For 35 years now, a Florida man has owned a 1970 Plymouth AAR ‘Cuda for a daily driver. David Pike Jr., said back in the late 1980’s, he originally wanted a mini truck though his father wanted him instead to search for a Mopar as his first car. “My dad told me ‘you’re not getting a mini truck,’ as he came from a Mopar background too.” David said. “He had a 1969 Dodge Dart 340 GTS in high school, so he kind of wanted to show me the ropes to Mopar.”
David said his father then gave him an Autotrader, and was told to cut out 10 pictures of cars for sale and tape them to the back of the magazine. “I think I had about three or four, maybe five Chevy II’s, a couple of Camaros, and one Challenger taped to the back,” David said. “So my dad called a guy from Fort Lauderdale who actually had the AAR ‘Cuda and was selling it for $3,500, which was originally yellow then. I was at work one day when my dad and uncle went over to pick up the AAR ‘Cuda for $3,500.”
Now 2020, David has three other Mopars: a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere II, 1973 Plymouth Duster race car, and a 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A factory 4-speed. David said the AAR ‘Cuda has not been driven in years because he and his father, David Pike Sr., have been working to fully restore the car. “At 19, I was a pitcher at Riverview High School in Sarasota and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates,” David said. “In 1992, I bought a Toyota pickup because it was cheaper on gas, which was the last time the ‘Cuda was driven.”
In 2008, the ‘Cuda was given a B5 Blue exterior paint treatment, a color he fancies. As the years passed, David and his father also temporarily removed the car’s original factory fiberglass hood to remove the 340 Six Barrel for a rebuild. While progress has been slow, David said the engine project has been making steady progress. The seats and glass are currently out of the car waiting to be re-installed, providing a spacious work environment to stretch the legs for the restorer at work. Looking inside, the original steering wheel and pedals are in good operation condition, leaving minor electrical work for the gauges to be functional.
While working on the ‘Cuda, David added another Mopar to the collection: a 1973 Plymouth Duster race car. Owned for 12 years, the Duster is a sight for looks and straight-line pickup, a car David purchased on eBay from a seller in Michigan. “I sent a friend to drive up to Michigan and pick up the Duster because I could not take off work at the time,” David said. “We brought it back and had someone paint it Sublime Green. Later, I had a friend who said he would build me a wing for it. It had like a fiberglass spoiler on the rear, and when he took it off there was an orange line with an insignia that said ‘Owned by Grant Grebeck’.”
What was interesting about the insignia is the drag racing history it bears: a race car built by a racing family. “The car was owned by Grant Grebeck, the father of the late Steve Grebeck, a drag racer,” David said. “Steve got his start in drag racing with this car. It was originally orange back then.” David says according to Steve’s brother, Randy, Steve built the whole roll cage, while also sharing his brother’s racing legacy. He said Steve was only 15 years old when he drove the Duster, a car his father got from Steve’s stepmother before modifying it into a race car.
“I have talked to his brother, Randy, and Mike Moran, who is a dear friend to him,” David said. “Donny Walsh Jr., a bigtime NMCA drag racer, was a close friend to Steve. Steve actually owned the passenger side of Don’s Corvette pro-mod, and it says ‘Steve Grebeck’ on the side window. It means Steve is riding with him in every pass.” Recognizing the car’s racing history, David kept the Grebeck insignia on the Duster to pay tribute to Steve Grebeck and his family. “If I ever wanted to get rid of it, I honestly would probably just give it to Randy because Steve passed away in a crash at Orlando Speed World,” David said. “I do not want to alter the rest of the car’s body because it was Steve’s first car.”
The Duster sports Mickey Thompson 26x15x3.5 Front Runner tires in the front and 31x15x13 Slicks in the rear, with an overall vehicle weight of 3,000 lbs. An aero scoop is visibly mounted on the Duster’s hood to produce a low drag coefficient, while the rear is connected to a custom rear wing and wheelie bars, ready for maximum straight-line grip. The interior is race ready, and the steering wheel and a Cheetah brand gear shifter are within arms reach. It is accommodated by a Wilson Manifold nitrous oxide system for maximum boost over the competition.
