Dana didn't know the Challenger...
Dana didn't know the Challenger was High Impact Citron Yella until he pulled over to get gas and noticed that it had changed color.
Each of us had an influence that made us fans of Mopar. For 46-year-old Dana Motes, this influence dated back 36 years, to when he was 10 years old. "I was working on a Volkswagen with my father in a one car garage and he was slowly turning me into a gear head," he recalls. Thankfully, his time spent with "the People's car" didn't last long; otherwise this may be a feature in VW Muscle. Two years later, in 1974, Dana's brother, Calvin, purchased a brand new '74 Road Runner with a 400 engine backed by a Pistol Grip four-speed. After that, and with the support of his father, Dana's life would eventually be consumed by his passion to build the ultimate Challenger with his family by his side.
He became addicted to muscle cars and power after his brother's Road Runner, and several years later, he would purchase the car from his brother when he was 15 years old-before he even had a driver's license. Dana modified the Road Runner almost as soon as he got it, swapping the 400 for a 440 that was bored .030-over, and then dropped the four-speed out in favor of an automatic with a Cheetah valvebody. The power was sent to the ground with a 4,500-stall and a 5.38 rear gear. A pair of 12x32-15 slicks absorbed the punishment of the big-block and tall gear. "My dad was proud but also very worried that I would get hurt."
John claimed that he bought the Challenger from an elderly lady in 1984, and then he drove it home and took it apart where it just sat in his garage for the next three years. Dana and his buddy, Bruce Zeimba, loaded up his '79 Power Wagon for the 18-hour trip one way.
Rallye wheels certainly do...
Rallye wheels certainly do say "muscle car." These were sourced from a donor car as well.
When the pair arrived at John's house Dana wasn't too happy. The Challenger had collected three years worth of dust, had four flat tires, some white interior pieces, and boxes of extra parts from swap meets. There was a lot of work to be done. However, just as John described, the body was in perfect shape and the price was a firm $2,700. After some internal debate, Dana finally decided to take the convertible back to Oxford, Michigan, with him.
As dusk rolled around, the Power Wagon was running on fumes so they stopped to fill her up. When he looked back at the Challenger he noticed that the color of the car had changed, and it now had a little bit of a green hue to it. It was Citron Yella-you Plymouth boys may be more familiar with Curious Yellow. Dana's attitude about the car began to change, especially since he had three offers to sell the car before he even got it home. Once finally at home, the car sat in his parent's driveway until his father finally asked him to move it into the garage because so many people were making offers to buy it.
The 318 wasn't enough to excite...
The 318 wasn't enough to excite Dana. He decided the convertible would be an excellent home to his 440 he removed from his old Road Runner. It may look stock...
Once the convertible was in the garage he knew it was time to get started. The first thing on the list was to pull the 318 and transmission. Then while lying on his back, under the car, with a wire wheel and sandpaper, Dana cleaned the underside before spraying it and the engine compartment Citron Yella. Once the paint was sprayed in the engine compartment, he enlisted his good friend, Jeff Herbon, to assist him in rebuilding his 440 he took from his Road Runner so many years ago. They kept it stock looking on the outside, aside from the 8-quart oil pan. "When you start it and hear the 12:1 compression breathing through the 2 1/2-inch stainless TTi exhaust, it's incredible." Dana gutted the factory resonators to achieve a factory appearance, but wanted the Dynomax sound connected to the factory tips. "It turned out to be a lot of motor for the convertible, but with air conditioning, it's a blast," he says. Ron Mancini of Mancini Racing rebuilt the TorqueFlite and installed a 2,500-stall converter and a Cheetah valve body with a reverse shift pattern. After he and Julie, his fiancé at the time, put the drivetrain together, the Challenger was sent to Dave Reins at Action Collision and Restoration for fresh paint.
The black interior was taken...
The black interior was taken from a donor car because Dana didn't think the white interior said "muscle car."
This is when life made an impact on the project. Dana and his father were building the younger Motes' new home, while Julie was busy planning the wedding. He had most of the parts to finish the car, but he didn't have the time or money to deal with it at that point. Then his father was diagnosed with cancer in 1995 so he stepped up to take care of him and his home. By the time he got around to begin working on the Challenger again it was 1998 and his wife became pregnant with their son, Wendle.
