Growing up in Southern California, I learned at an early age that Mopars had a special mystique about them. My father's cars all wore bowties, but something told me I was true to Mopar. Maybe it was the '69 Super Bee on the Plymouth dealer's used car lot just up the street from our house. I was 16 on a particular day in 1976, and the car was just 7 years old.

I thought it was the most awesome car I had ever seen-yellow paint with black stripes, a 383 Magnum under the hood, and a Pistol Grip shifter inside. I had never seen anything like that in dad's cars. A salesman came out to tell me about the car, and told me to bring my father to co-sign a loan and it would be mine. Dad came with me for a test drive. I didn't get to drive the car, but I remember Dad barking the tires in Second and Third gear. I was on cloud nine...if only briefly. When Dad pulled into the dealership I asked him what he thought. The words I heard next still ring in my ears.

"You're not getting this car!"

Six months later my older brother found a '69 GTX. That car turned out to be my first Mopar. Despite being in primer, plus missing the carpet and headliner, the car was in pretty good shape.

In place of the original engine was a 383. Those were the days when the dealership parts counters were filled with Direct Connection stuff. One day I asked the guy at the parts counter if he could tell me what engine my car came with from the factory. He told me that according to the VIN the car should have a 440 with two four-barrel carbs and produce 425 hp. I didn't know any better at the time, but I wonder if I owned my first Hemi car at the age of 16. Unfortunately, I didn't have that car for long. One day I was driving it a little too fast in the rain, lost control, and hit a tree.

I got married at the age of 18 and started my own business a year later. I spent the next 20 years raising a family-20 years without a Mopar. In 1997 over the Christmas holidays, I saw a '70 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum. When I returned home I knew I had to have one. After looking at several Challengers, I finally found one in Trenton, New Jersey. I flew up and bought it and drove it straight home.

The Challenger had a four-speed, numbers-matching drivetrain, and the broadcast sheet. I started to show the car and met an E-Body collector from central Florida named Bill Flynn, who has several N-96 coded cars. I added a Shaker Hood to my Challenger, but really wanted a true N-96 car of my own. On Hemmings.com I found one. It was a one-owner car that had been sold new in Queens, New York, and spent most of its life in Long Island until the owner moved to Florida. The car was located an hour and a half away from my house. It was a 440 Six-Pack, four-speed car painted B5 Blue with a black interior, black vinyl top, and a black stripe. The most important option to me was the N-96 shaker hood.

I bought the car the next day and drove it home. Immediately I started taking the car apart for a rotisserie restoration. Then, in September 2000, I found another car-my Panther Pink Six-Pack Challenger. I bought it from a doctor named Ron Cypher of Butler, Pennsylvania. He told me he had only driven the car 20 miles in the 10 years he owned it. His father retired from the local Dodge dealer, and Ron kept the car in his father's garage. I think he kept it there for his dad to admire. When Ron's father passed away, he brought the car to his home and parked it.

I spent two days trying to find an auto transport company to bring the car to my home in Florida. The earliest I could get the car picked up was three weeks away. I was afraid that if I waited that long Ron might change his mind about selling it. On the third morning I flew to Pennsylvania and drove the car home. When I got to Ron's house he told me that he almost called me the night before to back out of the deal. I'm not sure why Ron decided to part with the car, but I can say that I felt like the luckiest guy around when I drove it out of his driveway.