“Striker” 1971 Cuda

Photos by Jesse Matlock
Article by Larry Crain

Jesse Matlock, the builder of “Striker”, is the owner of Jesse's Auto Body in Dewey, Oklahoma and has been in business since 2002. Jesse’s passion for cars started as a very young man, and that passion led him into auto bodywork at just the age of 13. Fast forward to now and Jesse still has the love of doing bodywork, now at the age of 40.

He has restored many vehicles throughout his life, but his main automotive passion is Mopars with many of them having won a multitude of awards locally and nationally. Some of these award-winning cars gave him the opportunity to have his work appear in magazines and helped showcase his talent as a builder.

Because of these wins, he has had the chance to meet some amazing big-name builders that helped strengthen his confidence in building a car that could compete on the national level. Jesse hoped that the project that he was going to tackle would be a first from a small town builder and shop that would inspire other builders to follow their dreams.

Out of the many vehicles he has done over the years, “Striker” is Jesse’s ultimate Mopar build. One I believe will strike fear into any and all of its competitor’s. Here’s how it came together.

About five and a half years ago the project started with humble beginnings from a 1971 318 equipped Barracuda, which had been slowly dying in a pasture in Oklahoma. The build started but was hit and miss for several years - starting out as a resto-mod. Then in 2013 Jesse switched gears when he saw the potential in the car to become his chance to “strike” first from his area with a major build.

With Jesse’s ideas of what the car could possibly be, the talented Brian Stupski of Problem Child Kustoms 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. Thus “Striker” was born.

Using the renderings by Brian, Jesse approached this challenge so almost every part of “Striker” would be modified or altered from its original appearance as a production Mopar of 1971. This project started with the worn out 1971 Barracuda and was stripped down to just the bare body shell (roof, rockers and rear quarters). The rockers were extended 2" to connect and become smooth with the outer frame rails that were then connected to an owner-designed full belly pan. This initial sheet metal work was to become the focal point of the whole build, keeping it sleek and smooth from top to bottom.

When you look under the car it flows smoothly from one side to the other with nothing under the car visible. The original drip rails, door handles, locks, and side markers have all been shaved to give the car a sleeker appearance than it appeared in its stock form. The front and rear windshields from PPG and the AMD side glass were installed by Curt’s Auto Glass. 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 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. He went with headlamps custom designed by Epic Lighting. The front splitter and air dam that complete the new front look of “Striker” were custom designed and built by the owner. With all of the fabrication completed, Jesse now had a one-piece removable front end that retained a somewhat factory appearance for 1971.

The initial renderings 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. Easier said than done, Jesse spent a lot of time totally reworking the support structure on the underside of the hood so that it would look like a stock piece, plus be able to function correctly with the hinge and lift system he was putting together for it. The owner-designed unique hood is power actuated that lifts up and back to sit level with the car. When raised, it appears similar to lift off hoods sitting on poles, but it is actually hinged.

The rear of the body has been given an updated look with a custom steel rear spoiler that has been molded to the body, recessed taillights by Digi-Tails, which look retro but are up-to- date at the same time. A smooth-welded rear bumper completes the look. 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.

All of this beautiful metal work is covered in the owner’s custom mixed shade of red using the base coat clear coat system from Matrix System Automotive Finishes. To continue the retro but new look of the body, the side of the car features a ghosted in Hemi Billboard that proclaims its status in the car world.

All interior panels (floors, tunnel, firewall, dash, etc.) were custom-designed and built by the owner. The owner-designed custom steel dash is outfitted with a VDO CB500 gauge pod, a Kenwood LCD head unit and Restomod Air a/c vents that direct cold air from a Vintage Air unit. John Filder and his crew at Bartlesville Customs installed and fabricated the custom Kicker L7 sound system. The dash flows 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. An Ididit tilt painted steering column has a VDO Xtreme tachometer attached to it, and the column is topped off with a custom steering wheel from Budnik. A pair of power windows from Nu-Relics rounds out the creature comfort package of the custom interior. 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.

The engine compartment has been completely smoothed so there wouldn’t be anything to distract a person’s eye from the beauty of a highly detailed Hemi that would be sitting there. Power for “Striker” comes from a body color matched 2008 SRT 6.1 Hemi that features all of the aluminum in the engine compartment smoothed and mirror finished. KM Polishing gets the credit for the level of detailing on the motor that includes the Magnuson Supercharger. The body wiring by Painless Performance came with an ignition phantom system that features a push button start, but it was Hotwire Auto that handled the complicated engine wiring that brought life to this 1971 Mopar’s new Hemi.

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

This Mopar might have started out life in 1971 but the 2008 factory Hemi is paired up with a factory Nag 1 5-speed automatic transmission from a 2009 Dodge Challenger. The custom two-piece driveshaft’s front half is stock 2008 Charger while the rear half is custom. This rear shaft mates up with the narrowed and braced 8 ¾ Mopar rear end equipped with Moser axles and 3.91 posi-trac gears.

The custom 2x4 dual rail frame was designed and fabricated by Patrick Hagerman and features Art Morrison suspension components The Art Morrison front suspension uses a crossmember, 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. 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 are from a 2008 Charger SRT8 that features 14" discs with 4 piston Brembo calipers all around. To keep the muscle car/pro-touring look Jesse went with 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.

Jesse, with help from many people, labored through long hours and late nights during the last few months of 2016 with the goal of finishing “Striker” for the 2016 SEMA Show. Upon completion at the end of October, Jesse and “Striker” made the trip to the 2016 SEMA Show and was the feature car for VDO in HOT Rod Alley. Then the automotive industry saw what a small town builder and small town shop could accomplish by following a dream to its completion.

At this time Jesse and “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. Jesse now has “Striker” on the ISCA show circuit where it picked up a “Best of Class” and “Best Street Machine” at its debut on the World of Wheels circuit in Belton, TX. The week following this debut, Jesse took “Striker” to the monster of an ISCA show - the Houston AutoRama. “Striker” made the “Magnificent 7”, won its class award and picked up “Best Street Machine Award”. All of these best of awards are helping “Striker” and Jesse gather points that hopefully will lead them to a championship title at the 2017 Chicago World of Wheels.

A huge thanks to Brian Stupski of Problem Child Kustoms for his uncanny way of knowing exactly how Jesse wanted the car to look and to be able to draw them out in such detail. Thanks to Kevin Marshal of KM Polishing for all the hours he put in on the show finish aluminum. Thanks to Wendell Sharpton at DFR Automotive and Sharpton Racing for dyno tuning and getting the car to run properly as a 6.1 Supercharged Hemi should. A big thank you to his A Team for helping the project get completed on time: Brett Deviney, Randy Inlow, father Jesse Matlock, Jr. and the biggest special thanks to his fiancé Britanya Pierce who 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
ScottieDTV Watches