During winter 2002, it was time to focus on the body and paint. Paintwork is one thing I've never experimented with and had no plans to at that time. I hired friends Bill Wilson and Josh Felberg to handle the job. I wanted to paint the Challenger Amber Fire-the color used on Dakota pickups. Josh talked me into painting it '01 Prowler Orange. Good friends Russ Aderholdt and John Pipken helped me tear the car apart. They did all the body and paint prep work in my garage during their spare time. The car was shot at Strip-It in Roseville, Michigan, in March 2002. I bought a set of Rallye door stripes from Josh's Muscle Car parts, and Jack Irons Jr. helped me install them in my garage. In a world of $10,000 paint jobs, I was looking at $4,000 from start to finish, materials included. And, it was good enough to score Third Place in the E-Body Dodge Modified class at the '02 Mopar Nationals.

While the car was apart for the body prep and paint, I felt this was an opportune time to pull the engine apart and inspect it. With around 10,000 miles-about 100 quarter-mile passes included-I figured I would just install a set of rings and bearings. Well, I found a set of brand-new H-Beam rods for a price I couldn't pass up, so I bought them. At that time, Edelbrock had released their new aluminum cylinder heads, and I bought a set of those as well and dropped them off at Impastato Racing Engines for some porting work. Vince also polished the crank and honed the block.

Then, I needed to pick a new camshaft. Dwayne Porter of Porter Racing Heads in Vermont suggested a Comp Cams 294XX grind which spec'd out at .585 inch lift and .262 degrees duration at .050. After assembling the engine at home, I loaded it into my truck and took it to Todd Fisher Performance in Lapeer, Michigan, to break it in on his engine stand. I couldn't believe the mild manners of the thing.

The body was put back together by May 1, 2002, and I had the engine and transmission back in shortly thereafter. Good friend Steve Rimay helped me rewire the engine compartment and install and run the lines for the new manual-brake master cylinder. On June 5, I took the car for its first ride with the new paint job. I've been very fortunate with this car; I've managed to keep it on the road every summer.

My goal has always been to keep it a practical street car that can run well on pump gas, can idle in heavy traffic without puking coolant, and has an exhaust tone that doesn't draw too much attention. I now run a full 3-inch exhaust system on the car, and the sound is mellow. I can pull into the gas station, fill up with premium, grab a soda, throw in my favorite CD, and head out for a cruise. I even drive it into work on occasion. Yeah, the license plate gets some chuckles from my coworkers.

Oh, did I forget to mention I am a police officer?With the car finally completed, my first time at the track was at the Milan Chrysler Classic. The car ran an 11.33 e.t. at 118 mph right off the trailer. Eventually, I hope to run a 10-second quarter-mile. When I do, I'll toss someone the keys to my truck and trailer and drive the car home with the e.t. on the window.

One person I must thank is my wife, Nicole, for her endless patience. Half of her money is tied up in this project, and although she always knows where I am when I'm not in the house, we both know the "honey-do" list would be a lot shorter if the car weren't around.