Hemi Barracuda Race Car

Kuda Reigns Triumphant

Arvid Svendsen - October 20, 2011 10:00 AM


For your information:


PMR Race Cars

(909) 621-5531


Bucky’s Ltd.

(304) 263-6903


 Between qualifying rounds, Bucky was busy checking the timing and getting ready for the next round. 


It would take literally hours to see all the detail work that went into this car. The Simpson chute is in place for sub-8.50 runs, certainly functional but it also adds an old school/funny car look. 


 Fuel cell and batteries are located in the trunk, as Bucky is seen getting ready to make another run at the 2009 Hemi Challenge at Indy. 


 “Kolor by Tuki” is none other than Bucky’s son, Travis Hess. Travis created the jaw dropping ’70s funny car paint scheme, while Nelson Grimes did the incredible work with the lettering. 


 Mandella explained the material used to construct the chassis, “The frame from the torsion bar crossmember is basically a round tube chassis that we built to a 25:5 SFI spec. We set the car up with the funny car roll cage using 4130 Condition N Chrome Moly tubing.” 


 Critical in preparing an SS/AH car is engine location and weight placement. The A-body Mopars have to battle the tendency to make the monster wheelstands. Although the crowd loves seeing the front wheels way up in the air, Mandella prefers keeping the front wheels about 18 inches off the ground. 


 Looking like something out of a pro stocker, all four-link brackets are designed by PMR and attached with NAS aircraft hardware. “We start out with 18 inches of a stock housing, add chrome moly tubes, chrome moly brackets and our own back brace. We use an extensive amount of jigs to make it square. All parts are Mark Williams parts with 40-spline axles, gun drilled axles. We use Lamb housing ends and Lamb brakes for stopping.”


Mandella got tired of depending on parts that were not up to his standards and made his own. “We design our four-link brackets with our own CAD programming. We send them out to be water jetted, and then create all the holes for the brackets. We ream everything to size so we know we have a good fitting bolt going into the hole. All the hardware for the four-link is NAS aircraft bolts.” 


 In the final round of the Virginia event, Bucky faced Grant Lewis’ 2005 Grand Am SS/EM car. Bucky’s dial of 8.70 against Grant’s 9.00 dial means that Grant gets a .3 second head start. Grant was a little better on the tree with a .048 to Bucky’s .070 light. However, King Kuda II’s 8.701 run forced Grant to break out, giving Bucky the first NHRA national event win of his career.


Bucky and his wife Jeanne proudly hold the “Big Trophy” for Bucky’s win of the Super Stock Eliminator at Virginia. Though Bucky had won the Hemi Challenge, and held the SS/AA and SS/AH record a number of times, this was his first national event win.

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“It won’t spin”… that’s the reason Bucky Hess gave when asked to explain why he believed the King Kuda II is the best race car he’s ever owned.

The proven consistency and success of his 1968 Hemi Barracuda SS/AH car seems to signal a new chapter in the class evolution. Hemi cars are really showing themselves to be true players in Super Stock competition. Recent trends are showing that an SS/AH Mopar ought not be counted out when lining up next to an up-to-the-minute SS/DM Cobalt.

A familiar sight at the dragstrip, Bucky (who owns a thriving auto body shop in Martinsburg, West Virginia) has been racing Hemi cars since the ’80s. His wild paint schemes have made a big contribution to his popularity. The paint on Bucky’s car is the product of Bucky’s son, Travis Hess, who signs his work with the “Kolor by Tuki” crest. Michelangelo with a paint gun, Travis’ prolific career has resulted in some of the greatest race car paint schemes of all time.

The King Kuda II is consistently one of the top players in the Hemi Challenge events. For 2011, Bucky stepped up his engine program by enlisting Pro Stock driver Jason Line and brother Lance to build some serious 426 Hemi elephant power. Bucky’s new motor will combine up-to-the-minute Pro Stock engine technology of Jason’s team at KB Racing with the Sportsman savvy of Jason and Lance Line, who have grown up racing in the Stock and Super Stock ranks.

All that power has to have a competent chassis in order to turn on the win light at the end of the track. Unlike a number of Hemi cars, the King Kuda II hooks well with consistency. Chassis builder Phil Mandella of PMR Race cars explains: “The thing that was different with Bucky’s car was the location of the weight bars and the placement of the engine. All of the weight bars were interchangeable so we could locate the weight where we need it in the car. Engine location was also a big part of getting the car to hook. Once NHRA allowed us to have the motor plate and the mid-plate, they became less interested in the stock location. In building Bucky’s car, we moved the motor down two inches, and forward one inch in order to get more weight to the front of the car.

“At Indy, in mediocre air, I had to put 160 pounds of lead in another Hemi car just to keep the front end down. The typical Hemi AH car has about 54 percent weight on the front end. But tires, torque converters, and transmissions have gotten so good that we don’t need the weight bias to the rear for getting the car to hook. With the way Bucky’s car is set up, with weight bar placement and engine location, we don’t have to bolt on weight to the front end.”

Getting the car dialed in was accomplished with Phil at the track. “When we first built Bucky’s car, we spent two days at Atco blowing the tires off the car. I was really questioning what we had done. We kept adjusting the car, moving weight around. I had Roger Lamb build some new shocks and overnight them to us. The shocks were too tight, so with the new shocks from Lamb, Bucky’s car hooked.”

Tagging along with Bucky to a number of events allowed me to get a feel for the intensity of these Hemi racers. At the 2009 Hemi Challenge at Indy U.S. Nationals, he was frustrated over blowing up his “good” motor just two weeks prior. The spare motor didn’t have the horsepower to compete. Some guys might be prone to giving up. Not Bucky. “This is my life. I didn’t sleep last night because I was thinking about getting in the big show. I want the big trophy, the national event Super Stock winner trophy. I’ve had the class records, and I was fortunate to win a Hemi Challenge. I’ve got all the right stuff, Mandella chassis, so now I want to win the big trophy.”

Bucky didn’t get the “big trophy” that day. Soon thereafter, Bucky did win the Super Stock Eliminator, bringing home the coveted “big trophy”, a Wally. Mandella said, “It’s really nice to go out and see a driver perform well. On his way to the finals in Virginia, I told him that the way it’s going, there were no excuses. Having been able to work with Bucky to build a car that was capable of winning a national event was one thing, but then for him to actually win it was great. Bucky is still the king.”

Talk to most SS/AH Hemi guys, and bragging rights are typically going to center around world records and SS/AH Hemi Challenge events. The prospect of an “AH” car winning a national event in the Super Stock eliminator has long ago been dismissed as next to impossible. Bucky and a few others are changing that perception. Bottom line, a well thought-out chassis, a repeatable state-of-the-art motor, and a great driver equal a Hemi car that goes rounds. It just keeps on winning.