Noth­ing Could Stop This Mopar Build

Nei­ther Evil Hill­bil­lies Nor DEA Raids Can Stop This Clas­sic Car Stu­dio Mopar Build

Hot Rod - - Contents - Scotty Lachenauer Tim Peeler

hBrian Sch­nuck just wanted to build a car, some­thing he’s done at least a dozen times dur­ing his hot rod–in­fested life. “I’ve con­structed ev­ery­thing from mus­cle cars to hot rods. But then life throws in a bunch of ob­sta­cles, and things don’t go the way you planned. This last project—this one al­most made me quit be­ing a car guy. Well, al­most,” Brian says.

Brian’s ad­ven­ture started one night af­ter some on­line hot rod hunt­ing. What he found was his next project: a needy, sun­burnt 1962 Chrysler 300. All he had to do now was win the auc­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately, things didn’t go as planned.

Though he was out­bid, things worked out some­how. “I ended up mak­ing a deal with the seller when the orig­i­nal auc­tion win­ner couldn’t pay up. I was more than happy to un­load my bank ac­count for the right to take it home.” Brian had the project Pen­tas­tar shipped from its home in Wash­ing­ton State to his then-cur­rent ad­dress in win­tery Wis­con­sin. He chris­tened his new Chrysler “Doris,” af­ter his beloved grandma.

It was shortly af­ter his pur­chase that Brian thought to him­self, “What ex­actly am I go­ing to do with Doris?” He had dreams of build­ing a car for Bon­neville, a ratty rod that could pull off some runs in the salt while still han­dling most of his daily driv­ing. He al­ready had a same-year Chrysler New­port, and that car had been cus­tom­ized with the look of a well-thought-out So Cal cus­tom, so this 300 was sup­posed to be a work­horse— not so pretty, just pretty po­tent.

But then Brian’s fam­ily life changed dra­mat­i­cally. While in the process of plan­ning the Chrysler’s meta­mor­pho­sis, he got mar­ried and started a fam­ily. Those Bon­neville dreams went south, and the 300 was now third in rank when it came to his daily du­ties—well be­hind rais­ing his two young boys.

The next ma­jor blow to the project came one ex­tremely frigid win­ter. While Doris was in Brian’s yard, the Mid­west cold got to her in­nards and busted a hole in her 361 pow­er­plant. Brian searched for a re­place­ment, which he found in the form of 440 wedge-headed cubes. “I drove around with that mo­tor and the match­ing trans in the back of my truck for some time, fig­ur­ing out my next step,” Brian says.

That next step turned out to be two steps back­ward. Not hav­ing much time—or garage space, for that mat­ter—he found a lo­cal me­chanic who was will­ing to take on the job of getting his Mopar back on the street. “I re­ally just wanted to bolt up the

driv­e­train and get it road­wor­thy,” Brian says with a forced chuckle. “But he ba­si­cally dis­as­sem­bled Doris, started mak­ing ex­cuses, and kept ask­ing me for more money.”

Brian ended up chas­ing the me­chanic from one tem­po­rary shop to another. Dur­ing the con­stant runaround, the guy did man­age to get the 440 in place and the disc brakes on. To keep the ball rolling, an Edel­brock in­take, an MSD setup, and some vin­tage Doug Thor­ley head­ers were added to the mix. How­ever, Brian was wary about set­ting the un­trust­wor­thy me­chanic up with too many per­ti­nent pieces—or cash ad­vances.

While all this was go­ing down, Brian dropped off Doris’s front and rear seats at a well-known lo­cal up­hol­stery shop. Even though it was in a sketchy area, the shop had been around for years and had done nice work. The next call he got was a tip about the up­hol­stery shop. It seems that the owner and his son went Break­ing Bad, start­ing a chem­istry lab in the base­ment of their build­ing and cook­ing up meth. The DEA raided the joint and closed it down. Soon af­ter, the EPA came in, claimed the place was a haz­ardous waste site, and con­fis­cated all of its con­tents—in­clud­ing Brian’s seats and in­te­rior.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Brian then lost the shady me­chanic. This time, he had dis- ap­peared for good. Doris was gone, and so were all of Brian’s parts. It was a dark pe­riod in the 300’s time­line, and Brian was down to his last straw. He mus­tered up a search of sorts, fol­low­ing hunches and a pos­si­ble trail of tears and gears lead­ing back to his ride.

Act­ing on a tip from a tow agency, Brian lo­cated the Chrysler in an impound lot on the out­skirts of town. Ti­tle in hand, he went to claim his beloved Doris. “Af­ter an un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to get her back, I ended up putting on my repo man’s hat and ac­tu­ally stole her back from the stor­age lot. I had a flatbed at the ready and gave them a crisp $100 bill and told them to tow her to Clas­sic Car Stu­dios,” Brian says. That’s when things

fi­nally turned around for the bet­ter.

Brian has a mu­tual friend with Noah Alexan­der, head hon­cho at CCS, so he fig­ured that this would be the place where things fi­nally got done right. The St. Louis– based shop had re­cently gained no­to­ri­ety for its restora­tions and for­ward-think­ing cus­tom builds. The crew im­me­di­ately took a lik­ing to Brian’s patina-skinned ride. Noah had a hunch that Doris would be a great build for the shop’s new Ve­loc­ity Chan­nel TV show Speed Is the New Black. Brian was down with the idea of bring­ing the ’62 back to its faded glory right there on na­tional TV.

