When you think of Hemis and Valiants, the first thought is al­ways of the scream­ing six­cylin­der tower of power that gave the cars their fierce rep­u­ta­tion in the 1970s. De­spite be­ing a few slices short of the V8s of the time, the cars could read­ily deal to the op­po­si­tion on race­tracks, in­clud­ing the fa­mous Mount Panorama. This 1976 Charger isn’t pack­ing that triple-carbed screamer but some­thing a whole lot more mod­ern that also wears the fa­mous Hemi name. How­ever, the name is where any sim­i­lar­i­ties end be­tween the en­gines that made Charg­ers pop­u­lar and that which is rapidly mak­ing this spe­cific car pop­u­lar. Ke­van Dud­son, the owner of this Charger, is no stranger to these pages, or to build­ing, restor­ing, and col­lect­ing cool old cars. Even for him, though, this one came as a bit of a shock.

“It orig­i­nally came into our pos­ses­sion as a tired, wellused old ve­hi­cle that was at the end of its life. It was dereg­is­tered, rusty in all the usual places [the other thing that Valiants are fa­mous for], and es­sen­tially des­tined to be put in the back of the shed, to be used as a parts donor for an­other Charger we have,” states Ke­van. With many other cars on the go (check out the shed fea­ture we ran on Ke­van’s place back in Is­sue No. 130), the Valiant sat wait­ing for some love, or a trip to the scrapheap, for a full eight years, un­til Ke­van and his daugh­ter Tanea were out cruis­ing in their other Charger. “Out of the blue, she men­tioned that she re­ally liked these cars, and that it would be great if we could do up the old one in the shed for her!” Ke­van re­calls. That idea played around in Ke­van’s mind for a while, as he weighed it up. Sure, the car had rust, and plenty of it, but he also knew the right peo­ple, and, of course, en­cour­ag­ing the next gen­er­a­tion’s love of old cars is some­thing that needs to be done. Even­tu­ally, Ke­van men­tioned the idea to good friends Gavin and Rick Miller. With both of these guys be­ing heav­ily in­volved in Ke­van’s pre­vi­ous projects, the con­ver­sa­tion was only ever des­tined to have one out­come, es­pe­cially since the team were adding the

fin­ish­ing touches to an­other project at the time. Ev­ery­thing had fallen into place to do an­other build, and what bet­ter start­ing point than a car that was al­ready sit­ting in the work­shop? “At this point, I must say that we all got plenty of ad­vice about the car not be­ing worth sav­ing, as it was go­ing to be too much work, etc. — all of which just made us re­al­ize [that] we had made the right de­ci­sion and gave us the fo­cus we needed to get our teeth into things!” laughs Ke­van. “The car was stripped, then the grinder and cut-off discs came out, and, in no time at all, the boot floor was cut out, a new floor made and welded in, and hey presto! — the ad­vice we started to hear was that, yep, maybe the car could be a good one to save!” he adds. Of course, this was only the be­gin­ning of a long and, at times, frus­trat­ing process, but, with the ex­pe­ri­ence and pas­sion of Gavin and Rick, along with the me­chan­i­cal ex­per­tise of Scott Miller, the crew just knuck­led down and worked through what­ever chal­lenges were thrown up each week. With the body­work tak­ing shape, Scott asked what he should do with the old 265 mo­tor, as clearly it, too, would need some at­ten­tion. How­ever, a com­ment from Tanea about how she wouldn’t mind putting the car down the strip soon, com­bined with Scott’s back­ground in drag rac­ing, made the team re­al­ize that the 265 would never cut it. What could be bet­ter to power the car than a Hemi — a real Hemi? The fact that the team hadn’t heard of any­one lo­cal per­form­ing the con­ver­sion only added to the ap­peal of mak­ing it hap­pen. Af­ter a bit of hunt­ing around, a late­model 5.7-litre Gen III mill was sourced, and Gavin was kept busy fabri­cat­ing head­ers and en­gine mounts to make it all fit. Of course, the fab work went much fur­ther than that, to in­clude a mul­ti­tude of body pan­els, such as both door skins, be­ing com­pletely re­made from scratch. From

there, Gavin turned his at­ten­tion to the rear guards, both sills, and the front left in­di­ca­tor panel, where new steel now re­places most of the fac­tory of­fer­ing. “Noth­ing worth­while is ever easy, and the con­ver­sion threw a few chal­lenges our way that, in hind­sight, have added to the fun we have had in com­plet­ing this car,” Ke­van re­calls — now that the head-scratch­ing is a thing of the past. Fi­nally, the day came when all the body­work and en­gi­neer­ing had been com­pleted and the car was handed over to Rick, who spent many hand­pun­ish­ing and fin­ger-pun­ish­ing hours pre­par­ing the body and ap­ply­ing the paint to achieve a fin­ish that speaks vol­umes for his abil­i­ties. With the flaw­less coat of paint added, it was now up to Scott to get the car driv­ing. Part of this, due to the fac­tory Hemi en­gine’s com­plex­ity, was to re­move all the orig­i­nal en­gine-man­age­ment sys­tems. In­stead of the OEM of­fer­ing, an af­ter­mar­ket Hol­ley EFI setup was fit­ted, along with an MSD ig­ni­tion sys­tem. The en­gine was backed with a 727 Torque Flite trans­mis­sion and a Chrysler 8¾-inch diff, both of which Scott was re­spon­si­ble for. With the added power and weight, the brakes and sus­pen­sion on the car were wisely also up­graded, al­beit with­out go­ing too wild. Like­wise, the in­te­rior; it may at first glance ap­pear stock, but plenty of hours of work have gone into mak­ing it look this good. Nic Trethewey was the man re­spon­si­ble for it, and he hit the brief of keep­ing it look­ing like an old-school sleeper per­fectly. Ke­van ex­plains, “While no proper plan was ever laid out re­gard­ing the fi­nal look of the car, through pre­vi­ous projects [that] we had all worked on as a group, we knew the look we were af­ter, and the rea­son we were do­ing the car, so it was pretty easy to keep on task and sort things out as we went along. Ro­bust dis­cus­sion around smoko and the ben­e­fit of Gavin, Rick, and Scott’s many years of work­ing on cars sorted any of the ‘what if’ sce­nar­ios and kept the pro­cesses of what to do and when right on track.” The in­ter­val be­tween Tanea and Ke­van’s ini­tial con­ver­sa­tion and the car’s com­ple­tion was three years, dur­ing which time Tanea would get her li­cence and de­velop a stronger affin­ity with the car. “All in all, we couldn’t be hap­pier with how it’s all turned out, and, with a school ball com­ing up later this year, I guess the keys will be handed over and a lucky young lady will get to drive her­self there in her very own pretty cool and unique car. Now that we’ve fin­ished this car, we are all think­ing about that 1934 Hud­son Road­ster — let’s talk about stock, or LS1 pow­ered and mod­i­fied!” Ke­van muses. Some­thing tells us it won’t be long be­fore you’re see­ing more Dud­son cre­ations on these pages!

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