In the muscle compartment, is the home to a 520 BB/Mopar V8 engine that delivers a 13:1 compression ratio, consisting of aluminum Indy 440-1 Cylinder Heads, T&D rocker arms, and coupled to a custom-built FTI automatic transmission, powered by 116/120 Octane Racing Fuel to quench the Duster’s thirst for speed. David said the engine is out of the Duster and undergoing a rebuild, with a goal to improve its performance on the dragstrip.
“I wanted to save a little more money to build it better,” David said. “It will now probably run either high fours or fives on the eighth-mile. A low five is considered like a low eight on the quarter-mile, so we will see how it runs after the rebuild.” Walking down the driveway of the Pike estate, rests his 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A in a field of grass along with its Mopar sibling the 67’ Belvedere II. Owned for six months, he said it is rare to have both a matching number’s T/A 4-speed and an AAR ‘Cuda.“The T/A is one of about 980 TA Challenger 4-speeds, and my AAR is one of 2,724 ever built,” David said. “15 years ago, my father and I had both at one time, and seeing this now I never imagined I would have one of each ever again.”
David bought the Challenger on the Facebook Marketplace in Tampa, Florida, for his wife, Stephanie, to drive around in. Up close, David said the Challenger’s previous restoration left behind areas of improvement, identifying overspray on top of the inside grille under the hood, and bubbles of rust painted over at the bottom left rear quarter panel. Nevertheless, he said there are plans for another restoration. The Challenger T/A is all matching numbers and sports factory Rallye wheels, coupled with E60-15 tires in the front and G60-15s in the rear. The T/A comes with a ducktail rear deck lid spoiler, along with heavy-duty underpinnings packed with a Sure-Grip differential, coated in FE5 Bright Red with an all matte-black hood and snorkel scoop.
The interior has two very comfortable buckets, while the back features a black bench seat. The T/A is equipped with a Rallye Dash Cluster gauge dash and the original Pistol Grip 4-speed manual shifter. The engine compartment is rotated by an original 340 Six Pack built with three two-barrel carburetors and iron T/A Cylinder Heads and runs on 93 octane fuel, averaging a 9.5:1 compression ratio. David said the T/A will likely be a handful for the wife at first, wheeling a four-speed manual with 340 cubic inches of hard-charging thrills coupled under the hood. All that remains is Stephanie’s first test drive.
Walking over to the Belvedere with David, he said this is his favorite Mopar in the collection. Bright red as a lace surplice dress, the Belvedere is a heart winner from every angle. Restored by his father, David’s Belvedere features Belvedere II badging conspicuously displayed on both front quarter panels, with fender-mounted turn signal indicators visibly displayed to comfortably grab the driver’s attention while looking forward.
The black bench seat in the front contrasts well with the rich, supple vinyl interior, providing a showroom appearance that might make the average enthusiast think they went back in time to 1967. The instrument panel is all original and beautiful, featuring an inside rear view mirror with a safety inside arm and an outside mirror on the driver side, a standard feature on the Belvedere. The Belvedere II also has its standard safety feature items, such as safety action inside door handles, front and rear seat lap belts, backup lights, and electric windshield washers, providing comfort and convenience for a weekend pleasure cruise.
Beauty is not only defined by the Belvedere’s looks, but as well as performance. Originally bearing a stock 318, the Belvedere now flexes its muscles with a 340 small block, mounted to a 727 Torqueflite 3-speed automatic transmission with its induction system supported with aluminum Edelbrock intake manifold and a 750 CFM four-barrel Edelbrock carburetor. David said the Belvedere has been under his ownership for eight months, and is a casual street car, whether going out with his wife for dinner or a trip to a local car show. For David, every part of the Belvedere wins his heart hands down without a tussle.
Reflecting on his Mopar collection, David said all of his cars are special to him, while mentioning that there will come a day when he has to sell some of them. “I want people of all ages to appreciate the history behind them, and the legacy that made them what they are today.” David said. “For my collection, I want people to know not only what kind of Mopars I have, but what future I want to have for each of them.”
As for the AAR ‘Cuda, David’s first daily driver, is a keeper for life and plans to drive it on the street once it is fully restored. “It is a car I have had my whole life,” David said. “The other cars here can go bye bye, but not the ‘Cuda. I do not plan on getting rid of that.”