David Newhardt, courtesy of Mecum Auctions
• The original 1967 Hurst Hemi Under Glass exhibition wheelstander piloted by Bob Riggle • Riggle restored the car for collector Bill Sefton, and they campaigned it at exhibitions with Riggle at the wheel • Regularly on public display at the NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, CA • Rear-mounted 426 Hemi engine • Cragar wheels and Goodyear slicks  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1967 Plymouth Barracuda Hurst Hemi Under Glass
Years Produced:1965–68
Number Produced:Three
Original List Price:N/A
SCM Valuation:$300,000–$350,000
Tune Up Cost:$300
Distributor Caps:$28.97
Chassis Number Location:N/A
Engine Number Location:N/A
Club Info:The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum
Alternatives:Bill “Maverick” Golden’s “Little Red Wagon,” Tommy Ivo’s “Showboat” and “Wagon Master”
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot S200, sold for $324,000, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s sale in Kissimmee, FL, on January 25, 2014.

“Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” the radio waves barked, and if the Gods of Nitro smiled upon your local drag race, you’d hear that one of the legendary wheelstanders would make exhibition runs at your event.

The two best known and most popular were Bill “Maverick” Golden’s Dodge Little Red Wagon truck, and the Plymouth Hurst Hemi Under Glass Barracuda with Bob Riggle at the wheel. The spectacle of either of these vehicles roaring down the track, front wheels skyward, a shower of sparks in their wake, would be indelibly etched in your memory. And if “Miss Hurst Golden Shifter” Linda Vaughn appeared with the Hemi Under Glass, well, it just didn’t get any better than that!

Run like hell

George Hurst’s plan was to create a competitive racer using the new-for-’64 Barracuda and 426 Hemi. The 426 wouldn’t fit in the Barracuda’s engine bay, so Hurst had to improvise.

“‘We’ll drop a Hemi in the rear,’ George said, ‘and run like hell.’ And that’s how the whole thing started, over coffee, George and the Hurst Performance Engineers kicking around ideas.” So said the full-page ad in the April 1965 edition of Hot Rod magazine. “The question that day over coffee: What type of new vehicle should we experiment with? The conclusion was, a street machine that could be reworked extensively and turned into a rolling research lab. There it was. George saw it and sketched it on the tablecloth, and now it’s reality.”

Working with Chrysler engineering, Hurst’s team obtained a 1965 Barracuda and removed the engine, interior trim, and anything else they deemed unnecessary. They modified the area behind the front seats for the 426 Hemi, which ran its power through an inverted Chrysler 4-speed to a V-drive, then to independent rear suspension made up of Corvette and custom components.

The reality was, when drag racer Bill Shrewsberry tried driving the new creation, the front wheels lifted until the rear bumper hit the pavement. On top of that, the independent rear suspension didn’t live long, either, and had to be replaced with a live axle.

As a race car, the Hemi Under Glass was a giant engineering fail, but race fans loved it. And with over 2 million people flocking annually to drag races in the mid-’60s, the Hemi Under Glass became the perfect rolling billboard to market Hurst’s products.

On two wheels

In 1966, Bill Shrewsberry left Hurst to drive his own wheelstander, the L.A. Dart, and Bob Riggle took over driving duties. Riggle was a Hurst engineer who was involved in creating the Hemi Under Glass, and he adopted a unique technique for driving the beast. He would control the direction by staggering the rear tire inflation to counteract the torque steer from the driveline. This would cause the car to steer left after launching, and then to the right with each gear change. “I was able to work it,” he said, “so I could make it through the quarter mile by zigzagging down the track at a hundred-and-some miles an hour.” He would look out the side window to keep the car on track and in its lane: “If I was in the left lane I’d watch the wall; if I was in the right lane I’d watch the center line.”

Riggle and Hurst built a second Hemi Under Glass for the 1967 season, necessitated by the new styling of the ’67 Barracuda. Lessons learned on the first car were incorporated in the new wheelstander, along with alcohol and fuel injection. A year later, the ’67 was sent on the show circuit and a ’68 Barracuda was built. Although it looks nearly identical to the ’67, it had a blown Hemi (there are four “zoomie” pipes in front of each rear tire) and incorporated a window in the firewall to help Riggle see the track. It also had dual handbrakes, which allowed Riggle to “steer” the rear tires.

Riggle bought the first Hemi Under Glass car from Hurst in 1969. He initially campaigned it as the Frantic Fish, then later again as the Hemi Under Glass. A serious crash caused Riggle to quit the wheelstander business for many years, until 1991, when Linda Vaughn encouraged him to get back in the game.

Collecting drag-race history

The three original Hurst Hemi Under Glass Barracudas eventually were reunited by Bob Riggle, who then sold the cars, and a recent re-creation of the ’68 car, to Mopar collector Bill Sefton: “Bob and I met at the Spring Fling in Van Nuys, CA, in 2004, I think. He had both the ’66 and the ’68 with him, and we started talking about it and I bought the ’68 car. Then about a year later I bought the ’66 car from him, and when he did the ’67 it seemed a good place for the cars to go because I show them. The public gets to see them in action. Bob and I have done a lot of shows where he drives the car. It’s nice we’ve kept the brand together the entire time.”

Unfortunately, Bill Sefton had to sell his collection of first-class Mopar performance cars. Mecum attempted to sell the four Hemi Under Glass Barracudas as a set last fall. Bidding reached $750,000 but the reserve was not met. Hardly surprising — how many people would want all four of these legendary wheelstanders?

Mecum then tried selling the ’67 Hemi Under Glass alone at Kissimmee this past January, where it went for $324,000. Considering the car’s history, that seems to me to be the right value, but it was a surprise to see bidding actually climb that high. Prices for historic drag racers have traditionally been woefully soft compared with other vintage racers, and that makes this deal all the more impressive. Well bought and sold.

(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.

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