When I was in high school-far too long ago to imagine-I had a '68 Plymouth Road Runner 383 four-speed. The car was simply unforgettable. When it came time to sell it, I promised myself I'd have another one some day. That was 1971.

As time passed, I got married, bought a house, had kids, and the dream of another Road Runner was put on the back burner. As with all things, time passed, the kids grew up, and the idea of owning another Road Runner edged its way back to reality.

I began looking earnestly in 1993 and finally found a rare, low-production, numbers-matching '69 Road Runner convertible that had spent the majority of its life in California. My wife Sandra and I became the third owners and moved the car to Maple Grove, Minnesota. The car looked great from 10 feet away, but underneath it all, it needed a lot of work.

I got it home, and with a little work, I had it running and drove it from time to time. I'd planned all along to restore it and thought I could do it myself. But again, the restoration process was put on the back burner, this time due to job responsibilities and outside activities. It became clear that if I were to restore this car myself, it would have to wait until I retired.

I didn't want to wait that long.

I started evaluating restoration shops in late 1997 and into 1998. I measured several factors, including, of course, cost. But foremost I wanted to ensure a high-quality restoration. I also wanted to secure strong, open communication and a good business relationship with the person doing the work.

The shop that consistently showed commitment to quality work and owner involvement in the restoration process was John Balow's Muscle Car Restorations. John spent a great deal of time with me, showing me his shop and a number of cars he was restoring. Also, he encouraged me to talk to some of his customers before making any decisions.

As we prepared for the restoration process, my brother Jim, daughter Katie, and son Ryan all worked on the teardown. When John Balow picked up the car in December 1999, it was pretty well stripped down, with the exception of the drivetrain.

The 20-month restoration consisted of many decisions and discussions about options and direction. We decided to restore the car as if it was just purchased off the showroom floor. We also decided that if we were able to go back in time, we would have purchased a Hemi car, so we moved forward and rebuilt it as a stock-delivered '69 Hemi Road Runner convertible.