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Articles

The Jim Mangione Collection

Collector Jim MangioneCollector Jim Mangione specializes in one-off racing, celebrity and movie cars. The cars he’s selling from his collection are typical of his varied interests, ranging from the machine gun-toting 1933 DeSoto featured in “Bonnie and Clyde” to Mickey Thompson’s one-off 427 HEMI Ford Thunderbolt to the earliest surviving Hurst-built Super Stock HEMI Cuda. Every one of his cars is not only famous and important but pristine and extensively documented. 

No, that’s not a typo. This really is a Ford 427 HEMI. But there’s a lot more to the story than that. In 1963, Rhode Island Ford dealer Bob Tasca stuffed a Ford 427cid big block V8 into a mid-size Fairlane 500 hardtop. Ford Motor Company thought this was such a good idea they decided to build enough to be legal for NHRA Super Stock. Ford called the new model the Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt production was subcontracted to Dearborn Steel Tubing, which ultimately built between 100 and 127 of the lightweight drag racers, depending on who’s counting. For just $3,780, anyone could order one from any Ford dealer. Thunderbolts came with a 427 High-Riser, ram induction, two Holley four-barrels, 12.0:1 compression ratio, headers, scatter shield, racing suspension, drag tires and heavy-duty everything.

Doors, hood, front fenders and bumpers were fiberglass, the windows were Plexiglas and the interiors were stripped. Lightweight bucket seats were adapted from the Econoline van, and the battery was relocated to the trunk. Thanks to performance in the 11.6 second @ 123 mph range and drivers like Dick Brannan, Gas Ronda and Butch Leal, Ford earned the NHRA Manufacturer’s Cup. Butch Leal won the Super Stock class at the 1964 NHRA Nationals driving Thunderbolt #7, owned by Mickey Thompson.

But wait, there’s more. Mickey Thompson also owned Thunderbolt #10. Encouraged by Ford, Thompson’s shop cast new aluminum cylinder heads for the 427 Big Block, with hemispherical combustion chambers patterned after those on Chrysler’s 392cid HEMI. They tried a couple of different intake manifolds and had to use Chrysler 392 pistons on custom connecting rods. At the Winternationals, the one-off Thunderbolt HEMI ran in A/FX. Driver Jess Tyree laid down an 11.40 @ 129 mph before the differential exploded.

Over the years, the Thunderbolt worked its way down through various classes as old racing cars are wont to do. It was eventually restored for Peter Klutt’s Legendary Motorcar collection before finding its way to Jim Mangione’s collection. Today, it’s virtually perfect and authentic, right down to the “Jess Tyree” painted on the door and “M/T Prepared” on the fender. There are said to be around 60 Thunderbolts remaining, but this is the only one with a one-of-one Ford HEMI V8 created from scratch by the great Mickey Thompson. Any Thunderbolt is obviously special, but this one is a lot more special than that.

In 1968, Chrysler hired Hurst Corporation to stuff the legendary 426 HEMI into the lightweight Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Dart to create unbeatable Super Stock racers. Hurst’s prototype was destroyed; this is the second HEMI Cuda built and the first to leave the Hurst shop. It was given to Philadelphia area drag racer Jack Werst, whose 9 to 5 job was East Coast Regional Director, Chrysler Warranty Program. In those days, Chrysler’s warranty was five years and 50,000 miles, so from 1968 through 1970, Werst ran this famous factory-supported HEMI ‘Cuda as “Mr. 5 and 50.”

NHRA required manufacturers to build at least 50 identical cars to be eligible for Super Stock, so Hurst created just over 50 HEMI  ‘Cudas. The Barracuda body was stripped of seats, sound deadener and anything else extraneous to winning drag races, including the rearview mirrors. The doors were acid-dipped, the front fenders and hood fabricated from fiberglass; all windows were replaced with thin Corning glass and the seats with lightweight Dodge van buckets mounted on special aluminum brackets.

