As we get further into the new millennium, all limitations have been lifted. The challenge of a brave new world, though, requires forward thinkerspeople whose willingness to raise the bar makes them trendsetters. Stephen Stropes 66 Charger proves he has not only bridged the span between musclecar and street rod, but also has changed the Mopar hobby as we know it. However, his reasoning is familiar.
When we asked Stephen what he primarily used his Charger for, he replied, Profilin.
To be seen, to look good, to set a standardthese actions define profilin.
Additionally, its about setting a new look. Stephen calls the theme New Street. I take the silhouette of a 60s carthe profile. Then, I graft 90s-flair: big-diameter wheels, modern cloth interior, and great new colors. Musclecar guys like it cause its still the Charger, and it retains that integrity. Kids who are into modern cars like it cause of its modern look.
Stephen calls his creation Skully. Its the name of a design I created for my scrapbook. When I saw this great new Jaguar color, I knew that Skully would go well with it. That theme moved forward, through graphics deftly applied by Matt Willoughby on the Sikkens 97 Jaguar Topaz topcoat applied by master paint and body pro Paco Arais. Matt took Stephens original design and applied it to the car. Stephen explains the process: Matt and I took the car colorsbone, red, and Topazand whenever we discussed the car, it took on an identity garnered from the graphic. It just got the name Skully.
Additionally, the skull-and-bone theme is subtly carried over to the Pentastar grille emblem, and even the consoles shift indicatorinstead of P-R-N-D-L, it now reads SKULLY. With graphics reminiscent of bleached-white bone, the details make this more than just a modified Mopar.
What is more remarkable is the ingenuity that created Skully. Stephen says, I built this car in nine months, with less than $10,000 out of pocket! I did a lot of exchange work to keep the costs down. Stephen also got plenty of help from his sponsors.
Because I had previously built a New Street El Camino that had appeared in Hot Rod, it afforded me an opportunity, he explains. There was a lot of planning and organization in Skully, long before I turned one wrench. A complete illustration with specific components was conceived. The color, the stanceeverything was discussed between Matt and me, in order to gain a winning result.
Hot Rod Magazine published that illustration, adding credence to Skully. That resulted in a plan. Because he had a proven track record, Stephen could approach many of the companies from which he purchased products for the El Camino. It proved I could build a magazine-quality car. I put together a promotional package and sold the concept in exchange for product support. I also approached companies that were involved with the magazine and the Hot Rod Power Tour.
For a closer look, we must begin under the hood with the 9:1, 78-vintage, 360 small-block that was aided by considerable assistance from Summit Racing Equipment. Stephen says, I assembled it in a kitchen, and Ive got pictures to prove it.
Summit provided nearly every engine component, including the Edelbrock Per-former carb and intake, the Mopar Performance cam and distributor, Taylor 8mm wires, and Sealed Power pistons. To keep the red-hot engine cool, Stephen installed a U.S. Radiator four-row Desert Cooler. Instead of headers, Stephen turned to Jet Hot, which applied its trademarked coating to the stock exhaust manifolds. The exhaust is scavenged by a custom exhaust system, designed and installed by Ray at Magic Muffler of Van Nuys, California, using Rhino 2½-inch inlet/outlet mufflers, and giant 3½-inch Megs/Cone Engineering stainless exhaust tips.
As for underpinnings, the ground-hugging ride height comes via a stock rebuild, using components from Just Suspension, as well as KYB shortened shocks, and 2-inch lowering blocks. For additional stopping power, Stephen converted the front drums to late-model disc brakes, using 73 Dart spindles and rotors, and 72 Satellite calipers. The tire-and-wheel combination includes Centerline Scorpion wheels at all four corners17x7s up front and 17x8s in the rear. The alloy wheels are fitted with BFGoodrich Comp T/As215/45ZR17s up front and 255/45ZR17s out back.
For the head-turning looks, Stephen referred to Year One for assistance with providing the necessary restoration components for this custom Charger. Stephen says, All the restoration piecesthe weatherstripping, taillight lenses, door hinges, etc., all came from Year One. Harley Davidson enthusiasts will also notice another trick addition was the use of Joker Machines Talon billet rearview mirrors, usually found on custom bikes.
Inside, the detail is incredible! Stephen began by removing the dashpad and speaker vents to create a rod-appearing smooth dash. He then modified the factory instrument bezels to accommodate a full set of AutoMeter 3¾-inch-diameter Phantom gauges. The steering wheel is LeCarras 15-inch-diameter Supreme design, and the carpet, headliner, seats, and all interior panels were upholstered by Carskins of Van Nuys, California.
Every hot car needs hot tunes, and these come from an audio system engineered by Sound Innovations of Los Alamitos, California. The system includes a Kenwood AM/FM/Cassette head unit and six-disc CD changer. Pounding bass and ear-piercing harmony is delivered by a Kicker/Stillwater Designs ZX 460 amplifier-driving, Kicker Resolution 4½-inch midrange/tweeters, with passive crossover technology, and Kicker Competition 6x9-inch, free-air subwoofers.
The rod-appearing musclecar certainly sets a new trendNew Street. In fact, Stephens company, Pure Vision (818/344-8265), has been established to offer image consulting in order to further the New Street look. The look is classic, but with a fresh, retro canvas to work from. More important, Stephen has again proved that workmanship will never go out of style. Fit, finish, and execution, regardless of the theme or trend, will always be the necessary ingredients for successful profilin.