Looking at the Taimar and the S3, it’s difficult to believe that more than a decade separates them – or that they book-end the glorious white 350i that’s thundering around our temporary paddock at the Bruntingthorpe track.
What does a guy who owns more than 130 rare muscle cars do for fun? Well, get more Mopars, of course!
Bill Sefton appreciates all kinds of cars, but he has a real soft spot for Mopars. “I’ve always had an affinity for A-bodies,” he says. “I’m not sure why, but I’ve always liked Darts, Demons, Dusters and early Barracudas. My daily driver is a ’68 340 Dart, red and white, with automatic.”
Space doesn’t permit listing all of the Mopars that Sefton owns, so we’ll focus on a number of rare and highly unusual highlights. For instance, he has the three remaining “Hurst Hemi Under Glass” Barracudas that Bob Riggle drove down dragstrips while doing a full wheelstand for the entire quarter mile. An entire book could be written on these famous “grandstanders.”
Riggle discovered the original 1967 version rusting away in Canada, and after haggling with the owner, managed to get it back across the border and restored it with the dual-lever rear brakes used to steer it down the track.
Later on at a car show, Riggle ran into Sefton, who has a well-deserved reputation for preserving the heritage of automotive muscle, instead of buying and selling for a quick buck. (In fact, one noted collector jokes that Sefton is “The Black Hole” because he never lets go of his collectible cars.)
The two struck a deal for the trio of Hurst Hemi Under Glass cars, but with one condition: Sefton insisted on riding with Riggle in the 1968 car while he demonstrated how he herded this handful of Hemi on the strip. Riding shotgun on one wild, wheels-up pass, “It was pretty frantic in that cockpit,” Sefton recalls, shaking his head in disbelief. “I’ve never seen anyone operate a vehicle so fast.”
We spoke with Riggle at length about some of his experiences driving the car down the track while pointing the nose skyward. He recalled a track in Maryland that had some wires hanging low over the Christmas-tree starting lights. An unsuspecting track worker volunteered to stand on a folding metal chair and hold up the wires with a push-broom while Riggle roared by. “The backwash from the exhaust knocked him right off the chair after I blew by,” he laughed.
Interestingly enough, Sefton is now working with Riggle to recreate yet another Hurst Hemi Under Glass using a 1969 Barracuda, but with a modern 6.1-liter Hemi bored and stroked to 7.0 liters. “It’ll be a new-tech Hemi Under Glass.”
In addition to owning all the trademark rights and historical material on the cars, Sefton also enjoys kicking back in a Hurst Hemi Under Glass chair, customized with exhaust headers for armrests, which was awarded to Riggle in 2004 at the Mopars on the Strip event as a special recognition.
Sefton likes to create other “mini collections” of certain types of cars within his larger collection. “I’m probably the only guy on the planet with all three Mr. Norm’s GSS models,” he smiles. These consist of a 1968 440 Dart, a 1971 340 Six-Pack Demon, and a 1972 340 Supercharged Demon.
Rare racecars are another favorite, such as a 1969 Charger 500, Daytona Charger, and Superbird. The latter, adorned with a cartoon Roadrunner on the door panel, was once owned by racer Roger McCluskey.
In addition, a black 1968 Hemi Barracuda holds a place of honor in Sefton’s large muraled garage, located adjacent to his house in Arizona. This Super Stocker, one of 70 built, was campaigned by famed – and infamous – racer Billy “The Kid” Stepp, who passed away in November of 2007 at the age of 73.
Unrestored originals are a favorite of Sefton’s as well. His orange 340 Demon has only 3000 miles on it, along with the original title and a hand microphone for recording on the obsolete eight-track deck. Like so many older cars, there’s an intriguing backstory about its first owner.
“[The original owner] owned a Hemi Road Runner, but it was stolen, so he ordered a replacement,” Sefton notes. “While waiting for it, he bought a Demon, and then put it on blocks when the new Roadrunner arrived.” There it stayed in protected storage, like a time capsule, until Sefton acquired it decades later. “It has the most pristine build sheet I’ve ever seen,” he remarks.
The blue 340 Demon parked next to the orange one has an interesting history as well. A racer from the Moline, Illinois area owned it for many years. He had pulled off the supercharger because it crushed the floats in the carburetor, causing fuel leaks. (These were later retrofitted with epoxy floats to correct the problem.) He got so frustrated with the car that he pulled off the sticker on the right rear bumper, which stills shows a ghostly outline after all these years, telling proof of the car’s authenticity and originality.
