If there's one virtue needed when you're going to restore a vintage Mopar to dealership-new condition, it's patience. You need said patience to get through the process of finding the ideal ride to restore, patience when you are looking for the parts you need, patience when you take it apart (you really need it here), and finally, when you put it all together and fire it up for the first time.
Ken Mosier's patience paid off with this '70 Dodge Challenger R/T hardtop, an eye-grabber following a 11/2-year restoration.
But first, Ken had to wait to even get possession of the Challenger. Our story begins when his buddy, Bob Anderson, bought it from the original owner back in the late '80s. The car had led a hard life during its first few years-ending up in a ditch-and then it got parked for a long time (with the original engine removed). "He bought it to do up, because he loves old Mopars," Ken says. "He put it in his barn, and he never did the work."
Each time Ken contacted Bob, he asked Bob if he was going to start restoring the Challenger. "For 17 years, I aggravated him," he says. "He had the resources to do it, but he always dealt with other cars."
Finally, one day about three years ago, Ken heard from Bob. "He told me if I wanted it, I could have it," Ken recalls. "He gave me a price and told me that I had to be there the day after Thanksgiving to get it."
What Ken hauled home from Bob's barn was no turkey driver, but it had come a long way from Hamtramck Assembly. The original engine was still out of the car but was included in the deal. Also, the original unibody showed the after-effects of that unscheduled ditch expedition and subsequent barn storage. Despite all that, the Challenger was a numbers-matching original.
Legendary seat covers, installed by Littles Upholstery in Indy, cover the original Challen
Fortunately, Ken had the place to get the E-Body restored. Ken is the proprietor of a restoration shop called The Finer Details in Danville, Indiana. He not only had a shop that specialized in E-Body restorations, he also had something even the biggest Dodge and Chrysler-Plymouth dealers didn't have back in the day. "I have a huge stash of N.O.S. parts, and with the help of Stephens Performance and Tony's Parts, and everybody else that I've dealt with for years, this car would be done right," he says of his inventory of New Old Stock parts. "I've been in the parts business and the Chrysler restoration business all my life."
Within all those N.O.S. parts were plenty of Hemi parts, so rebuilding the 426 Hemi was no problem. Meantime, Ken had Brewer's Transmissions rebuild the 18-spline A-833 four-speed and the Challenger's original Super Track Pack rear end (Dana 60 with a 4.10-geared SureGrip differential).
As for the body, though, it wasn't as bad as some Midwestern Mopars. Years of barn storage had taken its toll on this non-undercoated car, and the original unibody needed help in the form of new rear quarters, trunk floor, and one floorpan. At his shop, Ken had Dave Engle do the bodywork before Kevin Engel re-applied the Plum Crazy color, this time in two-stage PPG basecoat/clearcoat.
The Challenger's original engine had been removed and stored long ago, but it came with th
How long did this car's restoration take? "About a year and a half," says Ken, who adds that the time spent on this car wasn't taken away from any of his customers' cars. "I don't put my stuff in front of my customers-I have ten full-time employees in here, and I've got them working on E-Bodies all over the place." When we spoke with him, there were four other Hemi Challengers (plus a Hemi 'Cuda) undergoing restoration at the shop. "Three of 'em that are in here right now were all built within a week of each other-the first week of December 1969," says Ken." That's probably more Hemi E-Bodies than they had on the line at Hamtramck at one time!
Those four E-Bodies, like this one, are getting plenty of attention. Ken says that's because he's a stickler for perfection. "I'm doing it the way I want it," he says. "The reason I named my business The Finer Details is because every body gap has to be correct, and everything else, too."
When Ken finally had this Challenger ready, the first stop was at last summer's Mopar Nationals. More than a few show-goers' jaws were bruised by hitting the ground after one look at this resto. Soon after, it was on to Goodguys Chicagoland Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois, where it was named a Finalist for Muscle Car of the Year, in only its second big show. Plus, at that show, it was reunited with both of its previous owners, who'd never seen this car looking this good!
But this Plum Crazy Challenger will not be the only one in Ken's collection. Soon, a same-color 440 Six Pack-powered '71 R/T (sold new at Mr. Norm's Grand Spaulding Dodge) will join it, once he and his restoration crew take care of all its details.
So you think you've got the patience to handle a restoration project? Ken says there's one really important thing you need to start with. "Find the most solid car that you can get," he says. "Even though today's reproduction sheetmetal is excellent, it's the time and the cost of installing it that starts getting up there really quick. It's not cheap to restore a car, by any means.
"It's better to find the best shell you can get, and start from there." Even if you have to wait as long as Ken did to haul it home.
'70 Dodge Challenger R/T Coupe
Owned by: Ken and Pat Mosier, Danville, Indiana
Engine: The Challenger's original 426 Hemi block was bored .030-inch over, then rebuilt with original and N.O.S. parts into an engine that looks like it's fresh from Ma Mopar's M & I (Marine & Industrial) Engine Plant in Marysville, Michigan, where the 426 Hemi was built back in the day.
Transmission: What else behind a Hemi but an 18-spline A-833 four-speed-this one rebuilt by Brewer's Transmissions, Ludlow Falls, Ohio. The shifter is a rebuilt Hurst with the correct '70 "pistol grip" handle.
Rearend: A restored Dana 60 in Super Track Pack form, with 4.10 gears and a Sure-Grip differential.
Suspension: Just like it had when it left Hamtramck Assembly: front torsion bars, tubular shocks and anti-sway bar (rear) heavy-duty leaf springs and tubular shocks. Rebuilt with new original Mopar parts courtesy of Ken's extensive N.O.S. parts stash.
Brakes: OEM-style 11-inch drums all around, thanks (again) to Ken's N.O.S. parts stash.
Wheels and Tires: 15x7-inch Rallye wheels with repro Goodyear Polyglas G60-15s. That was as high-tech as wheels and tires got back then.
Body: Original '70 Challenger unibody needed one floorpan, the trunk floor, and both rear quarters replaced. Bodywork performed by Dave Engel at The Finer Details, Danville, Indiana.
Paint: Two-stage PPG Plum Crazy basecoat/clearcoat, sprayed on by Kevin Engle at The Finer Details, Danville, Indiana, before the white side stripes and white vinyl top went on.
Interior: Restored '70 Challenger R/T with Rallye gauge cluster, bucket seats, and no console. Repro seat covers by Legendary Interiors were installed by Littles Upholstery, Indianapolis, Indiana.