Many of us have our automotive passions influenced at a young age as our undeveloped minds are shaped and warped as the case may be to the desired rides we hope to own one day. Mike Krieger from Ontario, Canada is no exception with his conversion taking place at the start of his adolescence. Mike’s Dad, George has been racing the ¼ mile in Chevys for most of Mike’s young life seeing his son get a first-hand introduction into the automotive entertainment scene. At age 11, Mike met Miss Hurst Shifter, Linda Vaughn (who I’m sure left a lasting impression on many a young males mind including those behind the wheel) and they became lifelong friends. At 14, Linda introduced Mike to Bob Riggle, professional driver of the Hurst Hemi Under Glass wheel stander. This custom racer was a 1968 Plymouth Barracuda with a fuel injected Chrysler Hemi mounted at the rear under the exceptionally large rear window allowing the car to wheel stand for exhibition purposes. Well this might explain the Hemi obsession! The other half of the obsession could be attributed to meeting Bill “Maverick” Golden who raced a red A100 Dodge known as the Little Red Wagon. This cabover pickup was the first wheel standing truck as well as the world’s fastest truck circa 1965.
As a young teenager without wheels of his own, Mike was into making models of his favourite rides and had built a model of the Hurst Hemi Under Glass and one day brought it down to show Bob. Bob was suitably impressed and invited Mike to come and see what he had hidden in the trailers. Inside the one was the Hurst Hemi Under Glass and in the other trailer was Bob’s new wheel stander, another Dodge A100 called The Hemi Xpress looking striking in its bright orange paint scheme. With eyes as wide as saucers, Mike exclaimed to his Dad “oh wow! That is what I gotta have for my first car!”
George, being a good father and knowing how teenagers can be, decided to entertain his son’s vision and went looking for one to do up. They hunted the papers, found one for sale and went for a look. It was a rusted out pile of junk but once Mike laid eyes on it, he told his Dad he had to have one. “Man, why would you want something like that?! “ George exclaimed looking at the bizarrely shaped utility vehicle. Mike replied, “I dunno, they just look so cool!” George was always a Chevy guy and when Mike told him he wanted a Mopar, George thought to himself “ this can’t possibly be my kid!” George decided at least he might get his son into a piece of muscle and discussed doing up a 1968 Barracuda and he’ll supply the 426 Hemi but Mike’s mind was made up and only an A100 would do!
Over the following year after school, Mike scoured the internet and trade papers looking for a suitable vehicle and since he hadn’t even turned 16, had no driver’s license leaving it up to his parents to do the wheel work as they travelled around the vast countryside, throughout Michigan and Ohio and even hunting them down in Utah and California. “I just couldn’t seem to find a truck that was in my budget and that was clean enough to build on. You could find stuff but they were complete pieces of trash and the owners wanted a lot of money for them”. George was growing tired of looking for a suitable A100 having covered most of America and Canada, expressing his angst, he said to Mike, “We’ve gone, we’ve looked at so many trucks, you’ve got to find something else because these A100s don’t seem to be out there. I’m going to take you on one last trip to find something. Where are we going to go”? Mike had previously made contact via the internet with the admin on the Randy A100 van association forum site who told him about their big Chryslers at Carlisle event in July. The A100 guys had their own gathering at the show with a line-up of fifteen A 100s with three pickups coming from Ontario, Canada. These Canadian built models are known as Fargos after the town in which they were constructed. Mike met the Canadian owners and discussed his desire to own one. One owner had another five at home and said Mike might find what he’s looking for there. They exchanged details and later, headed up north of Toronto to check them out. Upon inspection, the young teen found the owner was asking too much for the poor condition they were in. He figured he’d be better off buying the one the owner had at Carlisle. Although it was basically stock and in excellent shape, Mike really had no use for most of the bolt on parts. Yet one cool thing was that it was 1970, the last year they were produced and had five windows, the same as The Hemi Express. The plan after all, was to build a street version of the Hemi Express. Mike approached the owner stating”I’m interested in the 70 but I don’t want the motor, I don’t want the transmission, nor the good wheels and tyres, the fibreglass trans tunnel. I just basically want the rolling body.” The owner said he’d think it over.
