By Geoff Stunkard
“That guy came back from Vietnam and simply wanted the baddest car he could find, and he kept the car flawless. He didn’t change out the wheels, didn’t really change the suspension, but he know a few racer tricks, and that is what was done to this car. Just some parts and painting the engine black to get rid of heat, and that car has been that way since 1972.”
Tim Wellborn was talking about what has become a big attraction at the Wellborn Musclecar Museum in Alexander City, a 1971 Bahama Yellow GTX that is the highest-priced Hemi car of all the machines built in the supercar era. The car, through a set of interesting circumstances, came to the collection showing just over 49,000 original miles and is unrestored, though modified.
“That GTX is one rare automobile, and most people would want to bring it back to absolute stock. But being here in the museum and seeing so many people coming in and looking at that, they talk about the changes. The owner put the valve covers on it, put the headers on it, all things that could easily be changed back. In truth, hardly anyone left their engine bay stock back then. You wanted to open the hood and show people what it looked like with your changes; it’s not like today where there is a big plastic cover over the engine. Back then, it was just an extension of the car and how you might personalize that car.”
For Larry Dickson, whose service in southeast Asia had been heroic to the point of being awarded some of the nation’s highest honors such as the Purple Heart and multiple Silver Stars, the car might have been the culmination of a dream of owning a Hemi car while he was busy with much more serious business. He had purchased a new 1970 383” Road Runner when he returned, but went looking for a Hemi car to replace that in early 1972. One way or another, he found out about a highly-optioned ’71 GTX in early 1972; this car would be sold to him through Courtesy Chrysler-Plymouth in Davis, with an added destination charge of 57.00 from Bayshore, New York. We do not know if Larry had them find this car for him or if they already had it on their lot. We do know a bit about what he bought, though.
Indeed, any aficionado of American muscle would have been drawn to this machine.
It had been ordered as a sales bank car in November 1970 with every serious option available in 1971 – the Hemi Super Trak Pack driveline, AM/FM stereo cassette with microphone, power windows and brakes, houndstooth interior, all the exterior trim packages, and, coming in at almost $500.00 over even all of that, a power sunroof and vinyl top. The sticker on the car new was $6592.75, 78% over the $3707.00 GTX base price and the highest-ever sticker price of any Chrysler Hemi musclecar. Based on the price of $4517.14 Larry paid, the car left the lot as a loss, especially since he financed it through his bank and not Chrysler.
Larry obviously took good care of the car, as its condition remained quite in line with the original construction. The engine did come out and was slightly modified; in serious racer fashion, it was painted flat blank when it was reinstalled, with headers, a few chrome goodies, and a Mallory rev limiter. The interior was unaltered except for the Rev Control, and the car even kept its 15” Rallye wheels. One evening, however, the car was damaged when it was bounced against a phone pole, leaving a big dent in the door. At that point, Larry parked it in his suburban California garage but never got around to getting it fixed; indeed, he never drove it again. It was eventually buried beneath typical family storage items.
Larry passed away, and the car came into the Mopar hobby through his estate. Tim knew it was special the first time he saw it, and he made a deal with second owner Scott Lindsey to get it into the Wellborn collection. By chance, Tim was able to secure a replacement original door painted in EL5 Bahama Yellow from fellow collector Peter Swainson, allowing the museum to maintain the car as an original and not have repaint anything on it. The car is presently on display in the museum together with pictures of Mr. Dickson in his military dress attire from back in the day, a full list of the options that were built onto it back in the day, and all the changes that Larry made when the car was cruising the hills and valleys of central California.
“(It’s) has been that way since 1972,” says Tim. “Because of that, it is actually the history of that car, and it would be wrong to erase that.”
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