1970 Barracuda build brings Canadian family healing, hope in wake of tragedy
Wayne Bishop has an affinity for projects. As owner of Wayne’s Hot Rods & Customs, in Waverley, Nova Scotia, he’s been turning dilapidated cars into custom show pieces for years. Little did he know just how beneficial that training would be for his family.
Wayne and Kim Bishop’s only son, Chris, worked alongside his dad. He enjoyed getting his hands dirty. He was also outgoing and fun, “the life of the shop,” as his dad says. Chris talked about building a car of his own one day, maybe a 1955 Chevy. Then, on August 15, 2020, at just 20 years old, he took his own life. No one saw it coming.
“I don’t know if I could have done something to prevent it, but I had no idea [he was suicidal]. He and I were close,” Wayne says. “That’s what’s so painful—he suffered alone. He didn’t talk to us about it. Even his friends didn’t know. They were totally shocked. One night Chris was hanging out with a buddy, and the next morning he was gone. His friend kept saying, ‘That’s not possible. He was fine.’ But it happened.”
About a week after Chris’s death, Wayne and his daughter Kaitlynn, now 24, were sitting together on the porch. Both were trying to make sense of it all when Kaitlynn offered a way forward.
“Dad, we’re building that car,” she said.
“I’m in,” Wayne said.
Although Chris had originally talked about rebuilding a classic Chevy, a customer heard about their plan and dropped off a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. “Chris really liked my ’Cuda,” the man said, “so I think he’d like it if you built this one.”
The Plymouth needed a lot of work, but Wayne thought the car was appropriate. And so it began.
Kaitlynn suggested painting the car pink or purple. Wayne quickly nixed pink. When they contacted artist Julio Cesar Caetano and asked him to create a rendering of the Plymouth, he used purple. The shade they eventually picked looks almost black in the dark. Since Kaitlynn was responsible for the color, they nicknamed the car Twisted Sis ’Cuda.
Wayne posted photos of the project on his shop’s website. The page is mostly images, capped by a short note that explains the motivation behind the father-daughter project—not just to honor Chris, but also to raise awareness for mental health and self-harm counseling.
“It’s important that we talk about this stuff,” Wayne says. “Talk to your kids. Ask them what’s happening and how their life is going. They may not want to share, but you have to try and get them talking.”
The ’Cuda project will cost an estimated $200,000. When word of the project spread, sponsors appeared to help. “LKQ sold us a 2020 6.4-liter Scat Pack [V-8] out of a Charger with only 1600 kilometers on it—along with a transmission—for a pretty great price.” The engine has already been installed. Wayne says he and Kaitlynn have also received help from BASF, 3M, Carquest, Tirecraft, and Chris Alston’s Chassisworks. On top of that, family is selling t-shirts and calendars on Facebook.
The project was slow going for a while, and not only because the Bishops had to wait on parts. “We kept asking, ‘Oh, Chris, why? Why?’ We were miserable. And then my wife and I just decided, this has to stop. Let’s get up and live.”
Wayne says the ’Cuda has helped and will continue to. “We don’t work on it every day, but we work on it every week,” he says. He acknowledges that the project may take years to complete. “We’re just going to try and make it the best we can. It’ll have AAR pinstriping and ‘Chris’ on the quarter panel, so hopefully, people will ask about it.”
The Bishop family plans to eventually show the car at events throughout North America; the ultimate goal is to display it at the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas.
“I think showing it is better than auctioning it off” and donating the money to charity, Wayne says. “If it starts a conversation and we can maybe keep someone else’s family from going through what we’ve been through, then that’ll make it all worthwhile.”
Kaitlynn told Ottawa’s CTV that, even in its infancy, the ’Cuda project is saving lives. “I have a very close friend who has been suicidal in the past. And she tells me all the time that after hearing Mom and Dad that day, she couldn’t possibly put her family through it … That’s one person we know for a fact that we have touched.”
Kaitlynn has been not only drawn into the project but also the business. That’s been therapeutic for both her and her dad.
“One day I said, ‘Look, why don’t you come and work with me? In the event that anything ever happens to me, this shop is yours. You have to learn how to run it,’” Wayne says. “She said, ‘No, I’m not interested.’ But after a while, she was having a rough time and took a couple of days off from her job to spend time with me. At the end of the week, she said, ‘This job is mine.’ Now she’s pretty much got her hands into everything.”
The restoration continues. “Life goes on. You have to keep going,” Wayne says. “Every time I look at the car, I smile and think, ‘Chris, you’re going to like it.’”
If you are contemplating suicide or are concerned about someone who may be, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides free and confidential 24-hour support for people in distress, plus prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones and best practices for professionals in the United States. In Canada, call 833-456-4566.