You wouldnt know it today, but a devastating engine fire nearly sent the Charger to
In spite of a fire that almost destroyed the Charger, the restored version sports the orig
One of the biggest problems Jeff faced was obtaining the correct-color tailpanel stripes.
Although not the original, Jeff did manage to locate a hard-to-find NOS gator grain&
Jeffs attention to detail is nothing short of fanatical. Note the detailing done to
One of the earliest photos that Jeff has of his fathers 70 R/T is shown here w
At most shows, Jeff displays the original wheelcovers in the trunk.
One can only imagine the despair that Jeff felt after the electrical fire on July 8, 1984,
In addition to applying the flawless factory finish to this Charger, Rick Kreu
Having a car in the family from day one has many advantages, not the least of which is ful
Anyone who has fully restored a Mopar from stem to stern, top to bottom, can appreciate the hard work and serious financial commitment involved with such a wide-reaching project. Taking the restoration thing one step further are those enthusiasts who rebuild their cars to OE Certified specifications.
Here the task is not only to restore, but to restore to exacting factory-delivered standards using date-coded NOS components and duplicating the factory assembly methods and markings. It is a job accepted by only the most dedicated or well-heeled Mopar fans, and one whos reward is not measured by a balance sheet, but by the satisfaction of a job well-done and the admiration of fellow aficionados.
The OE restoration of Jeff Stickels 70 Charger R/T is not a tale of a financially endowed enthusiast paying top professionals big bucks to turn around a points champion in short order. Instead, it is a story of how a young boy developed an appreciation, then a devotion, to a family carwho as a teenager spent nearly all of his grocery store wages on obtaining NOS parts, and eventually produced an OE Certified restoration that is now one of the best examples of its breed in the country.
The tale begins on October 8, 1969, when 27 year-old David Stickels made an on-the-spot purchase of a 70 Charger R/T. The two-door hardtop sported a Forest Green Metallic topcoat, an unusual Gator Grain vinyl top, and an equally uncommon Ledger Green bumblebee stripe. The car was powered by a 440 Magnum V8 backed by a 727 TorqueFlite tranny and an 8¾ Chrysler rearend sporting a 3.23 Sure-Grip differential.
David was originally shooting for a Hemi Orange 69½ six-barrel Road Runner four-speed, but his wife nixed that idea because (continued) she couldnt see over the black hood scoop. The next option was a 69 Charger 383, but the dealer wouldnt budge on his sticker price, so that plan also fell by the wayside. It was while driving home from work that David spied the Charger R/T sitting on the lot of Vissings Dodge in Jeffersonville, Indiana. The unusual color/stripe roof combination grabbed his attention and put the nail in the proverbial coffin. After the dealer markup and straight-sale discount, the Charger was purchased for $4,054.50, less than both of the 69 models under consideration.
Over the next eight years the Charger pulled family driving duty, and was the primary means for Mrs. Stickel getting to work. David, interestingly enough, preferred to drive his 64 Fury as daily transportation. In 1978, the Charger was parked indefinitely in favor of a new Olds Delta 88 that boasted better fuel economy, handling, and lower insurance premiums. It was about this time when son Jeff entered the picture.
In 1979, says Jeff, at the ripe old age of 12, I became interested in cars, and Chargers in particular. A new TV show hit the airways. The Dukes of Hazzard was somewhat of an influence. I watched the show every Friday night at 8 p.m. on CBS. I began to notice that General Lee was quite similar to the car now parked in the driveway unlicensed. The car continued to sit, and I continued to tinker, stare, and admire the distinct Coke-bottle shape. I immediately fell in love with the car and the Dodge Charger. I still had vivid memories, as a younger child, of this piece of metal artwork, riding in the back seat and looking out the triangular-shaped quarter glass.
As he entered his teenage years, Jeff developed a growing obsession for the Charger. While his friends went crazy over early Mustangs and Chevelles, Jeffs eyes were drawn to the old car sitting idly by the house.
April of 82 came and went, says Jeff, and I was now a high school freshman. I cut (continued) grass in the summer to earn money which, you can guess, I spent on the Charger. My very first parts for the car were the roof emblems (NOS) which I bought at a local swap meet in 1982 for $10 a pair! Eventually Jeff hit the age all automotively-inclined boys long forlicense time! Unfortunately, a 74 Ford pickup, not the Charger, was Jeffs ticket to the highway.
I never really got the chance to drive the Charger legally, says Jeff, because my loving, protecting parents (God bless them) thought it was too much car for a 16-year-old young man with no experience. Little did they know! I continued to get into trouble with the neighbors and my parents for driving the car up and down the street without legal consent. To make it short, I got into a lot of trouble in high school. Grades suffered, my license suffered (by my parents, not by the law). The car also continued to suffer because it continued to sit. Rust and relaxation set intoo much of it.
Then, on the night of July 8, 1984, my world came crashing down. At 1:30 a.m. the car suffered an electrical short, caught on fire, and burned up. All of the engine bay was destroyed. After that day I knew what I had to do. A family member was injured. It was time to bring him back. After the fire my neighbors, my friends, and my peers declared the car dead, gone, forgotten. Not me or my Dad! And so it started...
In 1985, David gave son Jeff his pick of any new car he wanted. Rather than opting for a factory-fresh model, Jeff went for a $750 69 Dart Swinger with a 340 four-speed powertrain. Between 1986-88, the Charger went on the back burner while Jeff restored the Swinger and set the stage for what would come. In 1991 and 1992, the Dart scored First Place wins in the Concours A-Body stock 1962-69 class at the Mopar Nationals, as well as being featured in Mopar Muscle, Muscle Car Review, and Mopar Action. Now, with honest-to-goodness experience and success in restoring a vintage Mopar, Jeffs thoughts began to turn towards the Charger.
