The first project Von tackled was the front-end during the winter of 2001. "It was very cold," he recalls. "I pulled the K-member (replaced it) and the rest of the frontend off the car and replaced everything with polygraphite components from PST." With the car back on the ground, the fresh motor and rebuilt tranny went in. Then Von put some parts of the old interior in the car. "I had been driving the car half-finished for a while," he says, "and at about 1,000 miles the rebuilt 727 toasted the clutches. The numbers-matching tranny was too shot to rebuild, so I got another from a friend and rebuilt it using the B&M TransKit to their street/strip specs. I [also] put a B&M Holeshot 2400 stall converter in it, this time with a SuperCooler."
With the running gear and body finally meeting Von's approval, his attention turned to the interior. Since he wasn't overly fond of the stock green, Von sent the dash to Just Dashes to be recovered in black and did some swapping and scavenging in order to get the seating just right.
"I didn't like the looks of the stock front seats, so I used a pair of '72 Dart seats that I had collected for a future Challenger project. I recovered them in black and got them ready to go in. I also changed the pattern of the back seat to a '71 Challenger."
So far, so good. Unfortunately, a minor hiccup was encountered when it came time to change the wheels.
"I decided it was time for some wheels that fit my taste," says Von, "so off came the 14-inch Magnums. I sold my dirt bike and bought 17-inch Eagle Alloy Style 212. The back wheels are 9.5 inches wide with 5.5-inch backspacing, and the fronts are 8 inches wide with 4.5-inch back-spacing. I chose Nitto tires because of their availability of sizes and settled on 275/50 and 225/50s, respectively. Despite our homework with a square and tape measure, the rear wheels ended up being too wide to fit in the wheelwell, so I converted to an early B-Body housing (1.5 inches narrower than stock E-Body). This required me to move the front spring hangers inward. I also inverted them to lower the car body over the tires. I made some offset shackles for the rear, but later decided to purchase a set from Mopar Performance." For Von's next project, he rebuilt an Auburn Sure Grip, then assembled it in the B-Body housing.
With all of the work and fresh parts that went into this project, one has to wonder how an enterprising high school student can generate the coin needed to fulfill a buildup such as this. Von told us, "I have worked at the local golf course seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. until at least 3:30 p.m. for the past two summers, and used my birthday and Christmas money to pay for the biggest portion of this car."
That's dedication, but ambition and lofty goals also played a part in the bigger scheme of things. "In late 1999," says Von, "I set two goals for myself: to successfully drive my car to the Mopar Nationals in Columbus, Ohio (2,000-mile round-trip), and to rebuild it well enough to get in Mopar Muscle magazine. I am pleased to say I have achieved both of these goals."
The project was a wonderful experience for Von. In addition to mechanics, he says he's learned about patience, discipline, money management, and the rewards of determination and perseverance. "I would like to thank Mopar Muscle for the Young Guns program," says Von. "It gives the younger generation a special venue to showcase their cars and craftsmanship. Most of all, I want to thank my family, especially my dad, for his interest and support. He has a sharp, one-owner '74 Challenger, and if it weren't for him, I probably wouldn't be doing this. Dale Larson has also supplied many hard-to-find parts for this operation and saved me a lot of money." Von also credits his supportive friends and girlfriend, Sara, for their encouragement.