69 Day­tona Saved From the Crusher

This 1969 Dodge Charger Day­tona Was Pulled From a Junk­yard in 1982, Just in the Nick of Time

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Hit seems that ev­ery­where you look—TV, so­cial me­dia, and print—old cars are con­tin­u­ously be­ing dis­cov­ered that have been stored in barns, base­ments, garages, sheds, or from any num­ber of other for­got­ten rest­ing places. No mat­ter where they’ve been ex­tracted from, the com­mon term for all th­ese finds has been deemed the “barn find.” The ques­tion is, when was the last time you saw a re­ally good junk­yard find? Well, we have one for you and it in­volves one of Chrysler’s finest ex­am­ples from the mus­cle-car era, a 1969 Dodge Day­tona, and its res­cue from the grim reaper at the junk­yard—the dreaded crusher. While we’re go­ing to fo­cus on this par­tic­u­lar Charger Red Day­tona, we’ll also tell you about some of the other cars in the yard at the time. How does an­other 1969 Day­tona sound? How about an orig­i­nal

1969 Hemi Dodge Charger 500?

This Day­tona’s saga be­gan in 1973 when it ended up, along with about 50 other cars, at Av­enue Auto Parts in Kansas City, Mis­souri. While we don’t have a name for the deal­er­ship and its owner, we do know that th­ese ve­hi­cles were part of a large col­lec­tion that was im­pounded by the state of Mis­souri as a re­sult of some un­scrupu­lous dealer shenani­gans in­volv­ing bo­gus ti­tles. The owner must have been knee deep in it be­cause he ended up in jail, and the cars were even­tu­ally for­feited as a re­sult of the long-term stor­age bills. With their fate cast into limbo, th­ese cars sat at the junk­yard un­til the early 1980s, at which point they had worn out their wel­come and had to go. The owner of the place had lost his shirt stor­ing them, but once he was given the green light on own­er­ship, they were quickly des­tined for the crusher.

This was when John Borzych, or “Mopar John” as his friends best know him, came into the pic­ture—and how he ended up with the Day­tona. We’ll take a step back and tell you that he was, and is, an avid racer and hard-core Mopar guy, who spent many week­ends wrench­ing on and rac­ing his 1970 Ply­mouth GTX dur­ing the early 1970s. This was a hobby that con­sumed much of his money and spare time. On one fate­ful day in 1976, that all changed. “At U.S. 30, they had a de­cent shut­down area, but if you didn’t get it slowed down enough, the end was like the first turn on an Olympic bob­sled run,” he re­calls. “On that last run, I went around the rim of that thing and al­most rolled the GTX over. For the first time, I was scared in one of my drag cars. Sud­denly, it wasn’t fun any­more and I parked it.” With the GTX side­lined, he needed some­thing else to spend his time and money on. That in­spi­ra­tion was found on the pages of HOT ROD. John ex­plains, “I kept think­ing about a spe­cial car, clas­sic car, or a lim­ited-pro­duc­tion car. A light fi­nally went off in my head. I re­mem­bered see­ing in one of my old HOT ROD Mag­a­zines an ad that had Richard Petty

and a bunch of guys around a spe­cial car. I ripped through those old mag­a­zines un­til I found it. It was an ad for the 1970 Ply­mouth Su­per­bird. That was the car I had to have!”

That de­ci­sion opened up an­other world to him that was far re­moved from the track. It led to his first Su­per­bird pur­chase and mem­ber­ship in the Day­tona Su­per­bird club. At his first club meet, the aero world opened up even fur­ther when he saw a Dodge Char- ger pull up with a wing and a nose on it. His re­ac­tion was, “What the heck is that thing?” Some of the well-sea­soned mem­bers in the club ex­plained to him that the Day­tona pre­ceded the Su­per­bird, and their pro­duc­tion num­bers were sub­stan­tially lower. For those won­der­ing, the of­fi­cial pro­duc­tion fig­ures from Chrysler are 503 Day­tonas built in 1969, and 1,920 Su­per­birds in 1970. Th­ese num­bers were man­dated by NASCAR as part of its ho­molo­ga­tion process for race ver­sions to be al­lowed to com­pete.

The more John found out about the Day­tonas, the more he wanted one, so he put the word out that he was look­ing for one at a de­cent price—he got the call in 1982. One of the club mem­bers, Kyle Drake, was in the process of cut­ting a deal for the ex­trac­tion of a 1969 Hemi Dodge Charger 500 that was in a junk­yard, and if John wanted a Day­tona, the yard had two sit­ting there, but they wouldn’t be there for very long be­cause the owner of the yard was ready to do a ma­jor purge of cars. “I called the owner and told him that I wanted to buy the red Day­tona,” he ex­plains. “He in­formed me that I could buy it, but I also had to buy the blue one since there were so many parts miss­ing that it would take both to make a nice car. I agreed, but I didn’t re­ally want the blue Day­tona. I thought it was ugly back then.” The de­mand that John buy both cars wasn’t be­cause two were needed to make one whole one; the guy was afraid that if he only sold one, he couldn’t sell the other one and would end be­ing stuck with an­other car to crush.

