Striker 1971 Cuda

Jesse Matlock, the builder of this awesome 1971 Cuda, is also the owner of Jesse’s Auto Body in Dewey, Oklahoma. His passion for cars started as a very young man, and that passion led him into auto bodywork at the age of 13.  Fast forward to now and at the age of 40 Jesse still has the love of doing bodywork. Jesse hoped that the project that he was going to tackle would be a first “Strike” from a small town builder and shop, which would inspire other builders to follow their dreams. 

This project started out with a 1971 Barracuda that was nothing more than a rusted out hull that would really show what Jesse could do with his talents as a builder. He started the build by gutting what was left of the old Barracuda, but the going was hit-and-miss for several years with the project starting out as a resto-mod. Then in 2013, Jesse switched gears when he saw the potential in the car to become so much more than just another Mopar at the entry level shows.

Jesse took his ideas of what the car could possibly be and turned them over to the talented Brian Stupski of Problem Child Kustoms, who produced the renderings of what the 1971 Barracuda was to become. Brian had an uncanny way of knowing exactly what Jesse was aiming for and how the car should look when finished and “Striker” was born.

Using Brian’s renderings, Jesse approached this challenge so almost every part of “Striker” would be modified or altered from its original appearance as a production 1971 Cuda. With the project stripped down to just the bare body shell (roof, rockers and rear quarters) Jesse was ready to start.  The first order of business was to extend the rockers 2” to connect and become smooth with the outer frame rails, which were then connected to a full belly pan. This initial sheet metal work was to become the focal point of the whole build that would keep it sleek and smooth from top to bottom. Now when you look under the car it flows smoothly from one side to the other with nothing under the car visible. 

The exterior of the body saw many alterations from the stock appearance. The original drip rails, door handles, locks, and side markers have all been shaved to give the car a much sleeker look. Continuing with the subtle body changes, the front fenders have been extended downward 2” while the front bumper has been smoothed, then tucked and welded to the body. Jesse thought that since the appearance of the car was evolving so should the headlights, which are custom units designed by Epic Lighting. To complete a new front look, Jesse built a front splitter and air dam for “Striker”. With all of the fabrication completed, Jesse now had a one-piece removable front end that retained a somewhat factory appearance for 1971.

Completing the subtle changes of the body, the front and rear glass are flush mounted to the original modified openings with no trim and only 1/16 of an inch gap between the glass and body. The front and rear windshields are from PPG while AMD supplied the side glass with installation provided by Curt’s Auto Glass. 

The initial renderings by Brian showed what a combination of AAR and Viper hoods would look like, and Jesse was hooked with the idea. The hood build was a challenge in itself starting out with a factory style 1970 AAR fiberglass hood that Jesse cross bred with a 2006 SRT Viper hood. This was easier said than done as Jesse spent a lot of time building a new support structure for the underside of the hood so that it would look like a stock piece. All of this work was necessary for the hood to be able to function correctly with the hinge and lift system he had built for it. Jesse’s unique hood is power actuated so that it lifts up and back to sit level with the car. When the hood is raised it appears similar to lift off hoods that sit on poles, but this one is actually hinged to retract back into the closed position.  

Jesse left nothing unchanged as even the rear of the body has been given an updated look with a custom steel rear spoiler that has been molded to the body. The updated rear tail panel features recessed taillights by Digi-Tails, which give the car a retro look but up-to-date at the same time. The rear of the car is enclosed so that the Rick’s Tanks fuel cell is completely hidden, giving that area of the car a cleaner look than it would normally have with a fuel tank. Jesse finished off the rear of “Striker” with a smooth-welded rear bumper that completes the look of sleekness and attitude.  

Jesse covered all of his beautiful metal work in custom mixed shade of red using the base coat clear coat system from Matrix System Automotive Finishes.  Jesse continued the retro but new look of the body by ghosting in a Hemi Billboard that proclaims its status in the car world as something to admire and fear.

Jesse custom-designed and built all of the interior panels (floors, tunnel, firewall, dash, etc.) with the idea of a new look that would still reflect the cars place in history. Jesse built the custom steel dash that is outfitted with a VDO CB500 gauge pod and a Kenwood LCD head unit. A combination of a Vintage Air unit and Restomod Air a/c vents that direct cold air throughout the interior. The custom Kicker L7 sound system was installed and fabricated by John Filder and his crew at Bartlesville Customs.  The dash flows smoothly into a custom center console that is home to a VDO rear camera screen, a polished shifter handle and the Ride Pro digital control panel from RideTech. 