He now realized that it was time to become a mentor to his son as his father was to him. Sadly, his father lost his battle with cancer about a year later and he kept his promise to take care of his mother and their home. Dana decided that there was no greater way to impact his son's life than in one of the same ways his father did for him, and that started in the garage. Wendle was only five but he enthusiastically joined in.
One of the biggest details...
One of the biggest details Dana was concerned with when building the Challenger was that it appeared to be factory stock. He decided to gut the factory resonators, and used the original tips to the added TTI exhaust.
In 2004 Dana made a gentleman's bet with his buddies that he would drive the car in the 2005 Woodward Dream Cruise. They didn't even begin to put it together until about three months before the Cruise, but they were able to finish it the day before, detailing the car that morning. After driving the car and getting the well-deserved thumbs up and stopping people in their tracks, the addiction was back. As fate would have it, this didn't last for long. The paint was marred in a garage accident that caused him to feel "nauseous for a few months." The paint was a 17-year-old lacquer job that couldn't be replicated.
After taking a few TUMS, he uncovered the Challenger and disassembled it to be painted again. This time around he used a modern base coat clear coat system from PPG. The original taillight panel, bumpers, and chrome were put back on along with a new top and Rallye cluster from Year One. It was finished in time for the 2006 Woodward Dream Cruise. After talking with Jack Irons from Unlawful Racing, he decided to take the car to the 2008 Mopar Nationals. He was invited to display his drop-top Challenger at Mopar's New Challenger display and again the following weekend at the 2008 Woodward Dream Cruise. His wife now calls the car "The King" and his son loves it when the pedal hits the floor. "Wendle wants to build a Demon when he gets older," he says. (Future Young Gun?) Dana has come to fully appreciate the time and the story that a project build can bring. In telling the story of this car, you can also tell the story of his family and his life. Long live the King.
'71 Dodge Challenger
Car Owner: Dana Motes Oxford, MI
- Engine: This mighty 440 once powered his Road Runner and when he parted ways with the car, he held onto the engine. Dana and Jeff Herbon rebuilt it in 1988 before lowering it into the Challenger. It's bored .030-inch over and features TRW pistons held by TRW Six-Pack rods that clench a factory crankshaft. A hydraulic-roller Comp Cams camshaft with .525-inch lift and 305-degrees duration controls the 2.14-inch intake and 1.81-inch exhaust valves. The valves are tamed by Comp valve springs and actuated by Mopar Heavy-Duty Hydraulic stamped rocker arms. The stock cast iron heads were ported and polished and the Edelbrock TM7 high-rise intake were port-matched. For fuel, a single Holley 850 was modified to flow 1100 cfm and an Electronic Direct Connection tach-driven distributor with Super Stock coils deliver the charge. The exhaust leaves through factory manifolds that were port-matched to the needs and into a 2 1/2-inch stainless TTi exhaust with Dynomax mufflers and an X-pipe. Dana bought new resonators to cut open and remove the guts and weld back together. This gives the exhaust a stock appearance and even uses the stock tips.
- Transmission: Mancini Racing rebuilt the TorqueFlite and installed a 2,500 stall Turbo Action Street torque converter and a Cheetah valve Body with a reverse shift pattern.
- Differential: The 8 3/4-inch rear is filled with a factory Sure Grip, 3.91 gears, and Strange axles.
- Suspension: The front features 90/10 shocks with small block torsion bars. The back uses 50/50 shocks, a pinion snubber, and big block leaf springs.
- Brakes: Factory rebuilt drums.
- Wheels and Tires: Factory Rallye wheels with BF Goodrich radials measuring 235 up from and 255 our back.
- Paint and Body: 17 years ago, Dave Reins at Action Collision and Restoration in Troy, painted the car in Citron Yella' lacquer paint. After the accident in his garage, the paint couldn't be matched and the entire car was repainted with a base coat clear coat system from PPG.
Interior: The original interior was white, but now it's an unrestored black interior out of a donor car he located 20 years ago. The carpet was sourced from YearOne, the Rallye cluster was taken from the donor.