Richard Petty 426 Max Wedge steals the show on latest Barn Find Hunter
by Brandan Gillogly and Eric Weiner //
Some of Tom Cotter’s tremendous barn finds have come by way of association, word of mouth from someone who knows the kind of things Tom is looking for. Other times Tom stumbles upon the treasures himself as a part of his travels across America. The latter was certainly the case for this particular collection of American muscle.
This episode of Barn Find Hunter brings Tom to Virginia to visit Snowball Bishop, an acquaintance he’d met years ago when he spotted Bishop’s collection from the highway. Snowball is an older guy, maybe in his mid-80s, with a fast-talking drawl and endless stories. He takes Tom around to see a handful of his favorite cars, habitually tapping on the tires with his cane to punctuate key points of his narrative.
The property is a vast swath of land, dotted with maybe 50 or so cars in various states of disrepair. Some of these cars have been parked so long there is an entire ecosystem thriving inside their rusted or rotted husks, and in two cases there are trees growing straight through the engine bays of two cars. In fact, Snowball tells Tom, the property is actually divided in half by the interstate, which he watched get built as a much younger man. Snowball’s place was a communal gathering spot for his car-loving friends, and there were many long nights in the garage with his friends that devolved into poker games. Eventually they’d be cut short when Snowball’s wife would yank the extension cord running from the house to the garage.
He shows off a pair of 1964 Ford Galaxies in a garage, one nicely restored with a 390 and four-speed, while the other is completely original and unrestored, purchased for $250 in 1968. A housecat dances around the two cars as Tom and Snowball chat, jumping on on the restored car and leaving tiny paw prints in its wake. Across the path on the property is an older house that Snowball just uses for storage, and amidst the piles of hubcaps, manifolds, body panels, grilles, and bumpers, Tom finds a carburetor he likes and convinces Snowball to sell it to him. Who says you can’t mix business with pleasure.
There’s plenty of preserved Ford trim and bumpers among Bishop’s buildings, but it’s the shell of a Ford modified stock car outside that steers the conversation towards the highlight of the episode. Bishop had raced the modified with a Ford flathead V-8, but it didn’t have the power he needed to compete. A trip to Lee and Richard Petty’s shop, along with some intense negotiation, had him leave with enough parts to build a 426 Max Wedge, and just enough gas money to get home. Snowball recounts the story like it was yesterday, and amidst the dreary weather and drops of rain, you can almost picture the old Max Wedge burning rubber and taking names in its prime.
The 426 Max Wedge was Mopar’s biggest and baddest street engine prior to the 426 Hemi and was offered in 1962-1964 Dodge and Plymouth B-bodies. For the Pettys it was obsolete once the Hemi was introduced, but it was a huge step up in power compared to any small-block of the era, let alone a flathead. The brutish mill pushed Bishop to several wins in the car.
Tom also inspects a 1963 Galaxie convertible that Bishop has for sale. After just a bit of tinkering, they get the car to fire up. You might be lead to believe that Bishop drives a hard bargain considering the seemingly impossible deals he’s snatched up, but he told Tom he’d be willing to part ways with the Galaxie for just $3500. And if you head to Virginia and take Snowball up on that, you’ll probably get some great stories for free, too.