THE CAR LACKED TWO THINGS THAT WERE AT THE TOP OF HIS MUST-HAVE LIST: HEMI CYLIN­DER HEADS

NZV8 - - EVENTS -

A meet­ing was set up, and, af­ter a hand­shake, a plan was put into place to build the car Paul had first yearned for all those years ago. As we all know, what you want and what you get can of­ten be poles apart, as a mi­nor build turns into ma­jor build along the way; this build was no dif­fer­ent. The ini­tial brief was sim­ple: 1970 Chal­lenger, black, Hemi. Un­for­tu­nately for Paul — or for­tu­nately, which­ever way you look at it — he sim­ply couldn’t build the car he wanted quickly with the bud­get he had in mind. So, the de­ci­sion was made to stretch the time frame a bit, come up with a more re­al­is­tic bud­get, and build the mother of all things Hemi­spher­i­cal. Two weeks af­ter that ini­tial hand­shake, a morethan-suit­able car was sourced in Detroit, Michi­gan. The match­ing-num­bers 383 R/T car had been pulled apart for a re­build that, sadly, had never come to fruition, and the Chal­lenger had sat blown apart at the back of a shed for 30 years. It did, how­ever, tick the boxes — it was a fac­tory four-speed man­ual car and, more im­por­tant, not a sin­gle piece of it had left the build­ing. The car was as com­plete as it had been the day it rolled into the barn in one piece 30 years be­fore. Un­for­tu­nately, not only was 383 inches a lit­tle short of the 426ci Paul wanted, but the car also lacked two things that were at the top of his must-have list: Hemi cylin­der heads, the holy grail for ev­ery Mopar afi­cionado when it comes to en­gines. Af­ter pric­ing up what it would cost to build the rad­i­cal 426, Paul de­cided to step up to some­thing truly ridicu­lous that wouldn’t cost much more; it was a no-brainer, re­ally — good­bye, 426; hello, 528. Here’s where time was on Paul’s side. Brad Harms

was en­trusted with the build of the en­gine. Now, Brad only builds drag race en­gines, he only builds Hemis, and he only builds a hand­ful a year. Paul’s big-cube Hemi joined the al­ready-long queue, and the car sat state­side for the next two years wait­ing for the mo­tor to be built so that it could be dropped in the hole and shipped to New Zealand along with the car and all the other bits needed. It was not cost-ef­fec­tive to ship the two halves sep­a­rately, and the de­lay gave Paul a bit more time to build up some funds and make a very long list of wants and must-haves. Now that the de­ci­sion had been made to build some­thing far more pro-tour­ing than daily-driver, the match­ing-num­bers 383-cube mo­tor, fac­tory R/T hood, and every­thing else that was now su­per­flu­ous to the build was sold off in the States and re­cy­cled into some­one else’s build. A vir­gin Hemi Mopar block and a set of shiny new Mopar cylin­der heads were given to Brad as the ba­sis for one tough en­gine. Only the best of the best would make their way into the heart of the Chal­lenger: Di­a­mond forged pistons, Ea­gle H-beam rods, an Ea­gle eight-bolt crank, Fel-Pro race gas­kets, ARP fas­ten­ers, Ak­erly and Childs pis­ton rings, Fed­eral-Mogul bear­ings — the list was ex­ten­sive. Top­ping off the combo is a pair of 550cfm Edel­brock Per­former car­bu­ret­tors sit­ting on an HP Per­for­mance man­i­fold. The twins grab oxy­gen through a gen­uine R/T Shaker scoop that pokes through a hole in the hood. When every­thing had been bolted, screwed, and

