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