Both cars were ac­tu­ally very sim­i­lar in terms of op­tions and driv­e­train. They were still wear­ing their orig­i­nal paint and only had a lit­tle over 20,000 miles on their odome­ters. Of the two, the blue Day­tona was the rarest of the pair, be­cause it was painted in B5 Bright Blue Poly with a blue in­te­rior,

while the red one was painted R4 Charger Red with a black in­te­rior. Both cars still had their orig­i­nal 440ci four-bar­rel en­gines and 727 Torque­flite trans­mis­sions in place. They were also both col­umn-shift cars, with the blue car hav­ing the “buddy” seat op­tion.

The ask­ing price was $5,500 for the pair, which in 1980s cash was eas­ily the amount for a new car. By then, John was al­ready the owner of more than one Su­per­bird, and in or­der to raise the cash for both cars, he would have to cut one Ply­mouth loose, which didn’t take long.

Th­ese trans­ac­tions were tak­ing place rather quickly, so he didn’t waste much time haul­ing a trailer to the yard to pluck the red Day­tona up. When he got there, the cars were as de­scribed over the phone. Both ve­hi­cles were in rough shape as a re­sult of van­dal­ism due to break-ins over the years. Many parts had been stolen from both and there were vis­i­ble signs of ex­te­rior body dam­age as a re­sult of theft and be­ing moved around nu­mer­ous times with a front-loader fork­lift. The vin­tage junk­yard pho­tos given to us by the folks at the Day­tona Su­per­bird club show both cars with their wings in place be­fore they were stolen and also il­lus­trate the vis­i­ble level of dam­age to both cars. Since he could only haul one car, John notes, “I paid a large amount down and loaded up the red car, which is the one I wanted, and in­formed him I would be back ASAP for the blue car.” Two weeks passed and the junk­yard owner called and said that he had to get the blue car out of there quickly. John’s buddy stepped up and bought the blue Day­tona from the yard, but he couldn’t keep it due to fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, so he even­tu­ally ended up sell­ing to John.

With both cars in his pos­ses­sion, the goal at the time was to at­tempt a restora­tion on the pair, so he started amass­ing vast amounts of N.O.S. parts. Back then, you could still find plenty of new parts or re­ally in­ex­pen­sive used ones for th­ese odd­ball Mopars. A set of re­place­ment wings was one of the first things he tracked down be­cause they were Day­tona-spe­cific and ex­tremely hard to find, even back then. Af­ter 25 years of parts gath­er­ing, John’s wife, Linda, en­cour­aged him to go ahead and get one of the cars done, so in 2007, the first restora­tion was started, but it wasn’t the red one. John was com­mit­ted to do­ing an award-win­ning OE restora­tion on the blue Day­tona since it was a more unique ex­am­ple. John would move on to re­store his 440 six-bar­rel Su­per­bird to the same level.

The sale of the red Day­tona started out as noth­ing more than ca­sual con­ver­sa­tion be­tween restora­tion shop own­ers at the 2015 MCACN show. Mike Mancini, the owner of Mike Mancini’s Amer­i­can Mus­cle Car Res- tora­tions in North Kingstown, Rhode Is­land ( ManciniResto.com) had a cus­tomer who was look­ing to have a Day­tona clone built. John’s name and the red Day­tona came up in the con­ver­sa­tion as a pos­si­ble can­di­date to sell a real one. Joe Iou­rio was the guy who was in­ter­ested in a Day­tona, and the two were soon in­tro­duced. John knew that if he sold the red Day­tona and Mike was do­ing the restora­tion, it was go­ing to a good home, so he agreed to sell it. For Joe, this was the ful­fill­ment of a child­hood dream: to own a Day­tona. For those of you who fol­low Ve­loc­ity’s Grave­yard Carz, you will be fa­mil­iar with Mike’s work, as his other com­pany, In­stru­ment Spe­cial­ties, is re­spon­si­ble for all restora­tions on the dash as­sem­blies used on the show.

Shortly be­fore the trans­ac­tion was fi­nal­ized, Mike flew out to In­di­ana to look at the Day­tona, and his ini­tial assess­ment was that “it was a pretty much un­mo­lested car, ex­cept for the fend­ers that John had put in primer. It was all orig­i­nal paint, in­stru­ments, and the engine bay wasn’t mo­lested.” The other bonus was that this Day­tona came with a huge amount of N.O.S. parts. It was mostly engine-bay items, ex­te­rior trim pieces, and a lot of dif­fi­cult-to-find de­tail items. Mike notes, “It is nice to have all of that; it made my life eas­ier, oth­er­wise I would have to make the ex­ist­ing pieces look like they were N.O.S., or ac­tu­ally go out and hunt down N.O.S. parts, which is both time-con­sum­ing and ex­pen­sive.” With his in­spec­tion com­plete, Joe green­lighted the pur­chase and the deal was made.

