Dennis Grabauskas is shown...
Dennis Grabauskas is shown with the car in the spring of 1970 in Utica, New York, when the car was only a few months old.
During the time Russell Harris...
During the time Russell Harris had the Challenger, it was converted into a drag car and used only one time as a cruiser for his high school prom.
In its most drastic transformation,...
In its most drastic transformation, Richard Dobbins would build a small-block, strip the Challenger, and repaint it blue. It was in this shade of blue that Gary would find this once-Hemi-powered E-Body.
Tom Lillis (right) came in...
Tom Lillis (right) came in person to deliver the original transmission to complete the restoration only days before the Chryslers at Carlisle show in 2005. Reunited, Tom stated the Challenger never looked better. Gary turned down Tom's offer to buy it back.
The next day, I received a call from Paul accepting my offer, and I quickly arranged a pickup. After getting the car home, my first task was to document the car by trying to hunt down all the previous owners. I wrote several letters to the DMV with enclosed checks to cover searches spanning four states (Maine, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania). The puzzle began to fall in place as the copies of previous owners' registrations and titles began to arrive on my doorstep. I then began to contact each owner. This involved searching phone books from different areas until I found my first hit for Robert McCallister. It was the fifth McCallister I called that confirmed he used to own a Hemi Challenger. One lead led to another since these guys were part of the same crowd that raced around town. I contacted every owner and got their story about the car. They were all more than willing to share a piece of history and send letters with information, photos, stories, and insurance cards. Eventually, I worked my way up to the first owner: Dennis Grebauskas.
The car was purchased new by Dennis on December 26, 1969, from Tidewater Dodge in Norfolk, Virginia, for the sum of $4,735. The car was ordered with a 727 automatic, 426 Hemi, front power-disc brakes, 4.10 Sure Grip in a Dana 60, and power steering. The Challenger came from the plant in Go Mango orange with white longitudinal stripes, bucket seats, center console, solid state AM radio, dual exhaust with chrome tips, and 15-inch Rallye wheels. Since Dennis was in the Navy, his address on the title was that of his ship-the USS Leahy docked in New York. He had the car for about a year and then sold it.
The car ended up at Valley Dodge in Waterbury, Connecticut. It was then purchased by Robert McCallister on October 20, 1970. he stripped off all the power units, steering, and brakes, and went racing. Rumor is, the transmission lasted only two weeks before having to be rebuilt. He sold it to Russell Harris in April 1973.
Russell loved to race as indicated by the Cragar wheels and hood-mounted tachometer. He racked up little mileage in those years because it was always trailered to the track. after grenading the engine during a street race, he sold the Dodge in 1974 with only 18,000 miles to racing rival Tom Lillis.
Tom repaired the car and drove it for about a year before pulling the driveline and selling the car with a small-block.
The car was then bought by Richard Dobbins, who owned the car from 1976 to 1984. He drove the car from Connecticut to Colorado and replaced the small-block 273 with a 340. He also installed traction bars and a B-Body 4.10 rear, and repainted the car blue. Richard confessed he never knew the car was a Hemi car until years later.
The Dodge then ended up with Paul McCartney who had intentions of restoring the car back to original conditions, but never found the time and financial resources.
In July 1992, I bought the car from Paul and began a long restoration that would take ten years to return the Challenger to the street and another three more to get it back to how it came from the factory.