GREETINGS FROM THE GRAVE
GREETINGS MY FRIENDS AND LOYAL GHOULS É
Welcome back to Mopar Muscle and my monthly editorial. It’s been an honor sharing my thoughts with all of you and hearing the positive feedback. Thank you to all of you who have written me and commented on our social media — we really do listen. The fact is, I’ve always listened to your feedback over the years (some positive, some negative, but all honest) and we’re constantly trying to improve Graveyard Carz while heeding your advice and input. I’m convinced that this attention to our fans is why we just finished airing Season 9 on Velocity and will be back in October with Season 10. I’m so excited to see where tomorrow leads us.
In 1987, I received a phone call from a guy I knew who saw an ad in the Money Saver for a 1970 Challenger R/T in Philomath, Oregon. The ad stated it was a “440 Magnum with a Pistol Grip 4 speed.” The only other text in the ad was “doesn’t run” and “Asking $2,600.00.” As soon as I got off the phone I called the number listed in the ad and quickly arranged to see the car the next day. Philomath is a little less than 50 miles from Springfield, so I couldn’t take off the same day — or I sure would have.
I drove up to Philomath the next day and looked at the car. It was sitting beside an old farm house, back up off the road. I knocked on the door and a gentleman came out and introduced himself as the owner of the car. He told me that he had owned the car for a few years. The previous owner — a friend of his — had gotten into drugs, ran a bill up on the car at a local repair shop, and couldn’t pay the bill. This gentleman
stepped up and bailed the car out and that’s how he became the owner.
The car was very nice with no visible rust. The engine appeared to be original at a glance, except the heads had been changed and were blue in color — as opposed to the original Hemi Orange. The interior was a little rougher than the exterior though, missing a few pieces such as the driver’s door trim panel and console. The trunk floor would need to be replaced, as would one area around the battery box. After looking the car over I got out a flashlight and some carb cleaner on a rag to check the engine and transmission numbers. Sure enough, they matched the VIN. She was all numbers matching.
After a couple of hours, I offered the guy $2,000 for the car. He said he could take less than the asking price, but not that much less and counter offered at $2,200. Coincidentally, that’s exactly how much I had on me and could afford — so I took the deal. I went back the following weekend with my friend’s truck and trailer and brought it back to my little three-bay shop, Welby’s Car Care, located on the West side of the Coast To Coast warehouse. It used to be their TBA (Tires, Batteries and Accessories) store back in the ’70s, when they had a retail store up front. After replacing the fuel and the battery, I got the car running. It ran super hard; the tires were shot, and I didn’t have money for new ones at the time, so I took the car home and put it in my garage — the same garage that would later be home to my 29K original-mile Superbird.
So, long story short, a couple of years passed, and business wasn’t great. Every month was another struggle to pay rent ($300 a month), lights, phone, and phone book advertisement. Yes, back then the phone book ads were how you got your business out there. Oh, and if you didn’t pay your monthly dues for the ad, old Ma’ Bell disconnected your phone. Yep, good old memories for sure. I ended up having to sell the car to keep my doors open. I hated it at the time, but looking back, I’m glad I was able to weather the storms of new business startups.
To advertise and sell the car, I sold it to a local flipper who would probably make money on the car quickly, but he had cash so it was OK. We arranged a time for him to come look it over and we met there at my house. He actually brought a friend of his over with him. I didn’t know this other person but figured they were buddies. Well, after driving the car around the block and looking it over, Wayde offered me $4,500 for the car. I accepted it and he went to his car. He came back with Ziploc baggies full of money. (I never did quite understand that, but maybe it kept the money
fresh.) After I handed him the title, he turned to his friend, Paul, and said, “If you want it, it’s $5,500.” Paul smiled and reached in his pocket to pull out a wad of dough and proceeded to count out 55 large. That’s big boy talk for $5,500. I’ve bought and sold a lot of cars, but I’ve never made a $1,000 profit in two hours with no risk — good buy-and-sell job, Wayde.
Paul, the guy who bought the car, was excited to have the Challenger, as he was on a roll. You see, he had just purchased and sold a very rare Challenger R/T, the kind that is truly “once in a lifetime”. He had bought a local Payless Drugstore race car, 1970 Challenger R/T, 426 Hemi, four-speed, Plum Crazy, with only 330 miles on it. I know he wouldn’t appreciate my sharing how much he made on the car, but I knew it helped him pay off his house. Paul had hoped for the same grandeur with my old car, but let’s face it, a 440 is no Hemi. R code vs. U code = $$,$$$.$$.
Over the next seven years, the numbers-matching Challenger sat in a garage waiting for the right buyer. Eventually, Paul had dropped his price to $7,500, which for the day, was still a healthy investment for someone. And guess who that someone was — Daren, aka “Chips,” from the first four seasons of Graveyard Carz. While Chips did like the car, he never took the initiative to restore it. He had a friend of his rebuild the engine and install an insane camshaft that had so much lift that the valves hit the pistons. He had the front suspension powdercoated, and I painted the bottom side of the car for him. For the most part, that’s about all he did to the car.
Fast-forward to October 2014, Daren was no longer on the show, and he decided to sell the car. I found a buyer who not only loved the car, but also would have us restore it as well. It took Graveyard Carz approximately 24 months to completely restore this 1 of 916, Dodge Challenger R/T, with a 440 and a four-speed. It was featured several times throughout the series and would become one of the most beautiful cars we’ve ever done. Finally, this rare gem got the recognition and treatment it deserved.
Some of the things that make this car so rare and desirable are its options and colors. It’s FC7 Plum Crazy (the most popular color on Dodge muscle cars in 1970). It was optioned with the V1X black vinyl top and V6W white longitudinal stripe over black leather interior. What a beauty. In fact, prior to just a couple of months ago, it was the only Challenger I had seen with this exact color/stripe combination.
On that note, allow me a quick digression. Recently, I had a returning client send me a 1970 Challenger R/T “V” code — yes, a 440 Six Pack, four-speed Challenger in FC7 with V1X and V6W. Can you believe it? After never seeing the combination before, one shows up on my doorstep. Or should I say headstone? Being this is 1 of only 847 ever made, it may be the only
one ever built this exact way. Stay tuned for the restoration beginning in Season X (that’s cool talk for season 10). It sounds a little smug, but we’ve earned that X.
Chips’ former car received a trunk floor replacement and damage repair to the left quarter near the taillight. The left front apron was replaced, along with various small patches at the bottom of the quarters. All of the sheetmetal on the car was original Dodge, including the correct “non-crush zone” hood. The original seats (including a six-way driver seat) were restored using Legendary soft trim from our friends at Classic Industries. Classic Industries also provided all of the replacement OER parts as well. Jamie from Passon Performance went through the numbers-matching Hemi four-speed transmission. The original Dana 60 (3.54) just needed new seals and brakes. Our friends at Instrument Specialties restored the very nice original dash assembly to OE standards. PPG provided the DBC 2210 basecoat and DCC 2002 polyurethane clear coat. 3M is our exclusive vendor for all things in the body shop and their quality shows glowingly in our finished product. Special thanks to Tony’s Mopar Parts for the replica A-pillar trim, date-coded reproduction clutch fan and fan blade. The pampered ride home to New Jersey was compliments of Reliable Carriers. And with that, the legend of the U code 1970 Challenger R/T comes to a close.
Thank you all for reading my article and don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts and feedback. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, don’t forget we’re back this October with all new episodes of Graveyard Carz. As always, we’re honored to share your living room for an hour, one night a week.
Until next time, remember, “Always reach just beyond your grasp.”