Sadly, this racer died in an accident during competition, and the car went to his widow. She kept it in storage for many years, and Sefton found out about it through “somebody who knew somebody” (one of his most common approaches, since he’s well known in the Mopar community).
“I called her up and asked if she’d be willing to sell it, but she hemmed and hawed,” Sefton notes. “Eventually she agreed, and we brought it to a resto shop in Chicago. The shop guys thought they had lost the keys, and in process of pulling out the back seat to find them, they discovered another build sheet in perfect condition.” If they hadn’t misplaced the keys, that important piece of documentation might never have been found.
Another Mopar that stands out for Sefton is a 1968 GSS Dodge Dart, black with red butt-stripe, only one of 18 ever built. It’s so spectacular that it became the basis for both Revell and diecast models.
“I’m a huge fan of Mr. Norm of Grand Spalding Dodge, and this is the car Chrysler said couldn’t be built. They claimed you couldn’t put in a 440 big-block V-8. But Mr. Norm did it, and the company ended up offering that as an option. It’s a great story.”
How did Mr. Norm manage this feat? Chrysler engineers claimed that the heat generated by the close proximity of the exhaust manifold would ruin the steering box. So he designed and installed a heat shield to protect the box, and it worked so well that Chrysler was able to offer the 440 on the Dart.
One question that came up was how Sefton takes care of so many cars. “I have one full-time employee, and two resto shops,” he explains. “And one part-time employee makes sure all the tires are aired up. With more than 130 cars, that comes to 500 tires. There are a lot of tires to fill.”
It’s not easy to keep track of all these cars, but Sefton seems to have an encyclopedic memory, readily calling up details about each car right off the top of his head. How does he remember so much? “It just kinda soaks in,” he laughs.
Several cars not seen in his collection are under restoration, but will form yet another mini collection of five models with the largest engines offered: 440 Dart, 383 Dart Convertible, 383 Barracuda Convertible, 440 Barracuda Fastback and Notchback. And amazingly enough, they’re all B5 Blue, making them a color-matched set.
What’s missing from the collection? “I need a ’69 Lift-Off A12 with a 440 Six Pack in F6 Green. That’s an amazing color,” he adds. He’s not bitter about the Mopars that got away, though. “There was a red Duster that I took a run at, but it went to another collector before I could get it. I know he’ll take care of it, so as long as it went to a good home, then I’m happy.”
Spoken like a true Mopar man.
This Superbird, adorned with a cartoon Road Runner on the door panel, was once owned by racer Roger McCluskey.
One of three Hurst Hemi Under Glass Barracudas, acquired from driver Bob Riggle.
Note the interior of the Hurst Hemi Under Glass, with the dual rear brake controllers that allowed Riggle to steer even with the front wheels lifted off the pavement. They consisted of two master cylinders, each operated by a Hurst shifter handle.
The one of the two other Hurst Hemi Under Glass Cudas in the Sefton collection.
This “grocery getter” Cuda convertible might not look like all that much, but it’s a very rare car. Equipped with a 383 and four-speed, it’s one of only 20 ever made.
Another rarity is this yellow Daytona, one of two made. It was ordered as a Hemi, but when the wrong engine was put in, Chrysler later authorized the dealer to install a 440 Six Pack. Note the Charger 500 parked next to it. The previous owner received some higher bids, but accepted Sefton’s because he wanted it to go to a home where it would be properly appreciated.
A pair of 340 Demons, both untouched originals, with low miles. The orange one was safely stored away for decades, and has pristine documentation. The blue one has a Paxton supercharger, which crushed the floats in the carburetor under boost, causing leaks.
This black Hemi Cuda with a lift-off hood is a 1968 Super Stocker, one of 70 built. It was once owned by the notorious Billy “The Kid” Stepp.
Sefton enjoys kicking back in a Hemi Under Glass chair, customized with exhaust headers for armrests, which was awarded to driver Bob Riggle in 2004 at the Mopars on the Strip event.
When Sefton purchased this 1971 Challenger from a friend in Phoenix, Arizona, the car was a dead stock, a triple-black model with a 340-ci engine. Since he likes to drive his cars (instead of merely drinking beer over them), he had Mike Staveski at Mr. Norm’s Garage do a full restomod on it to update the performance. The 597-hp 6.1-liter stack-injected Hemi has a computerized setup engine management system. A combination of Hooker Headers, mandrel-bent exhaust, and Flowmaster mufflers provide the classic sound, while not being overbearing when on the highway. The stock suspension was replaced with fully adjustable coil-overs, new control arms and swaybars, along with power rack-and-pinion steering.