Robert Sumpter, of Macomb Township, bought his 1970 ’Cuda when he was 19. He kept the car in storage for more than three  decades,  and then had it restored  in 2014. The project was  completed  in 2017.

Robert Sumpter, of Macomb Township, bought his 1970 ’Cuda when he was 19. He kept the car in storage for more than three decades, and then had it restored in 2014. The project was completed in 2017.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Behind the Wheel: Man restores 1970 ’Cuda that he bought as a teen

By: Jennifer Sigouin | C&G Newspapers | Published September 20, 2019

 Sumpter poses with his ’Cuda in 1975.

Sumpter poses with his ’Cuda in 1975.

Photo provided by Robert Sumpter

Photo by Deb Jacques

Photo by Deb Jacques

In the summer of 1970, just before his 15th birthday, Macomb Township resident Robert Sumpter spotted a brand-new, Army green 1970 Plymouth Barracuda in “Motor Trend” magazine, and it was love at first sight.  

“I fell in love with it right then,” he said. “I had it in my mind that I was going to buy one as soon as I could. That was my dream car.”

Over the next few years, Sumpter saved his money — even in the midst of a nationwide recession — and in 1975, when he was 19, he purchased a used Barracuda from a seller in Belleville. 

“I paid $1,100 cash for it,” said Sumpter.

The car was a 1970 ’Cuda, which is a variation of Plymouth’s standard Barracuda. It wasn’t exactly what he was looking for, but it had potential. 

“I could make it into the car I wanted,” he said. 

Sumpter’s plans to restore the car, however, got a bit delayed. In 1980, he was laid off from his job at Chrysler, and without the financial means to restore the ’Cuda, he put it into storage. Sumpter went on to work as a bus driver for the city of Detroit for a couple of years, and then he became a police officer for the Detroit Police Department — a career he enjoyed for more than 20 years up until his retirement. 

In 2014, a few years before retiring from the DPD — and more than three decades after buying the ’Cuda — he decided that it was time to restore it. 

“I really wanted to do this car right,” he said. “That was my retirement present to myself.”

A friend recommended that he take the car to Dave Kupinski, of D & P Complete Auto Service in Roseville, to do the restoration work. 

“He took a look at the car and said, ‘I haven’t seen a car like this before,’” Sumpter said.

Sumpter learned that the car was a custom-built model that had previously been owned by the son of an auto executive. It had parts from three Barracuda variations — the standard Barracuda, the Barracuda Gran Coupe and the ’Cuda. Kupinski had to look in catalogs for all three versions to find parts for the car. 

“Every pay day, I would give him some money so he could keep working on it,” Sumpter added.  

Sumpter also credits Bill Vertalka, of Royal T Collision in Roseville, for completing the body work. The overall restoration project was finally completed in August 2017. 

“I’m extremely happy with how it turned out,” he said, noting that it’s almost like having a brand-new car. 

Sumpter added that he loves driving the ’Cuda — especially because it’s a standard shift — and he likes to show it off at local cruises and car shows. 

“Every time I get in the car, it’s like I’m 19 again,” said the 64-year-old. “It’s kind of a blast to feel like you’re 19 again, even if it’s only for 20 minutes.”


SHARE YOUR STORY
Do you own a vehicle that has an interesting history? Contact Staff Writer Jennifer Sigouin at jsigouin@candgnews.com or at (586) 498-1052, and you could be featured in an upcoming edition of Behind the Wheel.