Women of Mopar
The female side of the Pentastar
Story Dave Verna - May 01, 2011 09:00 AM
“The first time I drove a Mopar, there was no looking back on my Chevys,” said Shelley. “This may sound crazy, but I used to be a Chevy girl until I met my husband, Bruce Bowman, in 2006. He has been a Mopar guy since day one! When I saw the new Challengers, I had to get one.
“I started drag racing about 10 years ago. I tell everyone that it only takes one time to go down that track and you’re addicted to drag racing. I named my Challenger ‘Vicious’. My best ET was 13.45 at 105 mph. I plan to keep drag racing it and putting more goodies in it (cold air and exhaust so far). I have won a car show for best appearing ‘stock’ street car.
“My husband and I also have a 1970 Dodge Coronet with a 440 and best e.t. so far is 10.20 at 131 mph. He has owned the car for 37 years. My idol is Shirley Muldowney, so my brother-in-law Keith Bowman, who is the starter for Pittsburgh Raceway Park, calls me Cha-Cha!”
1968 Plymouth Barracuda Fastback
“I bought the car on April 9, 1991 as a total basket case, complete with the typical ‘box of spare parts in the trunk.’ I lived in San Bernardino, California, at the time and the ’Cuda was in Grand Terrace, about 10 miles away. My friend Lloyd Hilton owned it.”
He sold her the car for $250. The factory 318 was long gone and most of a 360 was in its place ... except for the main and thrust bearing journal caps. “I eventually snagged a ’69 340 from the local newspaper for next to nothing.”
But she wanted to do this right and that meant doing everything. “One hundred sixty eight hours was spent sanding it down by hand ... turned out it was six different colors and didn’t have any rust at all. Another 18 hours was spent taking the interior down to bare metal.”
In July of 2003, there was a move to south Louisiana to meet up with Billy. “Billy and I had a blast putting my car together. He donated a sweet 8¾ Sure Grip setup and the Cheetah reverse manual valve body, leftovers from a Challenger project he had. Then Hurricane Katrina came along, changing everything. Except for my beloved Barracuda, its loose parts safely stashed in an inner bedroom and a few clothes, we pretty much lost it all, including my daily driver, an ’83 Mustang GT. The law firm I’d been working for since my relocation moved its offices to Baton Rouge, a mere 75 miles from home – and I got fired the day before my 40th birthday since I could no longer travel to work.”
The car finally ran in 2005, a measure of success, but not an end. “My car hasn’t seen much progress since we moved to northwest Tennessee in September of 2006, other than trading for some Torq Thrust IIs. I still need to put some subframe connectors on it, get the back seat recovered, send the dash pieces out (lots of cracks), fix a couple problem areas involving the emblems (a lack of research on my part when I farmed out the bodywork), clean up the trunk again (don’t use truck bed liner!), buy some clips for the cargo area trim, install the Simpson safety harnesses, put the carpeting on the sides of the console – or get my butt in gear on the oak console I always planned to fab up to match my trunk divider – run the heater hoses and washer lines/foot pump, get the e-brake handle installed, coat a few more things under the hood to tie it all together, and some other little stuff.
“It’s still running on open headers, but that 340 sure rattles the pictures on the walls upstairs when I start that beast up in my basement. Despite the fact it still isn’t finished, it never fails to bring a Cheshire cat smile to my face whenever I turn that key.”
Leanna has several people to thank for the help, parts and valuable input along the way. “I would be remiss if I didn’t first list my father, Robert Johnson, who got me into cars when I was just a little girl. Without his early influence and great advice along the way, I’d never be the motorhead I am today. I lost my dad to diabetes and cancer on September 21, 2006 and he never got to see my car in its present glory.
“He gave me a set of Kraco floor mats for it as a birthday gift in the late ’90s ... I finally opened and installed them as an extremely emotional ‘finishing touch’ when the balance of the interior was installed.” The rest of the ‘cast,’ without whose help this project would never be possible, include Billy Lee, John Timm, Russ Pennell, Gerald Lair (Western Towing), Wayne McCarl (Berdoo Auto Body), Roy Barlow, Tim and Donnie Hoak (Hoak Bros. Chrome Plating), Dana Price, Jack Carter, Bryan Villwock, Curtis Yeomans, and Roger Eberhardt.
“Slimer has always been a labor of love and is still a work in progress, but this old car is such a part of me now that it’s like a second child, and I’ve never had any plans to ever get rid of it.”