When you em­bark on one of th­ese restora­tions and a cus­tomer has an open check­book to get it to the con­cours level, it helps that a shop has done a few restora­tions on th­ese types of cars be­cause it ac­tu­ally saves money. Mike ap­proaches a Day­tona restora­tion in the same way that Chrysler built the car, which means that you first have to fo­cus on restor­ing a Charger R/T. You then need to du­pli­cate the process for the Day­tona trans­for­ma­tion, which was done by Cre­ative In­dus­tries, an out­side ven­dor tasked with do­ing the con­ver­sion work. On a Day­tona, one of the more com­pli­cated as­pects to prop­erly cap­ture are the nu­ances be­tween what was done at the fac­tory and the lat­ter sloppy in­stal­la­tion of the front clip and fin­ish work on the rear-win­dow plug. When we tell you that th­ese cars were lit­er­ally thrown to­gether, it’s not an ex­ag­ger­a­tion, and the tricky part is to make that mess look cor­rect.

Disas­sem­bly is also a crit­i­cal part of the restora­tion, be­cause it will dic­tate the way the car is re­stored. Things like fac­tory mark­ings, paint over­spray, de­cal place­ment, un­der­coat ap­pli­ca­tion, or even runs in the un­der­car­riage primer are all doc­u­mented and even­tu­ally du­pli­cated. Each com­po­nent on the car is re­moved, in­spected, cat­a­loged, and a de­ci­sion at that point is made as to what will be done to it. Parts of­ten need to be re­paired or re­plated, and when that isn’t an op­tion, new ones or used ones in good con­di­tion are tracked down.

For the crew at Mike’s shop, the tear­down of the Day­tona be­gan in 2016 with a goal of mak­ing it to the 2017 MCACN show. The restora­tion was a lin­ear process that was made much sim­pler by not hav­ing to track down or re­place sheet­metal. The big­gest ob­sta­cle they had was re­pair­ing the dam­aged trun­k­lid that had been pried open at the junk­yard when the rear wing was stolen. Many man-hours were spent get­ting the car to the paint stage, and as Mike points out, “Cus­tomers have an op­tion in how they will have their car painted. They can opt for a mod­ern basecoat/clearcoat fin­ish, or if they are look­ing for 100-per­cent orig­i­nal­ity, then spray­ing it with an enamel fin­ish is the other op­tion.” When it came time to lay down the R4 Charger Red shade on the Day­tona, Joe opted for the mod­ern-style fin­ish. The Day­tona was fin­ished in time for the 2017 Carlisle Chrysler Na­tion­als in Carlisle, Penn­syl­va­nia, and then went to the 2017 MCACN show, where it was one of the spe­cial un­veil­ings and re­ceived a Con­cours Gold award.

Th­ese cars were saved from the crusher and will now live on as some of the finest ex­am­ples of their kind, but we sus­pect most of the other 50 that landed there didn’t have such a happy end­ing, which was the sad fate of many mus­cle cars from that era, be­cause they were con­sid­ered dis­pos­able. 01] The engine in the Day­tona is a num­bers­match­ing 440, along with the trans­mis­sion and rear. When it was parked in the junk­yard, it was only four years old, which ac­counts for the orig­i­nal­ity and low mileage.

02] The Day­tona has been re­stored us­ing many N.O.S. parts and was awarded a Con­cours Gold award at the 2017 Mus­cle Car & Corvette Na­tion­als show in Chicago.

03] Un­der­neath the Day­tona: This il­lus­trates the dif­fer­ence be­tween the fac­tory work and the rush job per­formed by Cre­ative In­dus­tries. On the Day­tona, the fend­ers and nose have spots that were never painted. Mike Mancini has du­pli­cated that on this car. The un­der­sides of both fend­ers are only painted in primer, along with the edges of the nose.

04] The Day­tona’s in­te­rior has been fully re­stored with many hard-to-find N.O.S. parts. This par­tic­u­lar car has the rare col­umn shift that was sel­dom found in a mus­cle car.

[ Dumped in a junk­yard for stor­age in 1973 af­ter it was im­pounded by the state of Mis­souri, the Day­tona sat un­til 1982 when John Borzych pur­chased it, along with the other Day­tona parked next to it. Many parts were taken from both cars dur­ing the time they spent in stor­age. This photo was taken prior to the rear wing be­ing stolen from both cars.

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