The Ididit tilt painted steering column has a VDO Xtreme tachometer mounted on it. The painted column is topped off with a custom leather wrapped steering wheel from Budnik. The pair of power windows from Nu-Relics rounds out the creature comfort package of the custom interior of “Striker”. Master upholsterer Aaron Lawrence from Fast Al’s Upholstery expertly did the beautiful custom red ultra leather interior that covers all of the custom interior metal work that Jesse had built.

Jesse’s attention to detail shows up in the engine compartment that has been completely smoothed so there wouldn’t be anything to distract a person’s eye from the highly detailed Hemi sitting there. The body color matched 2008 SRT 6.1 Hemi features has had all of its aluminum polished and smoothed to a mirror finished. The level of detailing on the motor that includes the Magnuson Supercharger was accomplished by KM Polishing. Painless Performance was the supplier of the body wiring that came with an ignition phantom system that features a push button start. With the body wiring complete the task of the complicated engine wiring was turned over to Hotwire Auto that brought life to “Strikers” new Hemi. 

The factory exhaust manifolds have been ceramic coated and the exhaust flows through 3” mandrel bent exhaust that is equipped with SpinTech mufflers. The exhaust passes through the frame and exits through openings in the rocker panels just ahead of the massive rear tires. This custom exhaust system is entirely hidden between the floor and a removable belly pan. 

This Barracuda might have started out life in 1971with a 318 and a 904 transmission but “Striker” is a different story. Its 2008 Hemi is paired up with a Nag 1 5-speed automatic transmission from a 2009 Dodge Challenger. Staying with an older Mopar rear end it was going to take a custom two-piece driveshaft to make what Jesse had in mind work. The front half of the shaft is stock 2008 Charger and the rear custom half mates up with a narrowed and braced 8 ¾ Mopar rear end equipped with Moser axles and 3.91 posi-trac gears.

The custom chassis is composed of a 2x4 dual rail frame that was designed and fabricated by Patrick Hagerman and features Art Morrison suspension components The Art Morrison front suspension uses a cross member, an anti-sway bar and tubular control arms with RideTech Shockwaves AirRide. The Art Morrison rear suspension is a triangulated 4-link with RideTech Shockwaves AirRide. Jesse has the best of both worlds where ride height is 4” off the ground but can be lowered to 1” for shows or raised up to 7” if additional clearance is needed. 

The brakes for this Cuda are from a 2008 Charger SRT8 that features 14” discs with 4 piston Brembo calipers all around. Jesse wanted to keep the muscle car/pro-touring look so he went with a set of Foose Nitrous 11 wheels that are 18x7 front and 20xl5 on the rear. This wheel combination is complimented by a set of Mickey Thompson tires, 26x8 on the front and 29x18 on the rear. This combination of tires, wheels and air ride give “Striker” a look unmatched by most other Mopar’s no matter what year they are.

Jesse, with help from many people, was able to debut “Striker” at the 2016 SEMA Show as the feature car for VDO in HOT Rod Alley. “Striker” made it into the much sought after “Battle of The Builders” and then into the “Top 200” of all builders that had competed to be at the 2016 SEMA Show. This is a huge accomplishment for Jesse, and lets the automotive industry see what a small town builder and small town shop could accomplish.

At this time Jesse now has “Striker” on the ISCA show circuit where it is continually winning awards that hopefully will lead them to a class championship title at the 2017 Chicago World of Wheels.

Thanks to Brian Stupski of Problem Child Kustoms for his great renderings of “Striker”. Thanks to Kevin Marshal of KM Polishing for all of the hours he put in on the aluminum to get it to show finish. Thanks to Wendell Sharpton at DFR Automotive and Sharpton Racing for the dyno tuning and getting the car to run as a 6.1 Supercharged Hemi should. A big thank you to Jesse’s A Team for all of their help through the project: Brett Deviney, Randy Inlow and his father Jesse Matlock, Jr. A very special thank you to his fiancé Britanya Pierce who has kept him focused all the way to SEMA and beyond.


Manufacturers, shops and suppliers used during the build of “Striker”:    • Art Morrison • Bartlesville Customs • Budnik • Curt’s Auto Glass • Digi-Tails • Epic Lighting • Fast Al’s Upholstery • Foose Wheels • Hotwire Auto • Ididit • Kenwood • Kicker • KM Polishing • Magnuson Superchargers • Matrix System Automotive Finishes • Mickey Thompson Tires • Moser • Nu-Relics • Painless Performance • Problem Child Kustoms • Restomod Air • RideTech • SpinTech Mufflers • VDO • Vintage Air

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02/21/2018 (02/21/2018)
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