIOUS
For the past decade, the Mopar® “Top Eliminator” program has celebrated standout Mopar enthusiasts and their Mopar-modified vehicles with a very special award. In 2016, three enthusiasts were selected by a panel of Mopar representatives to earn the prestigious Mopar “Top Eliminator” award for excellence in modifying, enhancing or preserving a Mopar vehicle. This year’s winners were JoJo Bartosh for her body-off-frame restoration of a 1957 Dodge W100 Power Giant; Theresa Newbauer for her 2010 Dodge Challenger SRT® and its unique aesthetic modifications under the hood; and most recently, second-generation drag racer Travis Hess for his freshly finished 1964 Dodge 440 hardtop with a brilliant, hand-painted “High Anxiety” theme.
A respected car painter by trade who has perfected the craft over the past 20 years, Hess applied the striking look to the wicked Mopar himself over the course of four weeks — from base coat to final finish. He also painted the Kandy Kuda driven by his father in NHRA competition, longtime HEMI® engine campaigner Bucky Hess.
“It’s all ’60s-style, with multiple layers of coloring and hand-lettered in gold leaf,” said Hess, who raced his brand-new, single four-barrel HEMI engine combination in the A/S category in Stock Eliminator at this season’s NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. “I love early drag racing, when they were really painting the cars, and before the whole vinyl industry. All the funny cars used to have great paint on them, and this one is all hand-painted, hand-striped, hand-lettered — the whole nine yards.”
Hess based the gold and green paint job on the factory interior of his Dodge, which included a gold dash. He quickly brainstormed his Mopar work of art before diving right in.
“I did a five-second sketch of the roof, and that’s about it,” said Hess. “Then I started pullin’ tape.”
The results were stunning. The glimmering hardtop has metal flake base coats on gold with blue metal flakes and a gold candy cover over the top. Hess explained that the 23-carat gold-leaf lettering on the HEMI engine logo and High Anxiety moniker were the most difficult part of the project, but all of the effort was well worth it.
“I just turned 40 in March, and that’s kind of why we brought the car out,” he said. “It was a goal to come out for my 40th birthday and race with my dad, and it worked out.”
The car is more than just a gorgeous show piece. With horsepower in mind, Hess had the engine built in the race shop of two-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Jason Line.
“The effort that you put in at the shop directly correlates to performance and speed at the track,” said Jeff Guenther, longtime Mopar enthusiast and engine specialist in the race shop where Hess gets his power. “On top of that, there is usually a quick turnaround required for these projects, and so we have to work efficiently and accurately to make sure everything comes together as close to perfect as possible. Thanks to Mopar and their long history with racecars and high performance street cars, we know we’re dealing with products that have been tested and proven. Everything fits, everything works well, and you’re set up for the best possible outcome.”
Hess’s father, who owns Bucky’s LTD Auto Body, Inc., in Martinsburg, West Virginia, echoes the importance of effective efforts behind the scenes.
“It’s 100% important to provide quality service to our customers,” said Hess, who opened Bucky’s LTD in 1987 and self-built the business from the ground up. “It’s very important to us, and I think that our work ethic is probably the biggest part of why we have the business we have. We are the busiest shop in the area, and I work in the shop every day along with about 20 employees. Most of these guys have been with me over 20 years. Our biggest challenge, probably, is getting things done quickly because I’m so particular. But I think we get more respect because they know I want to do it perfect.“
Through his father’s example in a HEMI® engine powered muscle car and in his respected repair shop, the younger Hess has been exposed to power and performance all his life — and he is more than pleased with how his Mopar® stacks up.
“I think we definitely have the most horsepower of any car in the A/Stock category,” said Hess. “Of course, we also have to carry more weight than any other car in the class. That makes it a lot harder to go fast, but so far, we’re very happy. We’ve only made 16 runs with it, and it’s already been in the 9s [run nine seconds in the quarter-mile]. That is not an easy feat, and not everyone can do it, so we’re excited about what the future holds when we really get after it.”
While Hess and his father achieved their goal of racing together at the U.S. Nationals, it took some effort.
“We rushed to make Indy,” Hess admitted. “That was our goal, and I just wanted to make it happen. On Saturday [during eliminations], I ran a 9.95 — which was a lot quicker than we thought the car would run. I lost the round because I broke out [ran quicker than allowed], and I had the race easily won. All I had to do was back out of it, but I really wanted that nine-second run. I could have won my first round at Indy, but I’ll settle for a nine-second time slip.”
Hess uses a Mopar block and Mopar heads, along with many other components available over the counter. The precise combination, though, is decided by the engine builders and determined by what NHRA’s rules will allow in terms of camshafts and valvetrain components.
“The rules are strict, but the car weighs 3,640 pounds and, like I said, it can run in the 9s — even with a small, 9-inch tire,” said Hess. “That’s pretty impressive. The cool thing with this car is that you never really see these big old B-bodies painted like this. It’s an attention-getter, and I think a lot of people like the fact that this big old Dodge can run with some of the newer cars. It’s neat that we can be competitive with something that is a half-century old. It shows you how far ahead of their time Mopar was when they built these cars.”
BARTOSH AND FATHER RESTORE COOL CLASSIC
The 1957 Dodge W100 Power Giant restored by JoJo Bartosh was a no-brainer for judges deliberating on the Mopar® “Top Eliminator” award at this year’s Midwest Mopars in the Park car show in Farmington, Minnesota. Bartosh, who restored several cars over the years with her mechanic father, James, completed the gorgeous, body-off-frame restoration herself in her one-car garage. Although she lost her father to cancer just a couple of months before the event in Farmington, the Wisconsin resident had it done in time to debut there in her father’s honor. The project included a restoration of the frame and suspension and a rebuilding of the 44 Spicer front and Dana 8-3/4 rear differentials, along with the four-speed manual transmission and 315-cubic-inch V8 under the hood. The cool classic is painted Bayview Green and Mojave Beige.
NEWBAUER’S MAD, MODERN MUSCLE CAR
Theresa Newbauer, of the Florida Keys, took possession of a blue 2010 Dodge Challenger SRT® as soon as it was delivered to the dealership and immediately began cruising the countryside in her brand-new ride. Unique customization of her Challenger includes bolt-on modifications and, most notably, a very nice visual surprise under the hood. The insulator attached to the underside is in the likeness of a reflection of the engine bay, hand-painted by an artist (hired by Newbauer) to bring her dream to life. Newbauer and her slick SRT are regulars together on the car show circuit, and she was awarded Mopar “Top Eliminator” honors at the Carlisle Chrysler Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, this past July.