“I had some ideas, but I told them to go crazy,” Brian says. There was one thing he wanted above all: to keep the nat­u­ral, worn look of the Chrysler’s ex­te­rior. Once lead fab­ri­ca­tor Scott France and crew had a full con­cept of what they were go­ing to do, the ’62 was wheeled in for a tear­down. Luck­ily for us, it was all caught on film for pos­ter­ity.

CCS knows that when trans­form­ing a land yacht into an eye-catch­ing fare, at­ti­tude is ev­ery­thing. “Stance is king here, so we set out to slam the 300 on the ground while mak­ing it a very re­li­able and unique cruiser,” Noah says. Once the build com­menced, Scott re­designed the sus­pen­sion that would carry this Chrysler.

“Since noth­ing is made for this par­tic­u­lar ride, we had to make it all from scratch and fabricate it to make it work,” Scott says. The front sus­pen­sion is a mod­i­fied Mus­tang

II, with a widened cross­mem­ber to fit the sub­stan­tial width of the Chrysler’s front end. Con­trol arms were cus­tom-built to get the cor­rect track width, and rack and pin­ion was added to keep this boat sail­ing in the right chan­nel.

For this cruiser to han­dle the power curve of one of many pos­si­ble pow­er­plants, all fram­erails were boxed up and a set of “through the floor” frame connectors were fabbed to tie it all to­gether. Out back, a

1969 Ca­maro tri­an­gu­lated four-link from RideTech was mod­i­fied to han­dle the du­ties. To get the over­all look they were af­ter, Scott built the car Pro Street–style, mini-tub­bing the back. From there, a com­plete RideTech air-sus­pen­sion setup was in­stalled, us­ing its Full Man­age­ment sys­tem along with Air­pod bags at the cor­ners. The in­stal­la­tion points were set as high as pos­si­ble, to get Doris as low as pos­si­ble with a flick of a switch.

Once the sus­pen­sion was sorted out, it came down to the mo­tor-va­tion of this ride. Though a stout 440 was planned, an al­ter­nate idea had been brew­ing in the shop for some time. Look­ing for some­thing dif­fer­ent, they turned to a lo­cal sal­vage yard that car­ries the largest se­lec­tion of used Viper parts in the coun­try. It made sense: big car, big en­gine, no prob­lem. “We got a nice Gen II en­gine, com­plete with its six-speed trans, and its com­puter, har­ness, and fuel sys­tem,” Scott says.

The en­gine was torn down, in­spected, and cleaned up. The fi­nal touch was to make the mod­ern V10 match the look of the rest of the car. “Since we were go­ing to keep Doris in her orig­i­nal skin, we wanted to make the en­gine ap­pear to be as old as she was,” Scott says. The CCS team brewed up a cus­tom paint blend, which they used on the en­gine,

wheels, and trim to give them all an aged, an­odized ef­fect. Once com­pleted, the 8.4L be­he­moth was in­stalled, but not be­fore the team built a cus­tom firewall and set the en­gine back a to­tal of 6 inches. Of course, CCS made sure there was room for power-adders if needed.

The in­te­rior was def­i­nitely a chal­lenge, as the orig­i­nal dash, gauges, and steer­ing wheel were go­ing to be left in­tact. “I’m usu­ally the crazy one, and I came up with a de­sign, mim­ick­ing the dash,” Scott says. To start, CCS used a set of Pro Car seats and then wrapped them in raw metal to skirt the tracks, giv­ing them al­most a mod­ern “bomber seat” look. Next, Scott built an ex­posed trans­mis­sion tun­nel, quilted in bead rolls to give it strength and a cool vin­tage look. The shape is an ex­ten­sion of the bul­bous speedo and bezel up on the dash.

It was more of the same for the ex­posed seat mats, which are raised, bead-rolled bare metal. The car­pet was de­signed to bare these pieces and make them a part of the in­te­rior. One fi­nal ad­di­tion: rear buck­ets to match

the front, mak­ing this a wild four-seater. “It all came to­gether so fast. Randy Thomas was my helper. I was fab­ri­cat­ing and he was weld­ing,” Scott says. To fin­ish it off,

Paul Jones worked on wiring all the vi­tals to­gether in this beast.

In just five weeks, this rags-to-riches ’62 was fin­ished. The crew at CCS took a full­size land yacht need­ing an in­jec­tion of at­ti­tude and turned her into a full-blown “life of the party” barge with bravado to spare.

But Scott left the door open for more fire­power: “I pushed the firewall back a few more inches than needed just in case Brian wants a dose of twin twisties up front. We can still move the en­gine back to make room.”

Brian couldn’t be hap­pier: “The crew at CCS built Doris so quickly, I didn’t think it was pos­si­ble, and I was in shock the first time I got a peek at the build. The level of crafts­man­ship, en­gi­neer­ing, and artistry that went into Doris is un­be­liev­able.”

We think he likes it, and we’re sure Grandma Doris is smil­ing down with over­whelm­ing ap­proval.

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