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THE FREEDOM FOUND IN A 1968 PLYMOUTH BARRACUDA-A SOLDIER'S LEGACY

cuda 4-1mike

The old car hobby is a “fun thing”-it helps us escape from reality and can take us back to a place that’s familiar and safe. Nothing is more important than that link to home…especially for members of the military serving their country in extremely hostile places like Afghanistan. These are not safe places to be-by any definition. That old car can be the life raft you need in a situation that is thankfully beyond comprehension for most people in countries that are truly free.

Cpl. Mike Seggie knew that old cars are an expression of a lifestyle worth defending…one that allowed freedom of expression in something as simple as a classic 60s muscle car.

Mike Seggie was 17 when he saw this 1968 Barracuda-it was, as his dad Jim says, “love at first sight”. It was a big project and Mike had a game plan for the classic 60s Plymouth.

Unfortunately, Mike didn’t have the luxury of time to see the project to completion because he was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan with the Canadian Armed Forces.

His armoured vehicle came under insurgent attack on Sept. 3 2008, killing Mike, Cpl. Andrew Grenon, Private Chadwick Horn and leaving 5 other soldiers injured.

Mike was on his first tour and less than two weeks away from coming home.

But the project car remains as a tribute to Cpl. Mike Seggie-the effort behind it is a tribute in itself to two close-knit communities-the military family and the car community.They are definitely coming together on this project to salute the bond between a kid and his classic car.

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Jim Seggie believes that he probably influenced his son Mike on the vintage Mopars-Jim is a huge fan of the white 1970 Challenger in the iconic car movie “Vanishing Point”. But this car was a 68 Plymouth Barracuda-a far less familiar sight to father and son. Jim was curious-Mike was obsessed-“ Mike found this car thanks to his mom Shirley, who spotted it while out on a bike ride. Mike looked at it and fell in love with it - love at first sight! Mike was a throwback to the 70's - Mike and I shared the same love for older Plymouth and Dodge products”. 

He had to have this car so, at 17; Mike visited his bank manager and cut a loan deal for the car-actually more of a “co-loan” deal because Jim’s name was on the loan as well. But Mike made all the arrangements on his own to secure the 68 ‘Cuda fastback.

cuda 1

Jim and Mike worked on the car together-not always smoothly-“Mike and I liked to work together on the car. We didn't do all that much - minor repairs as neither one of us was all that mechanically talented. When we did work, sometimes it would degenerate into an Orange County Chopper Paul Sr. vs. Paul Jr. match. I generally won!”

They shared a common interest in the car and worked together like peers, although Jim had to turn into a parent occasionally-Jim said that Mike “drove the car any chance he could” piling up mile after mile in his dream car.

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But it was definitely a project car and one of Jim’s biggest concerns was that the Barracuda’s tired front end had a broken driver’s side upper ball joint. The car had a brutal pull to the left and, as a concerned parent, this drove Jim crazy.

In fact, in one conversation that Jim had when Mike phoned from Afghanistan, he advised Mike that he’d looked into front-end parts for the car because “it’s not safe to drive it”. Mike bucked this advice at first because it was on his “to-do” list but relented to parental pressure on the front-end rebuild.

Mike was a rookie in the car project world but, during a shift with Mark “Edge” Ejdrygiewicz, the conversation turned to cars-specifically Mike’s 68 Barracuda.

In combat zones, conversations like that are important because it’s a piece of home so Mike and Mark had a detailed game plan mapped out for the car over many similar “home-oriented” conversations.

As the experienced car guy, Mark was going to be the lead on the project and Mike was going to learn on the job. It was a great distraction from the reality of Afghanistan and the car became a focal point for the trip home.

cuda 6 mark

Unfortunately, the reality of a combat role is the constant danger-Cpl Mike Seggie and his beloved 68 Barracuda fastback would never be reunited.

But the other reality is that objects like a classic car can become symbols-this 1968 Plymouth Barracuda has become a symbol for Mike’s life-his dreams and aspirations.

Mike had committed 100% of his combat pay to the car project. That commitment didn’t go unnoticed in both the military and car community.Jim Seggie and Mark Ejdrygiewicz are pushing the project ahead with a great deal of help from fellow car guys and military members: Mike Mulvihill, Jeff Fehr, and Butch Keating.

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Add in civilian car guys like the Manitoba Mopar Association and a local Dodge dealership and this project takes on a life of its own.

It’s a big project-the original 318 was replaced long ago with a 360 from a 70s Dodge truck. And that was a very tired motor. Jim drove it to Brandon from CFB Shilo and the guys at the shop told him “he shouldn’t have made it out of the driveway”. The bearings were completely gone-non existent. They couldn’t figure out how it didn’t seize.

The rear end was just as bad-again they were mystified about why it didn’t lock up. That doesn’t matter because now the car has a huge team dedicated to the project made up of car guys and military guys-in many cases they are both. Jim Seggie, for example, is literally getting his hands dirty volunteering for less glamorous jobs like cleaning up an oily, grimy, dirt encrusted transmission cross member. Car guys know that all projects don’t involve clean and shiny parts-Jim knows that everything helps the cause.

The game plan is to have the Cuda on the road by the summer-in the interim the Winnipeg “World of Wheels” has asked the Seggie family to display the car at the show even though it’s still under restoration as a tribute to Mike, his dream, and the tremendous job being done by the Canadian military in Afghanistan

Jim plans to drive the car regularly “on nice days” to work; plus the Cuda will never see another Canadian winter outside. He plans to take the car to many shows as a rolling memorial to Mike and his military comrades. Jim’s already taken the car to shows in a pre-restored state and he was amazed by the positive response when people ask, “who’s in the picture?”

cuda 7 jim

Jim is more than happy to tell them about Mike and the role that the car played in his all too short life.

In an incredibly ironic twist of fate, during the interview on January 16 2010, MWO Jim Seggie learned that a good friend of his, Sgt. John Faught, stepped on a homemade land mine while on joint foot patrol with Afghan troops. When asked if he wanted to finish the interview, he replied like the true military professional that he is; “no, the mission has to go on”.

That simple, honest statement summed up the future of Mike Seggie’s beloved 1968 Plymouth Barracuda fastback-car shows should be fully prepared to see the car that captured the heart of the 17 year old kid who would make the ultimate sacrifice…

Serving his country in the name of freedom.

Jerry Sutherland @mystarcollectorcar.com  

"Welcome Home" to my Brothers, especially who gave their lives.

DJH

Viet Nam 66-67