The Next Generation
At the Young Guns event, one special award was to be presented by Mopar Muscle that best exhibited the spirit and abilities of the participants. There were many cars to choose from, but this one stood out from the rest, and not simply due to the 426 Hemi between the framerails. In fact, this '71 Challenger may be familiar to some of you; Adam took home the Mopar Performance Most Popular award in 2000 with this car, with a B-engine under the hood. The upgrades for this event were considerable, and we had no problem presenting Mr. Rennecker with his second consecutive Nationals award. We'll let him tell you just how this project came about.
How I Built My Hot Rod as told by Adam Rennecker
My name is Adam Rennecker, and I bought my '71 Challenger in March 1996 when I was 13 years old. My uncle, Gary Rennecker, who is an even bigger Mopar maniac than I am, tipped me off to its location. This car, a 383 four-barrel version with 98,000 miles on it, was inside a building and had been dismantled approximately 10 years earlier.
It was a big project to say the least. I was able to do the work myself because I had a good place to do it and the tools I needed. The car had to sit for three or four months sometimes while I earned the money to do the next part of it. I mowed yards, cleaned cars, did mechanic work at the family business, and sold scrap metal.
With the help of my dad, Kevin, I started on the car immediately by removing the entire original gold interior, which had been badly damaged by raccoons. Once that was done, I pulled both the engine (a 383) and the transmission (727 TorqueFlite) and started the much-needed work on the car's body. Both the right front fender and the door needed to be replaced as well as the factory hood, which had previously been cut open for a tunnel ram that had been on it in its earlier years.
In this same time period, I attended the Mopar Nationals for the first time and that's where I found the front fender and a T/A-style replacement hood. Both rear quarter-panels had to be replaced as well, and once the body was complete, I began working on the motor and the transmission. I tore the engine down and had hardened valve seats installed in the heads. This was a basic rebuild; I freshened up the paint on the motor and topped it off with a new pair of Mopar Performance valve covers. I then overhauled the transmission and replaced the original 2.76 gears with a 3.55 Sure Grip.
Since, as I mentioned, the interior of the car was beyond repair, I replaced all the seat covers, the carpet, and the headliner (which, by the way, was a very testy job). Next came the painting of the car, which I also did. I prepped the car, then painted it at home in Plum Crazy Purple. Once I reinstalled the motor and transmission, I had all the windows tinted.
In just over three years, the car was totally finished, one month before I turned 16 (June 14, 1999). At this point, both Dad and I realized this car was not going to be a daily driver. This was a show car! Then on January 15, 2000, the weather turned very warm and sunny and I decided to go cruising in a local town 15 minutes from home. On my way home, I had an encounter with a deer, which ran into the side of my car! It ruined the driver-side front fender and badly damaged the driver door as well. I was totally sick! I had to repair the door and fender, and instead of just painting them, I decided to repaint the entire car again.
All the interior of the car was removed and the engine and transmission came out again. When I completed fixing the door and the fender, I blocked down the car and this time the car was repainted by Uncle Gary and my dad with another coat of Plum Crazy Purple basecoat/clearcoat. Before the 383 went back in, I thought it was time to add a little more performance to the old stock engine. This time, I completely overhauled it with a set of old Stage 4 Direct Connection heads, a Mopar Performance 284 Purple Shaft cam, and a pair of 500 Edelbrock carbs on a Wieand low-rise intake. Once I put the car back together for the second time, everything looked good and that 383 ran strong and was really street friendly, but the car was still missing something. In my mind, to be the ultimate Mopar, it had to be a Hemi!
We took the car to the 2000 Mopar Nationals with the 383 and won the Most Popular award with it. That same August, I purchased a Hemi from a friend that lived only 10 miles from me, an engine that included all of the important parts to rebuild it properly. I spent my winter months putting the elephant back together. It has a stock Hemi grind hydraulic cam, 12:1 forged Mopar Performance pistons, and a pair of new 650 AFB performance carbs. With the help of a pair of off-the-shelf Schumacher mounts, the engine went in where the 383 had been in a matter of minutes. A new set of tti headers was hooked to my existing Flowmaster mufflers. Though I've done a lot of modifications to the car, I've tried to keep them similar to the options that were offered by Dodge in that era other than the wheels.
This was my first project. My family has had other Mopar cars throughout the years, and I would like to thank my dad for all of his support during the restoration and my uncle Gary for helping to paint it. I had a lot of ambition and willingness to learn while doing the project. If there was something I didn't know how to do, my dad (who has been a professional mechanic for 30 years) would get me started, then I would finish. My goal had been to try to do something different to the car every year, such as changes to its appearance or performance, but now there is only one thing left that I want to change. In my mind, the Hemi image won't be complete without the shaker hood. Since I have most of the parts already, I hope she will be "shaken" at the Nationals 2002!