The next item on the agenda was to obtain a new crate motor from Koller Dodge in Naperville, Illinois. The new 426 Hemi came with chrome valve covers that were replaced with correct '70s black wrinkle finish pieces. The engine sat in the crate for the next two years before it was ready to be installed. I sent the steering gearbox to Steer & Gear to be built into a close-ratio unit. I also sent the wiper motor and the matched set of Hemi carbs that I bought from G & D Muscle Car Parts to Jerry at Concourse Creations for refinishing. I sent all the stainless trim to Gale McFarland in Seminole, Florida, for polishing, and the dash pad went to Just Dashes in California. The grille and aluminum trim went to Alltrin in Portland, Oregon, who did a fantastic job. The chrome was redone by Classic Chrome in Clearwater, Florida. The 8 3/4 rearend was delivered to Alan's Gear works in Clearwater, Florida, to be rebuilt with 3.91 gears and a Sure Grip center section. I ordered the transmission-a Pro Street version for a big-block with a 10-inch converter with a 3,400 stall-from Paul Forte of Turbo Action in Jacksonville, Florida. the bucket seats were changed out to a bench setup and A.J. at Street Seats in Hudson, Florida, reupholstered them in leather with the Hemi logo that I had digitized and monogrammed.

I am proud to say that I did not have any paint chip mishaps in the restoration process. First, I started with the rear taillights, wiring, and so on, and moved forward to the firewall wiring and wiper motor. From there, I worked my way to the interior dash frame/harness and glove box. I then installed the dash pad and instrumentation. Jerry Douglas from Jerry's Custom Cars in Clearwater handled the Vintage Air Super Cooler A/C system. he and Ron converted the factory vacuum controls to electrical, which was something I insisted on. I wanted the car to have a stock appearance. Since Hemi cars were never optioned with A/C, I enlisted the help of Bob Rodgers and Ron Martin at Xtreme Billet to fabricate a billet mounting bracket, spacers, and adjusters needed to accommodate the air compressor and locate it under the alternator. This addition required no other modification than two pulleys from March Performance. A/C is an absolute must when living in Florida. Xtreme Billet also tooled a billet speaker grille for the dash, as I was unable to find one that was not cracked or warped, and when painted, it looks just like an original. Jerry also handled installing my power brakes, brake lines, and fuel lines for me. I then worked on the exterior trim pieces, tires, grille, headlights, and insulated the floor and interior panels prior to installing the carpet. I used Rallye wheels from Year One. the dual exhaust system is from tti and installed by David Ogle of A- I Exhaust in Seminole, Florida.

The restoration took 3 years and 53 days. the goal was to be ready for the annual Mopar show at Garlits in Ocala in 2003. We fired the car for the first time on October 22, 2003. We made it to Ocala and I placed second in my class. I am proud of that, and I have to say it is the most significant, labor-intensive accomplishment of my life. One of the main reasons I did this project was to show that a professional woman could do such a thing and still be a "lady." I also love a challenge. The car turned out to be just what I wanted it to be. Most people have no idea just how much is involved in doing a total restoration. It's like a big jigsaw puzzle with the pleasure of finding all the right components, not just getting to the finish. I have learned some really neat tricks from the best of the best. I'd love to build another one. I also have to thank so many special people for helping me along the way. Now I am going to enjoy having it in my garage and driving it occasionally to a car show.