As the Dart was being completed, says Jeff, I was also collecting NOS parts for the Charger. Gerdons Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge in Corydon, Indiana, was not on the locator in 1990, yet I obtained a computer printout of their inventory. You would not believe! My grocery store job [started in 1984] was pretty good. Every week I got paid, and I would make the 18-mile trek to Gerdons, part numbers in hand, and another paycheck gone. This went on for at least one year. Parts and more parts!
As Jeff became more involved in the NOS parts hunt, others entered the picture to lend assistance, among them Frank Badalson, Roger Gibson, and Glenn Quealy. At the same time, Jeff began to pull the Charger apart and, working in his two-car detached garage, embarked on the subassembly rebuilds.
I spent many hours working on parts. All of the chassis components, A/C compressor, etc. were actually done anywhere from four to five years before the car was ever started on, Jeff says. My philosophy behind this was to have everything ready by the time the car was painted. Then all the assembly work could be done in order, piece by piece, the same way St. Louis did it in September 1969. This would make things easier and more authentic looking when the time came.
Now it is September 1995, and the subassemblies are ready to return to the chassis. Jeff had long admired the body and paint work performed on a 71 Demon and 69½ Super Bee owned by John Grinwald and Rich Berlisk. Through Grinwald, Jeff was given the name of the man responsibleRick Kreuziger of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.
The most difficult decision was the paint, says Jeff. We had to decide whether to put a best case scenario factory paint job with orange peel and a semi-gloss look or a pretty ten-mile-deep show finish. Dad wanted show; I wanted peel. So we compromised. My hats off to Rick for creating a factory paint job on this car. The talent it takes to do this far exceeds the talent to create a slick finish.
How good is it? Well, several folks that looked at the car have thought it was the original paint. The judges at the Mopar Nationals liked the paint so much that they scored it perfect in the body-paint section in OE Certified.
Aside from the finish question, other difficulties were also encountered with the project. Due to shelf wear, many of the NOS parts had to be refinished or repainted. And, says Jeff, of the few reproduction parts that were used, major modifications had to be made. For example, there were some flaws in the reproduction wiring that were corrected by completely unwrapping the harness, fixing the problem, then re-wrapping it all back together. And aside from performing the top-notch paint and body work, Rick Kreuziger and his graphic artist, Mark, hand-made all the wiring part number tags. Ditto for the bumble bee stripe.
The actual stripe wasnt the problem, says Jeff. Getting the color was. When was the last time you tried getting Ledger Green? Well, again, Rick waves his magic wand and we have it, hand-made to exact specs and colora real, correct vinyl stripe. The only one like it. Jeff and his father had handed Rick the car on July 6, 1996. Aside from the paint, body, and graphics work, Rick was also responsible for installing the NOS gator grain top and rebuilding and installing the drivetrainJeff did the engine. Rick basically brought the Charger to the last leg in its turn-key status. Three years later the car was out of the shop, on the trailer and headed for its debut appearance at the 99 Mopar Nationals, where it received Gold status in the OE Certified judging venue.
The Gator, as it has come to be known in the Stickel household, is now living the pampered life of a venerable family member. And rightly so. Yet after occupying so much of Jeffs mental space, and receiving the benefits of his hard-earned cash for so many years, the Charger is repaying the debt in its own unique way.
Jeff offers many thanks to his wife and dad who offered financial and moral support while accomplishing the task. Jeff notes, If I were to mention every single person, it would take all the pages of this magazine. Jeff also turned to the following sources in restoring Gator to Mopar Nationals Gold standards.
John and Rich at Almost NOS provided the hose stampings, the alternator, starter, muffler clamps, and rebuilt the distributor. They offered all the good stuff necessary for the restoration. Almost NOS, Dept. MPRM, W28288 Scott Lane, Hartland, WI 53029; (414) 538-1489; (920) 262-1818
Rick Kreuziger of did 80-percent of the work including the body, paint, and assembly. Restorations by Rick Kreuziger, Dept. MPRM, W7579 Kosh Konong Lake Rd., Ft. Atkinson, WI 53538-9514; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org/
Frank Badelson and Roger Gibson provided a lot of advice and pictures. Roger Gibson Restorations, Attn. Frank Badelson, Dept. MPRM, P.O. Box 35300, Richmond, VA 23235; (804) 743-0570
Jerry Schmidt did all of the cad and zinc plating. He did all of the work on the blower motor, wiper motor, and provided NOS air conditioning components. Concours Creations, Dept. MPRM, 615 Cypress Avenue, Orange City, FL 32763; (904) 774-4686.
A lot of the NOS stuff, about 20-percent, came from Brads NOS. Brads NOS Parts, Dept. MPRM, 1420 Lake Dogwood Dr., P.O. Box 2988, West Columbia, SC 29171; (803) 755-0066, Fax: (803) 755-9722.
Ken Quealey helped out with a lot of rust-free, used parts including the trunk floor.
OEM Glass supplied the window glass. OEM Glass, Dept. MPRM, P.O. Box 362, Bloomington, IL 61702; (309) 662-2122, Fax: (309) 663-7474, www.oem4glass.com/
The original material headliner and Gator Grain vinyl for the vinyl top came from Legendary Auto Interiors. Legendary Auto Interiors, Ltd., Dept. MPRM, 121 West Shore Blvd., Newark, NY 14513; (315) 331-0903; (800) 363-8804, fax: (800) 732-8874.