Two better than one

LEON — Art and Kathy Jenkinson are MoPar people. They each own and enjoy a 1970-vintage Chrysler product that was sold new at the now-defunct Gray Motors in El Dorado.

Kathy's car is a 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger that began its life as a mild little yellow 318 V8 hardtop, but now struts its stuff as a Hot Red 340 Six Pack, cranking out something more than 450 dyno-proven horsepower.

"This was truly a little old lady car," she said.

"This car belonged to a woman in Towanda, Kan. "She willed it to her son, but he never registered it. When I bought it, it had about 40,000 miles on it," said Art, who donated the original 318 V-8 to a soldier who had to suspend his own project for a deployment to Afghanistan.

Jenkinson knows the drill, having served two tours of duty in Vietnam himself. Besides, he needed an excuse to put a serious power plant in the Dart. He had picked up a 340 V-8 through his MoPar contacts and built up a Six Pack version in his shop, after Wilson Machine Shop in Wichita went through the block and ported the heads.

A set of Hedman headers, a along with a MoPar Performance Purple camshaft and intake mounting a trio of two-barrel carbs all combine to produce muscle-car level power. The power is sent rearward through a MoPar 904 lightweight automatic transmission, winding up in a 3.55 Sure Grip differential.

"I want you to know this is my car," said Kathy, "and it's fun to drive. It'll walk and it'll talk," she said.

To make the Dart look as good as it performs, the Jenkinsons had Sterling Collison do what little body work was needed and then soaked it all in several coats of Hot Red paint, accented by a black tail stripe and rear wing, a pair of black snorkel hood scoops and a blacked-out grille treatment.

They added a set of chrome Cragar SS mags and white-letter Hercules tires to keep things time-stamped correctly. Inside, the two teamed up to install new carpeting and front seat upholstery from Legendary Interiors.

Art estimates they have logged about 20,000 miles on the Dart since it was completed, taking it to events in Missouri, Colorado, Oklahoma and Iowa, to name a few. Their 23-year-old daughter, Nikki, enjoys the car as much as Kathy does.

"I don't know why the girls all love that car, but they do," Art observed.

"His car," on the other hand, may appeal more to the menfolk. The Pearl Yellow 1970 Cuda is a big block V-8 car, a 440, also equipped with a Six Pack induction system, but linked to the more familiar 727 automatic transmission. It also drives a Sure Grip rear end.

"I knew of this car for 15 years... it belonged to a kid in Rosalia," Art Jenkinson said.

It was in rough shape, though — so rough that Jenkinson turned down his first chance to buy it. A friend, Dave Bisagno, ended up with the Cuda and collected most of the parts needed to put it back together — new fenders, rear quarters and the rear valance panel.

When he lost interest in the project, he persuaded Jenkinson to give it a whirl. "I brought it home as a rolling chassis," Jenkinson said.

But to his good fortune, it turned out to be a numbers-matching car. With the help of his wife and his friends Steve Nail and John Walker, the Cuda gradually came back together. "There are a lot of things that couldn't have been accomplished without them," Jenkinson said.

The correct MoPar bucket seat upholstery was ordered up from Legendary Interiors and carefully fitted as part of a complete interior rebuild.

The Auto Body Connection in Rose Hill was chosen to do the finishing body work and lay down the Pearl Yellow paint job, which contrasts with a flowing black side stripe. "Kathy and I looked through everything we could find. The '70 Cuda had the hockey stick style stripe and I wanted it to look more like an AAR, so I made my own stripe," Jenkinson said.

It looks amazingly like a factory scheme, right down to the Cuda logo incorporated into the tail end of the stripe. Still looking to project a period-correct image, Jenkinson chose a set of American Racing TrakStar 5-spoke chrome wheels, fitted with fat 245x60x15 white-letter Hercules tires.

The couple especially enjoy taking their MoPars to charity car shows, giving back to the community.

Jenkinson said he appreciates all kinds of collector cars, but gets the most satisfaction out of restoring MoPars. "People don't know, but it's a lot more expensive to restore one of these," he said.

But the payoff is clearly worth it, and in the Jenkinsons' case, it's twice as much fun.

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