torqued down nice and se­cure, it was off to the dyno. The fi­nal num­bers were 625 horses and a stag­ger­ing 800lb·ft of torque at 2200rpm. This thing was go­ing to turn rub­ber to smoke in any gear — first-ever V8, re­mem­ber; pic­ture how big Paul’s eyes would be the first time he mashed the gas pedal! Fi­nally, the time for car and en­gine to unite ar­rived. The po­tent Hemi was slipped be­tween the frame rails, and every­thing was loaded into a container and chucked on a boat to make its way to New Zealand. Once here, the body was sent to Stacey Emeny’s Mer­cury Garage in Shan­non, a small town in ru­ral Manawatu. Kevin and Stacey work hand in hand churn­ing out high-qual­ity builds; if Stacey and Kevin can’t do it, then it just can’t be done. The brief was to im­prove tor­sional strength ev­ery­where with­out the in­tru­sion of any bars or cage work in­side the car. The list of struc­tural up­grades is ex­ten­sive, to say the least, and most can­not be seen. It’s pretty safe to say that every­thing un­der­neath the car has been strength­ened or re­in­forced — if you ever get the chance to see this car on a hoist, the un­der­neath is just as im­pres­sive as every­thing else in or on the car. The orig­i­nal Hemi K-mem­ber was re­tained; how­ever, the Hotchkis cat­a­logue was given a ham­mer­ing for sus­pen­sion com­po­nents, with tor­sion bars, top A-arms, and a sway bar making their way un­der­neath. Mag­num Force two-inch drop spin­dles lower the front to a more aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing level, while a Mag­num Force four-link, com­plete with hor­i­zon­tal Watt’s link­age, takes care of things out the back. Kevin wanted to fit the largest pos­si­ble wheel-and­tyre combo un­der there for max­i­mum trac­tion. Wil­wood 14-inch discs are present in all four cor­ners, drilled and slot­ted up front and drilled at the rear. Th­ese are clamped by six-pis­ton and four-pis­ton Wil­wood calipers, re­spec­tively. Com­plet­ing the rolling stock is a one-off set of Bud­nik Wheels, 18x8-inch up front wrapped in 225/40R18s and mas­sive 20x13s aft wrapped in soon-to-be-turned-into-smoke 335/30R20s! The rear sub­frame rails were pulled in­wards and squared off to fit the cus­tom wheel tubs. The ex­te­rior of the car didn’t es­cape at­ten­tion, ei­ther, with Stacey spend­ing more than 2000 hours mas­sag­ing and mod­i­fy­ing things to suit Paul’s taste. It isn’t un­til you see a fac­tory ’70 Chal­lenger parked be­side it that you truly no­tice what ex­actly has been done and the mag­ni­tude of the mod­i­fi­ca­tions. Stacey prides him­self on his min­i­mal use of body filler; all the body­work is hammer-and-file fin­ish. He even per­formed the dy­ing art of lead fill­ing the joints for max­i­mum strength and flaw­less fin­ish. Paul wanted a smooth, sleek look to the ex­te­rior, so the front and rear glass has been re­cessed for a flush fit. Stacey re­moved the com­plete roof skin and re­con­fig­ured the drip rails to suck them in closer, and a pair of new rear quar­ters were stitched in place. You may no­tice the dis­tinct lack of marker lights along the flanks; also miss­ing are the re­cesses that usu­ally re­side be­hind the door han­dles. Both front and rear bumpers re­ceived a bit of ve­hic­u­lar li­po­suc­tion, too. The irons have been ex­ten­sively mod­i­fied, and the bumpers se­ri­ously re­shaped, making them ap­pear to float just below the body lines.

Probably the most no­tice­able body mod­i­fi­ca­tions are at each end. When you lift the hood, the Shaker scoop and cus­tom ra­di­a­tor shroud grab your at­ten­tion quick smart, as they make for a smoother-than-smooth en­gine bay. At the other end of the car, the all-steel, hand-fab­ri­cated, swept-up spoiler gives the al­ready-ag­gres­sivelook­ing car a more sin­is­ter no-non­sense look. The cus­tom treat­ment ex­tends to the in­side. Stacey has painstak­ingly sculp­tured an all-steel cus­tom dash, com­plete with in­di­vid­ual pods for the Auto Me­ter gauges. A Bil­let Spe­cial­ties wheel sits atop an Ididit steer­ing col­umn. All that re­mains of the fac­tory seats are the frames — Kevin made the rear bench into buck­ets, re-foam­ing and re­shap­ing them to fit the highly cus­tom­ized cabin. The hood liner, seats, and other in­te­rior pan­els have been wrapped in bright red Monte Carlo leather. Pan­els that didn’t re­ceive the cowhide treat­ment got sprayed in cus­tom black and red pearl by Steve For­rest of Xile Speed and Cus­tom, to match the ex­te­rior, and bright red car­pet keeps the feet of the oc­cu­pants warm and dry in win­ter. We could lis­ten to the sounds of a big block Hemi all day long, but Kevin has fit­ted some­thing a bit more pleas­ing to the ear for those long cruises on which Paul in­tends to em­bark: Pre­ci­sion speak­ers front and rear han­dle the mid-range and high­range notes, while a pair of 10-inch Sound­stream subs han­dle the bass. A ca­pac­i­tor and a sep­a­rate deep-cy­cle bat­tery are nec­es­sary to keep the sounds pump­ing and to make sure the two Sound­stream amps — one for the subs and the other for the speak­ers — keep the mu­sic thump­ing long into the night. A Pi­o­neer head unit sup­plies the tune. A rev­ers­ing cam­era that dis­plays what’s be­hind you in the rear-view mir­ror is a use­ful ad­di­tion. It’s hard to cover off every­thing that has been done to this car; the cus­tom touches are lit­er­ally ev­ery­where. We could fill an en­tire is­sue with what has been done to cre­ate the in­cred­i­ble car that Kevin and Stacey have hand­crafted for Paul. The end re­sult is mind-blow­ing. It’s not of­ten that you see a car that goes as well as it looks; this one does. Paul plans to drive the wheels of his Chal­lenger, so if you see it parked on the side of the road, make sure you take the time to have a long look; it truly is a work of art and a labour of love — be­lieve us, you will not be dis­ap­pointed.

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