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.
After that, Bill began to think bigger. "The body and paintwork were so great, one thing led to another," Bill says. "Bob scrutinized every part before it went back on the car. We either bought new or used parts or had the old ones reconditioned. While the bodywork was being done, we had both the front and rear bumpers rechromed by North Star Plating in Brainerd, Minnesota. Bob then rebuilt the front and rear suspensions and the rearend using new parts. When he was finished with that, we installed the interior, dropped the motor and tranny in, and installed all of the electrical wiring, bumpers, tti exhaust, brake system, and custom Stockton wheels. We basically finished the rest of the car together."
Bill got Steve and Jim Cherewan to do the finishing details. The black exterior is the third color for this Challenger chameleon. It was originally yellow with a black stripe and sat in storage as blue, but Bill wanted something different. "There was a lot of orange and purple out there at the time [of the resto]," Bill says. "I wanted something that was different but factory-possible." Less than 1/3 of the '72 Challengers were Rallyes, which replaced the R/T as the performance package that year. Bill also believes it was assembled very early in the production year because the dash and other components are '71 parts, apparently leftovers from the previous year. "It wasn't that easy to find a Challenger Rallye in Minnesota back then," Bill says. "It wasn't a big-block, but it really stood out."
Bill's journey brought him in contact with some great people in the hobby, many of whom were contacts Bob had developed during his restoration. Bill even learned how to rebuild a Carter 750 ThermoQuad carb and has rebuilt several since then. But the most valuable thing he took away from the project was the time he spent with Bob.
"My brother was a huge part of this," Bill says. "It wouldn't have happened without him. When you're the oldest [like me], you don't have the perspective of looking up to an older brother-you just don't get it. When I went into the service, Bob was really young, but we have so much in common. This was like catching up on lost years."
Bill says he never set out to do a concours resto, but he doesn't drive the car that much, either. It stays covered in a heated garage most of the time, but Bill does take it out for fair-weather cruises and a few shows a year. The first time he took it to a show, it won First in the E-Body class at the Midwest Mopars in the Park Show at Shakopee Raceway.
"This is the very first car I ever bought," Bill says. "I remember the first time I drove to school in it and people said 'I didn't know you were like that.' You see a lot of people driving fancy, expensive cars, and in a year or two they are looking for something else. It's not really them. But this car feels like it was built for me. In the 20 years it sat, I got a lot of offers, but I have no intentions of selling it-ever."