TEST DRIVE DENIED!
But He Bought the Challenger Anyway 40 Years Ago
But he bought the Challenger anyway 40 years ago
This FE5 Bright Red 1970 Challenger T/A was originally sold through Grand Spaulding Dodge in Chicago, home of Mr. Norm Kraus. Oddly, the Challenger T/A was equipped (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) with a white vinyl top.
The Challenger’s original but anonymous owner was from Glenview, Illinois. In 1974, he sold it to a local, young, drag racer/ poseur/wannabe. That owner ripped off the hood and installed some type of dual-quad tunnel-ram intake, headers, and stupid wheels. A young Scott Swaydrak, also a Glenview resident at the time, remembers seeing the car coughing its way down the local side streets.
Not long after, for some reason lost in the mists of time, the second owner no longer wanted the T/A. The original owner bought the car back from the youngster, probably in 1975. The original owner became the third owner, likely more than a bit perturbed at what had happened to his Challenger.
The original/third owner heroically returned the car to Ma Mopar factory condition. The stock exhaust manifolds, stock Six Pack induction, and stock T/A hood were all reinstalled. Scott believes the second owner might have butchered the original hood, so it’s possible that the hood on the car now was a replacement item.
In 1977, Scott, now 18 and the owner of a 1969 Charger R/T, spotted the Bright Red T/A for sale at the Glenview gas station. He went to look at it, and naturally asked the first/third owner if he could drive the Challenger. The seller refused. Can you blame him? Second owner Speed Racer had butchered his beloved car.
Bitterness was apparent, but Scott exercised diplomacy and climbed in the passenger seat. In a somewhat grandfatherly fashion, Scott was chauffeured around the Glenview neighborhoods in the soon-to-be-his Challenger. He never drove it that day. Awkward. Some guys buy their cars sight unseen; Scott bought his test-drive unpermitted. Regardless, days later cash changed hands, Scott became the fourth owner of the T/A, and finally took it for a test drive.
Muscle car happiness was found mixing up fun excursions with the Charger and the T/A. Scott attended local cruise nights at Flukie’s in Niles, as well as bigger car shows in Illinois. But by 1982, the Challenger was beginning to show signs of wear. Rust had arrived at the bottoms of the quarters. The bubbling under that
repulsive white vinyl roof needed attention. In response, Scott enlisted a family friend to do a repaint, not a restoration, which included fixing the rust, removing the vinyl top, and properly painting the roof. Rust repair was accomplished early-1980s style, with hand-fabricated patch panels as needed.
The end product turned out nice enough to get the attention of Monogram Models’ Roger Harney, who persuaded Scott to allow the use of his car to collect pictures and measurements as reference material for the creation of a Monogram 1:24-scale kit of a 1970 Challenger T/A (see sidebar).
Scott drove the car until 1986, and then parked it in heated storage. Career and family responsibilities dominated his life until 2002. Finally, after a 16-year hibernation, the T/A was awakened to receive a complete rotisserie restoration.
Mopar restoration expert Klaus Zimmer of Zim’s Kustoms in Lakemoor, Illinois, was called on to restore the T/A to showroom condition. Restoration work included the installation of N.O.S. quarter-panels, floor repair, and trunk work. A single-stage acrylic enamel was used to faithfully restore the 1970 assembly-line-fresh appearance. Zim’s also installed the glass, panels, and suspension.
Scott elected to keep the white vinyl roof off the car. “To me, that white vinyl roof with the sinister black hood and graphics and the black interior always looked like a mistake, so I left it off.” Good call.
The engine was machined by a local NAPA machine shop. Scott assembled the 340 Six Pack to factory original specs. The transmission was rebuilt by Scott’s Mopar buddy, Dennis Bernardy. About two years were spent assembling the car. The restoration was completed in 2009. Since then, the T/A has attended occasional cruise nights and car shows. “I hate to say it, but anything over 10 miles means I take the car in my trailer so it doesn’t get damaged,” Scott admits.
At one show, the wife of the original/third owner came up to Scott and said, “You have to sell this car back to my husband. It’s all he talks about.”
Scott politely said, “It’s not for sale, it’s a keeper.”
Some of us might have added, “And no test drive, either.”
“After a 16-year hibernation, the T/A was awakened”
n Not long after purchasing the Challenger T/A in 1977, Scott Swaydrak was photographed standing by his pride and joy. As is plain in the photo, the car was originally equipped with a white vinyl top. From day one, Scott was not a fan. He had it removed when the car was repainted in 1982.