Building a show-stopping car takes more than just hard work or a thick wallet. It also takes persistence and patience-something nearly all of our feature car owners have in common. For Indiana firefighter Craig Tkach, this meant day-after-day of driving past a '72 Challenger that wasn't for sale. His persistence paid off after he was driving past the car one day and it was finally for sale. Luckily, he was the first to drive by and make an offer.
Although not original to the car, the 340 that was in it when Craig bought it remains. Hey
Indiana is a very relaxed state and its people are cheerful and all-around very happy. Craig decided years ago that his profession would be to run into burning buildings and try to save lives. What better way to relax from this hazardous job than to drive around in a muscle car? Well, Craig has always been a car guy and heavily influenced by his friend Bob-a name usually preceded by the words "Super Bee." As you would guess, Bob was very much a Mopar nut and influenced Craig's purchase. This meant a Mopar was next on his list. His yearning may have also been influenced by the old, tattered Challenger that happened to be sitting on the side of the road on a farm down his street. "I used to drive to work and look over at it every time," he says. It was pretty far off the road, but he could clearly make out that it was a gold Challenger with a '72 to '74 nose. It wasn't for sale, but that didn't mean he stopped looking at it. One day the car had moved from its asylum and appeared closer to the road. "Once I got a clear look at it, I called Bob and asked him to check the car from top to bottom for me and see if it was for sale." Craig's punctuality paid off because the man hadn't even placed a sign on the car letting people know that it was indeed for sale.
At his first chance, Craig and Bob made their way over the farm to drive the car and make an offer. "Upon first inspection, it was determined that the car had been repainted a Gold color taken from a '79 Ford" says Craig. Under the hood was a 340 connected to a 727 with a slap stick. It drove pretty well and the car appeared to be in good shape with the normal rust areas-lower quarters, front fenders, trunk, roof seams, and Dutchman panels. He made the offer and took the car home in 2002.
Back at his home in Valparaiso, Indiana, the golden E-Body was enlisted for service as a street car. After completing a two-year tour of duty, the Challenger was decommissioned in the winter of 2004 when Craig dismantled the car as he planned to fully restore it. Once he had it torn down, it was sent over to Kubiak's Body Shop where it would remain for the duration of the restoration. "Over the course of the first two years I owned the car, I had accrued a stockpile of parts for it," he tells us. "After attending many swap meets and a few salvage yards, I had what I needed to begin."
Jeff at the body shop stripped the car down to bare metal and began to work his magic. He also modified the transmission tunnel to accept a four-speed, something Craig also had in his plans. He figured that since the car didn't have its original 318 anymore, there was no point in attempting to maintain its originality. It was his car now, and he was going to build it his way. This meant it was time for a color change, and what better color than Viper Red?
After it was painted, the car was taken home, and over the course of four years, Craig-with the help of his family and friends-contributed to his madness of meticulous parts detailing and final assembly. Every item that Craig thought the car should have, he ordered and installed. An A/C system from Classic Auto Air was plumbed for the days Craig needed to cool off when he was driving around-and yes, he plans to drive it around. The cooling system was upgraded; the brakes and suspension were all rebuilt, replaced, or upgraded.
After the long process, Craig has finally emerged on top as he stands proudly by his creation. "I couldn't have done it without my friends and family," he boasts. "My wife Margaret, daughter Alexandria, and son Nicholas provided all the help they could." When the going got too tough, friends like Bob, Steve Shirk, Mark Caruso, Pat Alissi, and Jeff Lindekugel were there to help.
'72 Dodge Challenger
Craig Tkach, Valparaiso, IN
- Engine: As luck would have it, the original 318 was long gone, giving Craig the freedom to build the 340 the way he preferred. Craig Johnson was commissioned for the rebuild that was loosely factory-based. A set of KB hypereutectic pistons bring compression to 10.26:1 with factory rods and crankshaft holding them in. The camshaft was replaced with a 218-duration .454-inch lift hydraulic Comp Cam which uses Crane ductile iron adjustable rockers to tickle the factory valves on the resurfaced 360 heads. An Edelbrock Performer intake and carburetor increase engine air flow while the original manifolds and Flowmaster 40-series exhaust bring it out. The oiling system was left stock.
- Transmission: Since Craig was building the car his way, the automatic was dropped and a A833 four-speed was installed, which was rebuilt by Craig Johnson. The shifter was rebuilt by Brewer's Performance.
- Rearend: Original 8-3/4 rear with 3.55 gears and Sure Grip.
- Suspension: New bushings were installed as needed while Monroe shocks, thick sway bars, and Mopar Performance .920 Torsion Bars and Espo rear leaf springs help with handling.
- Wheels/Tires: For wheels 15x7 Magnum 500s with front 245/60R15 and rear 255/60R15 BFGs do the trick.
- Paint/Body: Jeff Kubiak was responsible for repairing the body of the weathered '73. Once it was all cleaned up with fresh metal as needed, Jeff rolled the car into the booth, lowered his mask, and shot it with several coats of DuPont Viper Red basecoat followed by clear. A T/A spoiler was added along with side scoops and Rally stripes. Ken of Preferred Glass in Crown Point replaced all the glass and installed the new vinyl top.
- Interior: Inside the blinding white color was restored to new with the help of Legendary Auto Interiors seat covers, ACC carpeting, and Charger Specialties. The Tuff wheel was wrapped in leather and the turn signal levers were shortened. The original seats were recovered and the woodgrain was replaced.