The HEMI was race-tuned with a Cross-Ram manifold, Hooker headers and 12.5:1 compression ratio. It was mated to a manually shifted 727 TorqueFlite automatic with Hurst floor shift. The Sure-Grip differential had a 4.85:1 ratio. It takes a whole page to list all the other performance mods, from deep-groove fan pulleys to heavy-duty axle shafts and the battery relocated to the trunk. The final touch was a disclaimer on the dash that read “Not for use on public highways. Supervised acceleration trials only.”

This particular HEMI ‘Cuda is the recipient of a six-figure restoration by the experts at Muscle Car Restorations and is precisely as raced in 1968 right down to the 24-carat gold-leaf lettering and lace pattern paint. Jack Werst’s race shirt and helmet are included, along with a Chrysler Certificate of Origin, Galen Govier documentation and all restoration paperwork. “Mr. 5 and 50” could be the brilliant keystone to any Mopar, HEMI, Muscle car or Super Stock collection, and a sure crowd-pleaser in Nostalgia drag racing.

In 1968, Hurst Corp. built Darts for NHRA Super Stock alongside the Hurst HEMI ‘Cudas. Approximately 80 Darts were stuffed with a potent 426 HEMI. Hurst started with a bare Dart two door body shell, widening the shock towers to fit the huge V8. The doors were acid-dipped; the nose, fenders and hood were fiberglass; the bumpers were lightened, every nonessential from rearview mirrors to sound deadening to the rear seat was deleted; the side windows were raised and lowered with belt straps; and the front bench seat was replaced with Dodge van seats on aluminum brackets. Knowing that every racer would want a unique paint job, the HEMI Darts were shipped to dealers in gray primer.

This particular HEMI Dart was sold to Canadian racer Cam Noseworthy in Edmonton, Alberta. It was named the “Demented Dart” and campaigned throughout North America, including the 1969 Winternationals. It was never wrecked or damaged, though the special lightweight Corning glass windows were replaced by Plexiglas within less than a month of the car’s first race because the HEMI’s immense torque kept twisting the unibody until the glass shattered.

The “Demented Dart” has been completely restored and equipped with a 700hp HEMI built by Dale Reed. Almost everything is original, including the special acid-dipped lightweight doors. It does have a rollcage, four-link rear suspension and Line-Lock on the shifter. It comes with all documentation including Galen Govier certification and is obviously one of the most original and famous of all Hurst HEMI Dodges. Nostalgia Drags, here we come.

In 1953, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Buick, Harley Earl created a limited edition Roadmaster Convertible called the “Skylark” that borrowed design themes from his XP-300 LeSabre concept car. Buick sold 1,690 for over $5,000 each. That was a lot of money in 1953, when you could buy a Cadillac Series 62 Convertible for $4,144.

The Skylark was so profitable that for 1954 Buick made Skylark a separate model, the Series 100. Built on the Century’s short 122” wheelbase, but with the Roadmaster’s 322cid Fireball V8 of 200hp, the ‘54 Skylark was one of Detroit’s first big engine/small car muscle machines.

Styling of the 1954 Skylark was significantly different from more mundane Buicks, obviously influenced by the sleek Wildcat II concept car. Like the Wildcat II, the production Skylark has a notched beltline, wrap-around windshield, deeply sculpted coves behind the wheels, prominent “Dagmar” bumpers, a unique rear fender line that’s notched like an arrow to expose the tail lights and Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels. Unlike the Wildcat II, the Skylark eschewed Buick’s trademark hood ventiports. This was design heresy at Buick in 1954.

Buick sold 836 Skylark Convertibles in 1954, once again loaded with every possible option and priced over $5,000. In the age of “Bigger is Better,” a small Skylark that cost more than the biggest Roadmaster turned out not to be a formula for success. Buick dropped the whole idea in 1955.

