The old saying “may you live in interesting times,” has never been more appropriate than today. We are engulfed in an ever-changing world that at times seems almost unrecognizable. Most of us drag racing fans would gladly step into a time machine and transport ourselves back to the golden era of the sport if we could.
We’d set the dials back to the 1960s, when Don Garlits, Big John Mazmanian, and Sox & Martin ruled the dragstrips and Linda Vaughan, and “Jungle Pam” Hardy tantalized the crowds with their buxom beauty and skimpy gear. A time when the cars were uncomplicated and unencumbered by electronics and modern “nanny” devices.
Sadly, that was over 50 years ago, and until the time machine is invented, the Southeast Gassers Association (SEGA) is the next best thing. SEGA is series of drag events that seeks to duplicate the heyday of drag racing, specifically the year 1967. The brainchild of Quain Stott, the rules are simple: all cars must be spec’d out as they would have in the late ’60s. No electronics or data loggers. All cars must have a manual transmission, a clutch, and a solid front axle. If guys want to dress the part in white overalls and a straw hat to beat the heat, or gals in halter tops and mini-skirts, that’s cool too. Any elements that recreate the glory days of drag racing are both A-okay and encouraged.
A good example of a drag car spec’d to SEGA standards is Gordon Rundle’s super cool “Suspect Device,” a 1966 fishbowl Barracuda he built himself in his garage. Gordon and his wife Lori live in Speedway, Indiana, and by day, he’s a mechanical engineer, but on weekends he’s a vintage drag racer. His father took him to car shows and drag races since he was four years old, so he is no stranger to the car hobby or the need for speed.
He was big into Japanese motorbikes and building his Dart Swinger, but never tried his hand at putting a racecar together. He was keen on vintage drag racing and when he got wind of SEGA, he got a bad case of the old school fever. He sold all of his bikes and the Dart and went all-in with the Barracuda. From there, he was obsessed with competing in SEGA events with a Mopar drag car that could’ve been built when LBJ was president.
This adventure started back in 2014 — Rundle found a crusty old maroon Barracuda in a Wisconsin barn and paid $1,500 for it. The floors and quarters were full of rot, but that was a mere speedbump and Rundle got to work resuscitating the old Valiant-based pony car. He is a big fan of the Sites Brothers “Skootin’ Cuda” and that famous old drag car became a working template for “Suspect Device.”
All Mopar compacts of this era have unibody construction, and that dictated how Rundle would build the foundation of his car. He cut out the rusted floor panels from the A-pillars back but stopped shy of the rear suspension rails to retain the factory mounting points.
Rundle had never bent metal before, but you’d never know it. He admitted that fabricating the frame and roll cage was a daunting task, but he just bought a pipe bender and learned along the way. After many hours of trial and error, he figured it out. When the subframe and roll cage was built and welded in, he set his sights on the suspension.
He hooked up a WAC straight front axle with Viking double-adjustable shocks he painted a period-correct white and then bolted on Wilwood brakes. The front end touches the tarmac with 15×4 American Rebel Manufacting wheels wrapped in Moroso tires.
In the rear, Rundle mounted CalTrack split mono leaf springs, another pair of Viking double-adjustable shocks, and Wilwood brakes. A Dana 60 rear axle transfers power to the Ansen 15×8.5 wheels and Hoosier slicks. The wheelie bar tucked under the rear bumper was an off-the-shelf unit modified by Rundle for the car.
Power is provided by a small-block Chrysler built from a Mopar Performance R1 block. It started out as 426 cubic inches but ran afoul of SEGA’s power-to-weight ratio rules so Rundle had go back to the drawing board. He returned it to the stock stroke which resulted in 366 cubic inches of displacement, where it remains to this day.
The most interesting part of the engine is the rare Hilborn mechanical injection that crowns the build. It was produced back in the day as an IndyCar application, but never gained traction with consumers and was subsequently discontinued. Rundle scoured swap meets and junkyards trying to find one and ultimately hit pay-dirt on eBay.
With the unicorn induction system and open headers, Rundle estimates that the mill is putting out around 625 horsepower, laid down with a Jerico four-speed gearbox. To date, his best runs are 6.11 at 114mph in the 1/8-mile and 9.84 at 138 in the 1/4.
Not only is the body of this Barracuda a hybrid of factory unibody and custom box tube frame, but the front fenders and hood are fiberglass, as well. The windows are lexan all the way around, built by ProGlass, and the car tips the scales at fairly light 2,756 lbs. Rundle handled all the bodywork and paint, spraying the car out in Chrysler Marine Blue.
He omitted the front bumper and added a fiberglass unit at the rear for weight considerations. It was his first time painting a racecar and the results are impressive. The only other set of fingerprints on this car was from a guy out of Indianapolis named Litl’ Bill, who hand-painted all the lettering.
The interior is a bare-bones, no-nonsense affair. It sports a sheet aluminum floor, transmission tunnel and door panels, Kirkey seats with Impact Racing harnesses, and Stewart Warner gauges. Rundle built the steering column and pedals from scratch.
He loves the SEGA series and tells us “The best part is the camaraderie and fan base that follow the races. At most other events, there is hardly anyone in the stands. With SEGA, not only are the stands full of fans but the event attracts a tight-knit group of people that are a key part of the scene. I have met a ton of folks who share my passion for drag racing and have made lifelong friends.” Rundle also says, “There’s nothing like dropping the clutch at 8,000 rpm. Great fun.”
Rundle tells us the backstory of how he got the name “Suspect Device” for this once-forgotten Barracuda.
“The answer is two-fold — I love the Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers and they have a song entitled “Suspect Device.” Also, if you look closely at the front fender of the car you will see a painted “273” badge, so the name is also a play on what is (or isn’t) underneath the hood.”
There are a few more events scheduled for the remainder of this year, go here for a schedule. Who knows, you might catch Gordon Rundle wailing down the strip in his time warp Barracuda.