But He Bought the Chal­lenger Any­way 40 Years Ago

Muscle Car Review - - Contents - By Arvid Svend­sen

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.

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