Because of all the special body stampings and limited production run, restoring a 1954 Skylark is a costly proposition. Jim Mangione’s rust-free California car has been treated to a cost-is-no-object, frame-off restoration and is one of the best surviving Skylarks in the world. As he says, “It runs and drives as good as it looks!” And that’s superb, indeed.

And now, for something completely different. In Arthur Penn’s award-winning Warner Brothers film, “Bonnie and Clyde,” there’s a long sequence in which the pair — plus Clyde’s brother and sister-in-law and a kid they pick up in a gas station — rob a bank then evade two police cars in a long chase scene as they rocket across the Texas border into relative safety in Oklahoma.

The movie car is this 1933 DeSoto sedan, which means you can sit behind the same steering wheel as Warren Beatty, in the same passenger seat as Faye Dunaway and in the same backseat where Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons and Michael J. Pollard bounced around while firing revolvers at the Texas police chasing them in a ‘34 Dodge and ‘34 Ford.

This DeSoto has no association with the real Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, but it’s still a lot of fun. The DeSoto is clearly the car shown with Beatty and Dunaway on the cover of the new Blu-Ray edition of “Bonnie and Clyde.” The car is sold with an authentic bank money bag, period machine guns and other movie memorabilia.

Someone is sure to fall in love with this killer movie car when it crosses the block.

In the case of the 1999 Porsche 911 996 movie car nicknamed “Tina,” this car gives new meaning to “leading lady.”  The Porsche leads off Jerry Bruckheimer’s 2000 movie “Gone in Sixty Seconds” as the first car stolen during the opening scenes. “Tina” makes her dramatic entrance onto the movie screen with a famous exit: Actor Giovanni Ribisi’s character “Kip Raines” drives — or rather crashes — the Porsche through the huge front window of a Porsche dealership, just seconds after Raines and his partner “Mirror Man” have smashed their way into the dealership with a rock through the front door. Raines doesn’t get much time to enjoy his stolen property.  Shortly afterward, he gets careless and drives “Tina” in a full-throttle street race that ends up leading police to a warehouse full of stolen cars. That’s when star Nicolas Cage’s character, the infamous car thief “Memphis Raines,” comes out of retirement to save his brother’s life.

“Tina” survived both the crash and the chase, which is amazing since she was the car actually being crashed and chased.  No computer-generated footage of the Porsche’s scenes was used by director Dominic Sena in the film that is a tribute to the original 1974 “Gone in Sixty Seconds” film and its producer-director-star H.B. Toby “Car Crash King” Halicki. Denice Halicki, his widow, was the executive producer of this 2000 film that also stars Angelina Jolie and Robert Duvall.

“Tina” was custom built for the movie by SPS Porsche Builders and began life as a 1978 Porsche 911 SC.  The early 911 chassis was lighter and better suited for crashing through a big plate-glass window.  The 911’s body was carefully stripped down and replaced with fiberglass replica bodywork to make it look like a 1999 Porsche 911 996. With great expert craftsmanship new “1999” 996 composite fiberglass body parts (that were all factory original NOS Porsche parts made in Germany) were handcrafted onto “Tina’s” chassis. The side passenger and driver windows can be kicked out in case of emergency. “Tina” may have done her own stunt work, but stunt driver Johnny Martin did the risky driving of “Tina.”

“Tina” is titled in California to “Gone in Sixty Seconds.” The 1999 Porsche 911 996 (Lot #1020.2) is one of the most famous cars in movie history and comes with plenty of movie memorabilia documenting the car’s movie-star role: a 7×9-foot wall banner of the crash through the dealership’s front window, movie theatre “lobby cards” including the crash scene, an electronic press kit with footage of the crash and chase, a “Gone in Sixty Seconds” trailer that features the crash and chase, a media press kit with the official press photo of “Tina,” shards of glass from the broken window of Tina’s famous crash scene and a signature card from producer Denice Halicki. In other words, you’ll have everything you need for a high-speed museum display of “Gone in Sixty Seconds.”

— By Rich Taylor

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