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Purple Pride

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Eric Berge has always had a passion for fast cars and racing. He remembers riding his bicycle around town as a kid, staring at all the cool rides in the neighborhood and fantasizing about the thrill of being behind the wheel on a racetrack. He first laid eyes on his dream car, one that would eventually fulfill that obsession, at the age of 5.

In 1963, Berge’s grandmother pulled up in a brand new Plymouth Sport Fury. He fell in love instantly. He loved being inside the car, even if the 318ci V-8 engine was sitting idle in the driveway, and dreamed that it would someday be his transportation across the finish line.

“I knew a lot about drag racing at a young age, and recognized a lot of other race cars with similar body styles,” Berge says, who started drag racing when he was 19 years old. “I always dreamed about having a Plymouth Sport Fury race car to use for drag racing.”

Thirty years later, that wish came true. His grandmother auctioned the car off to her grandchildren in 1990—Berge won with a $900 bid.

Berge, owner of Werner’s Crash Shop in Seattle, says the Plymouth was in great mechanical shape even after three decades serving as a daily driver for his grandmother. It just needed a few cosmetic tweaks to update its visual appeal. Berge reinstalled the original light-blue interior, repainted the light-blue exterior, stripped the roof and changed the wheels.

Those restorations were enough to drive the car, but not to prepare it for Berge’s ultimate goal of drag racing. In 1997, he dove into a 10-year project to lighten the Plymouth, add horsepower and strengthen its structure to get it ready for the track.

“In the 1960-1965 era, you could get a factory race car from Plymouth,” Berge says. “I wanted to copy that basic theme.”

Berge lightened the car to increase speed by replacing the body panels with fiberglass components, including the bumpers, hood, fenders, trunk lid and stone shield.

Berge also tied the Plymouth’s chassis together with subframe connectors and installed rollcage swingout bars to make it legal for drag racing. He moved the rear springs inboard and installed mini tubs in the back to get additional clearance to run an 11.5-inch tire in the rear wheel well.

Then Berge souped up the engine. He installed an electric pump fuel cell, and dropped in a 440ci engine, which he bored and stroked to 495ci. He also added a higher stall converter.

Berge put the final touches on the Plymouth with a paint job that mimicked his favorite childhood racecar—“The Sensation,” a purple and gold-colored car that was prominent in the Pacific Northwest years ago.

“I saw it as a kid and it always stuck in my head. That color combo just knocked me out,” Berge says. So he painted the Plymouth with DuPont’s violet pearl, which he now calls his “Purple Project.”

After a decade of work and a $40,000 investment, Berge’s “Purple Project” might be better referred to as his “purple pride.” It is his prized possession, and the set of wheels that carries him to the finish line during monthly drag races at Pacific Raceways, a track in Kent, Wash.

Berge says the Plymouth has an appraised value of $22,000, but he has no intention of selling. It’s been part of Berge’s life for as long as he can remember, and he intends on keeping it that way.

“It’s exactly the car I’ve always wanted. I dreamed about it as a kid, but I’m still a kid when it comes to my love for it,” Berge says. “It’s a childhood dream come true.”

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