When Bill Brown was a freshman in high school in New Ulm, Minnesota, he used to watch as the older guys cruised around before class and dream about being old enough to have a cool ride of his own. What he didn't know was when he finally got his ride, his little brother, Bob, was watching him with the same aspirations.
"When I turned 16, I started planting seeds in my parents' heads about wanting to buy a car," Bill says. "I liked the look and sound of Mopars over all the others. After I saved up enough money, I started looking for a '69 Charger. But every Charger I found needed a lot of work. I kept scouring the local paper and came across an ad for a Challenger.
"My dad and I went to take a look at it. The car was painted a nonstock, two-tone blue over the original yellow. It had the 340 motor, Rallye gauges, and loud dual exhaust. Once I drove it, I immediately fell in love with the car. The seller, who was one of the guys I used to watch before school, wanted $2,000 for it, so my dad suggested that we sleep on it and talk about it in the morning.
"Well, the next day came, and all I could think about was that Challenger. Later, my dad and I met the seller at one of the local grocery stores where he worked and started negotiating. He was real firm but knocked $50 off the price. It wasn't cheap, but it was a good price."
Bill spent the next year and a half installing an N.O.S. trunk lid, rear chrome, Cragar wheels, Super Sport tires, Cyclone headers into the stock exhaust, new carpet, and another two-tone blue paint job. But as much as Bill loved cars, he was first a musician, and after graduation, his skills as a keyboard player took him to Omaha, Nebraska, as a member of the United States Air Force Band. He tried taking the car with him, but quickly decided it was best to put it in storage back home before the Nebraska winter set in.
Bill didn't find out until later that while he was away, little Bob (13 years younger) would sit in the front seat of his big brother's Challenger before he was even old enough to see over the dash. "He became a bigger Mopar nut than me," Bill says. In 1992, Bob, an 18-year-old Young Gun, bought a '68 Charger basket case, and by late 1995, he had finished the R/T restoration.
"I was amazed at what he did to the car, so I started getting excited about getting my car out again," Bill says. But the Challenger had developed the problems that come with 15 years of sitting in storage, namely bubbles and holes around the rear quarters. Bill didn't want to take the car out of the garage until he had saved enough money to fix it up, so it continued to sit until 1999, when Bill gave Bob and his friend, Kyle Larson, the go-ahead. They pulled the engine and transmission and stripped the car down before handing it to John's Body Shop in Nicollet, Minnesota.
"At first, all I wanted was a good body repair and paint, and then the car put back together," says Bill, who now lives in Fridley, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. All the removable sheetmetal parts were treated to a dip in a reverse-electrolysis chemical tank at Precision Paint Removers in Long Lake, Minnesota. Then the body parts were reassembled to the chassis. All body gaps, the hood alignment, and so on were documented and then disassembled again. The sheetmetal was epoxy-coated and straightened. The parts then went back onto the car, and multiple coats of filler primer were applied for block-sanding until the body was perfectly straight. The body then received the sealer, Sikkens basecoat/clearcoat-in a deep shade of black-along with multiple coats of clear before wet-sanding and buffing.