John’s 1970 Cuda. Project Introduction.

Mark Ehlen- MCR Staff

So you’re thinking about building your dream car but you have a lot of questions. In fact you’re wondering if you even know which questions to ask. You’d like to know what to expect, what decisions you’ll have to make, what your options are and perhaps what if I change my mind along the way. You’ve likely waited a long time for this opportunity and you want to be sure that it turns out just like you’ve envisioned it.

Would it help to watch someone else go through the complete restoration process first? Would you like to be able to see all of the many steps and processes that are involved with a world class restoration project and have access to all the inside info and behind the scenes goings on with someone else’s car?

Well, here’s a rare chance to do just that. Owner of MCR, John Balow, is about to go through the process himself and has agreed to let you tag along and look over the shoulders of all the MCR staff as they build a car for him.  John is not just the owner; he has also been a car guy since his high school years.

And if you talk to any car guy that’s old enough to remember the original muscle car glory days of the 60’s and 70’s and they’ll likely have a story or two about someone, likely themselves, who had a great car and then sold it for whatever reason only to regret it later in life. There are also plenty of regrets from people who wanted one of these awesome cars but for whatever reason were simply not able to realize that dream.

Life, family, work, business always seemed to conspire to thwart that muscle car desire as other priorities always needed to take precedence.

John Balow is no exception. Wait, what! The owner of a resto shop for over 30 years still doesn’t have his own dream car? How’s that possible? Well, it turns out that being your own boss is way more work than having a normal job. It’s a familiar story. Your hobby turns into a successful business and before you know it you’re spending all of your working life fulfilling everybody’s dreams (over 500 and counting) but your own.

Oh, sure, John has built a few cars for himself over the years but the one that he’s really lusted after, the one that he wanted and saved up for in his high school years, has always eluded him.

This is also a common story. John had saved up more than enough for a good down payment on his first new car and went with his mom to the local dealer, Suburban Chrysler Plymouth in Chippewa Falls, in late 1969 to make the deal on a car that pretty much any teenage boy would do just about anything for.

It was a beautiful fall day and parked outside right in front of the showroom windows was an amazing burnt orange 1970 Plymouth Cuda. It had all the right options. It was like it had been special ordered just for him. Under the argent colored shaker hood was a 340 with a four barrel carb. The transmission was a four-speed with a pistol grip shifter – still one of the coolest shifters ever. Backing up the performance look was a 3.91 gear ratio. This thing was going to be able to move.

The burnt orange was beautifully set off by a black vinyl top and black rear louver kit. Ralleye wheels with raised white letter tires and a pair of chrome exhaust tips out back really rounded out the package. The car looked fast just sitting there. We can all picture what John’s thoughts must have been like as he surely imagined how amazingly awesome it was going to be to be seen cruising the boulevard in what was arguably one of the coolest cars of the time.

Well, John and his mom made the deal but it did depend on his dad co-signing the loan for the balance due after his down payment.

By now you’ve already figured out what happened. Dad refused to co-sign the loan and John had to settle for a ’69 Barracuda Formula S with an automatic. That was a great car of course and John had a lot of fun with it but it was not his ultimate dream car.

Now, finally, all these years later, it’s John’s turn to have his dream car built by MCR. One of the staff at MCR located a ’70 Cuda for John that had nearly all the right stuff. It has a 340 under the standard hood, a numbers matching four-speed and rear end with the correct 3.91 gears. It even has a pistol grip shifter. It doesn’t have the shaker hood, the rear louvers or the vinyl top and it is the wrong color but those are easy things for MCR to correct. After all this time, John will be an MCR customer and will watch his dream car being built from that perspective. And you’ll get to follow along with John and observe all of the many steps and processes that go into creating the ultimate dream car. We’ll be sharing all of the details of the restoration and build so that you can see what it takes to essentially go back in time and realize what it would be like to have a second chance to own again the car that got away or the one that you’ve always wanted but could never have until now.

John Balow with what will soon be his ultimate dream car in front of the actual dealership building where he first set eyes on the ’70 Cuda that he tried to buy in the fall of 1969.
John with MCR general manager Ben Peotter who will oversee the Cuda’s complete restoration. John will be a real MCR customer for the first time in over 30 years.
No this Cuda doesn’t look just like the one John has lusted for all these years (John’s was burnt orange with a Shaker hood) but the mechanicals are all correct.
The interior is also the wrong color but that won’t matter as it will be completely restored with all the correct materials by MCR’s upholstery department.
It does have the numbers matching four-speed with the ultra-cool pistol grip shifter. Behind that is also the correct 3.91 geared rear.
The 340 four-barrel is not the original but it is correct for this car and is supposed to be a fairly fresh rebuild. MCR will do some pulls on their Mustang chassis dyno to check the condition of the drive train before disassembly.