After a few months, Jim's friend agreed to let him give it a concours-style restoration since he was well versed in these cars. As he was getting deep into the restoration, Jim found yet another buildsheet under the rear seat and countless original paint markings, identification tags, and so on. "We surmised that this car might have been an audit car going down the assembly line," adds Jim.
After a year into the project, Jim's buddy bailed out. It got too expensive, so he asked Jim if he wanted to buy the car. They agreed on a price, and Jim continued the restoration. Every detail of the car was documented with pictures and video. This included making templates for all the paint markings and documenting the location of them to reproduce what was done on this particular car. Additionally, a Chrysler parts manual was used to locate original N.O.S. parts for this car. Jim was able to locate an unbelievable amount of original N.O.S. Chrysler parts found at numerous dealerships throughout the country. Most of them were still packaged in the old dusty boxes. Many pieces were the last in existence, including the radiator overflow bottle and radiator cap.
Unlike most top restorations, this car was not given to a high-end restoration shop; it was completed entirely by Jim and his brother, Bob. Jim handled all aspects of documentation, bodywork, paint, and assembly, while Bob researched the car, gathered needed parts, and completed engine and transmission work as well as most of the mechanical chores. The first year it attended the Mopar Nationals was 1998. At that outing, the car took First Place honors in the E-Body original class.
The following year, the car competed in the Senior Division at the Nats and didn't even place, in part because too many people are restoring cars with information they believe to be true. They simply copy what they see on other cars. This car was restored to the exact state in which it was found. During the judging of the Senior Division, the car lost points in a couple of areas. A portion of the lost points were for the painted body plugs in the floor pan. It has always been thought they were installed after painting the car. Another loss of points came from the body lines. Apparently, the judges thought they weren't as crisp as body lines on other cars. They didn't realize, however, that after four years of stamping panels, the edges of the stamping dies had worn.
After taking a couple years off the show circuit, the 'Cuda was brought back to the Nats to compete in OE Certification. Jim came prepared to answer questions, carrying with him all documentation to prove the results of the restoration. Keith Rohm, the head judge, even admitted to learning some new things that year. So there you have it-the story of how this 'Cuda went from resting in the dark to sitting in the limelight and becoming a benchmark for others.
Body: '74 Cuda
Owner: Jim Czachoroski
Location: Birmingham, Michigan
Engine: 360 four-barrel rated at 245 hp; original bore and stroke
Trans: four-speed with Pistol Grip shifter
Rear: 8 3⁄4 Sure Grip, 3.23 gears
Special Specs: Only 398 four-speed, 360-equipped cars were built. Car is restored as close as possible to factory condition.