A call a week later revealed the price was still too high for a school aged teen with very little money but, as the saying goes” the family that plays together, stays together” and Mike’s grandma, who lived with them and took an interest in the family’s hobbies, knew how much work he had put into trying to locate one, said to Mike “I’ll give you the rest of the money that you need to buy that thing because I know how bad you want one of those trucks and I know you’ve been all over the place trying to find one so here’s the money, go and get the truck that you want”. August 22, 1998, Mike had himself an A100 pickup sitting in his driveway! Mike and George got stuck into tearing it apart ready to build his dream ride. Mike quips “at sixteen you have this dream of what you want to build and then all of a sudden it sets in at 16 you don’t have a whole lot of money to build a project like what you’re envisioning” He sat down with his Dad and nutted out what was feasible and what wasn’t. They wanted to stick to the visual side of the project as a wheel stander but the 426 Hemi blew out the budget.
They considered a small block 360 or 340 for the dog house and began work on the project. Over the next ten months, with help from long-time friend, Andre Mallioux, they cut the rear frame rails out, tubbed it, narrowed up a Dana 60 diff with 35 spline axles, installed Posi trac center with 4:10 gears, ladder bars, coil over shockers and disc brakes front and rear. The classic cab over was now looking more like Mike’s vision minus a Hemi V8 for the dog house.
Tom Johnson, a friend of Georges was big into Chryslers and contacted the Kriegers to say he’d be at the Woodward dream cruise later in the year and would like to catch up. Sitting around chewing the fat, Mike mentioned how he would love to have a 426 Hemi in the truck but that it wasn’t achievable. “Did you ever think of putting in a 392 in the back?” asked Tom to which George replied they hadn’t. At this point, Mike had no idea what a 392 was and ask what it was. Tom replied “that was early generation Hemis that came out before the 426s. They were produced from 1951 to 1958.” With his heart still set on the 426, Mike did some research on the earlier Hemis and found out they were making a resurgence back into rodding “Man, the thing looks just like a 426 other than the distributor’s in the back “he thought! Further investigation revealed they could be found easily enough and were a fraction of the price of the later model motors.
Mike’s Dad went on the hunt for one behind Mike’s back and located a relatively healthy low mileage unit with the machine work already finished. It had been bagged up and sold on a couple of times before ending up in a basement and subsequently, in the current owner’s way which always makes for a quick sale.
The day of Mike’s 18th birthday, his parent’s hand him just a birthday card leaving Mike thinking “Gees, all I’m getting is a birthday card this year!” but once he opened it, there was a clipping of the ad for the motor to which Mike exclaimed “Oh my god, you guys got me 392 Hemi for my birthday!” much to the delight of his Mum who bought it for him. Once again, that old family saying comes into play.
With his newly acquired power plant in hand, the guys set about writing up a shopping list before contacting Powerplay, the early Hemi gurus and ordering a bunch of parts. These were subsequently passed onto good friend and legendary Canadian drag racer, Barrie Poole. Barrie is credited for becoming the first Canadian to ever win an N.H.R.A major national event back in 1970 in a 1969 Mustang Cobra Jet. Who better to have screw your motor together than one in the know! Once completed, it was dynode, giving Mike 400hp with 400 ft/lb to play with. Next the 727 Torqueflite trans received a freshen up with a 3500 stall converter mounted in front.
With the running gear now complete, it was time to look at the body, which, when first purchased had a shiny 1998 GMC green and gold two tone paint job on it but the years of mechanical work had taken its toll and the classic vehicle was due for a strip back and respray. Mike still had his heart set on orange as a tribute to the Hemi Express but his Dad had other ideas feeling orange wasn’t the way to go pointing out “every other A100 that’s out there that’s done up is either red or orange. Why not do it back to green and gold but we’ll do it in period correct colours”. Mike could see his wisdom and decided this was the avenue to take. The green is a 1970 Mopar colour used on the Roadrunners while the gold, as a tribute to good friends and Hurst employees, Linda Vaughn and Bob Riggle is 1966 Pontiac Tiger Gold used on all the Hurst cars and commonly known as Hurst Gold tying the theme all together.
The whole build took seven years, and while it is considered to be complete, Mike has subsequently continued to add to it over the last eight years it’s been on the road. Mike never considered the truck to be an attention grabber as it wasn’t a muscle car and has been blown away with the attention it has received claiming “when Dad and I were building the truck, I never thought for one ounce that when the truck was done that anybody would pay attention to it or even really care about it because it’s not a 69 Camaro or 66 Mustang, it’s very oddball.” I think Mike didn’t realise what he was building and it’s the oddball stuff we dig and this is very super cool oddball!