The owner of an award-winning muscle car claims the most important part of his spectacular street machine was inspired by a car he saw at the Food Lion AutoFair. Now it is his turn to influence other high-performance enthusiasts as he participates in the Trophy Rides display during the Sept. 4-7 Food Lion AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In 2006 Bryon Webber, a landscaper from Denver, N.C., was driving a 1974 Plymouth 'Cuda he purchased through eBay. The vintage coupe was powered by a 440-cubic-inch big-block engine, and it had new Frosty Green Metallic paint, wheels, tires, and a white vinyl top. It was the kind of muscle car anyone would be happy to own.

During Thanksgiving, Webber's wife, Melinda, watched in dismay as her husband ripped the new vinyl top to shreds with a razor knife. No, it wasn't a turkey-induced tantrum; Webber was simply transforming the pleasant Plymouth into a world-class hot rod with supercar power.

NASCAR engine builder Tom Ghent stripped the V-8 down to its iron block and enlarged the cylinders to create a 512-cubic-inch monster that produced 600 horsepower. Not exactly designed for good gas mileage, the new V-8 wears a trio of two-barrel carburetors Mopar enthusiasts refer to as the "6 Pack." Webber added a modern five-speed manual transmission and heavy-duty rear axle that should be more than adequate for hard launches when the lights at the drag strip turn green.

His upgrades also included high-performance disc brakes and low-profile tires on lightweight alloy rims-all equipment that would have been impossible to get from the factory when his muscle car was new in 1974.

His dream of driving a Plymouth 'Cuda unlike any other meant the graphics had to carry maximum impact. He had once seen a Cobra replica at the Food Lion AutoFair covered in a deep orange paint so beautiful that Webber asked the car's owner who made it. He left AutoFair with "Tangelo Pearl by House of Kolor" scribbled in his mental notebook.

Once his 'Cuda was wearing several coats of orange paint hand rubbed to perfection, five layers of protective clear paint were applied before Webber's airbrush artist was turned loose.

Webber told the artist, "I want to have the skeleton of a barracuda fish-because a skeleton looks even scarier than a live one-ripping through the metal of the car. Oh yeah, and the bones should be on fire with razors running up and down the backbone."

Webber's graphics ideas were so thorough that there are mini-murals on parts of the car that will never be seen. For example, a spectacular piece of art wraps entirely around the fuel tank, even though the top section is snug against the trunk floor, and the driveshaft is painted to look as though it is on fire as it turns.

Webber put the final touches on his cool 'Cuda mere hours before it entered the Standard of Mopar Excellence competition during the All-Chrysler Nationals in Carlisle, Pa. To illustrate the thoroughness of the SME judges, all 26 of the invitation-only competitors were docked .25 points because the air valves on their wheels were not consistently matched to specific points on the tires. Only two other cars scored higher than Webber's 'Cuda, but the 97.25 rating earned it the event's highest honor-Gold Certification.

The Tangelo Pearl 'Cuda will be displayed with several other award-winning restorations and hot rods during the Sept. 4-7 Food Lion AutoFair, including the 1935 Ford roadster that won the 2006 Ridler Award at the Detroit Autorama. The fall Food Lion AutoFair annually attracts more than 120,000 visitors. It features more than 50 car club displays and more than 7,000 vendor spaces that offer a plethora of automotive parts and memorabilia.

More than 1,500 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway.

Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults while children 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.

Parking for the event is $5. For more information, contact the Charlotte Motor Speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit