Bench Racing

backyard

Journalism, Circa 1982

By Cam Benty

Bench Racing: the act of telling car stories to your buddies, family members or anyone who will listen. The challenge, as with any long past recollection, is trying to accurately remember facts that have been tucked away in the far recesses of your brain. The handy thing about having been employed by car magazines is that you have documented, through photos used in those publications, most of your life. Case in point is this gem of a photo taken of my back yard some time in early 1982.

At the time I shared a rental house in Mission Hills, California with a good friend, Rich Sephton. Rich had been recently divorced and needed a place to garage his cars. Having used his former residence for a ’69 Z/28 engine rebuild of my own, it seemed like a nice return of a favor to have him share the rent. The result was much of what you see here.

Rich, at the time, was Shop Foreman for the Dukes of Hazzard TV show building Chargers and support vehicles at the Warner Brothers shop in Sun Valley (see the story “All the General’s Men” in Fall PPN magazine). Among his personal cars at the time include a 1970 AAR ‘Cuda, ’66 Plymouth Satellite convertible and 1967 hemi Belvedere II drag car – not to mention his Little Red Wagon Dodge pickup that he used to go to work. About that time I had a collection of cars myself including a ’66 Hemi Satellite, 1970 Trans Am and a 1970 340 Duster 4-speed.

The biggest negative to having a house occupied by a couple of car guys, was that our friends found out we had a large lot behind the house that was perfect for storing cars. Not unlike those friends who discover that you have a truck and call you every time they need to move something big, our car lot was often occupied with cars that were owned by “friends.” Case in point here is that Lincoln in the picture that belonged to Jet Car driver Richard Schroeder. We stored that one for two years.

This photo is a snap shot of my life at the time. The Lincoln, AAR Cuda and tarp-wrapped Satellite convertible dress the left side of the image. C. Van Tune, my Tech editor at the time and soon-to-be Editor of Motor Trend is standing on the back of his “stored” Chevy Monza (a rare 350ci version!) to increase his altitude to photograph a Porsche he had on loan for a road test story (Side note: while we had this car for the weekend, we drove from Gardena, California to the Texas border and back in 24 hours – just to see if we could. Do the math – that’s 1,400 miles in 24 hours while challenged with a 55 mph speed limit.

What’s most interesting to me about this photo are the parts in the foreground. The coolest collectible in Rich’s backyard wrecking yard came from wrecked General Lee Chargers. On the cars that were headed for the crusher due to irreparable damage, he would cut them off the cars at the pillars and stack them in the backyard. At its peak, he had a collection of about 10 of these Charger roofs. I can only imagine what those would be worth to collectors today.

If you look closely in that pile of stuff in the center, there is a General Lee push bar, cut from the bumper of one of the cars. In addition, there are other parts and pieces, all taken from Chargers and police cars that ceased to be at the hands of Warner Brothers’ stunt men.

I lived in Mission Hills until I bought a house in 1985 and moved out. Rich stayed in the house, got married, built a wheelstanding, blown 440 Charger in the driveway, had a daughter, got divorced, told stories about Dukes, built cars for his kids and worked until he could no longer do so. He passed over a decade ago.

So Rich, this one’s for you!

About Cam Benty - PPN Editor

Cam Benty’s name is instantly recognizable to those that have been around the automotive aftermarket over the last 25 years. He has built a stellar reputation as a well-rounded automotive journalist while holding positions with Popular Hot Rodding, Car Craft, National Dragster and Motor Trend.