Having the cool car in high school is usually just a dream. Many of us didn’t even have a car and were subjected to being dropped off in front of the school. We would even have our parents drop us off a couple blocks away to save us the embarrassment of the loving "Have a good day, sweetie!" and hug or kiss that were sure to follow. But those were the first couple years, when you count down the days on the calendar for your learner’s permit to become a driver’s license. For Craig Sacco, resident of the Garden State, this brought on a whole new traumatic world as he putted to school in a yellow AMC Gremlin. He began to dream of a little Challenger he would see on his daily commute and he got the "itch." This E-Body would sculpt his interest in cars, and save his dignity.

Craig probably wasn’t the only person on earth to drive around in a yellow ’73 AMC Gremlin in the ’80s. This was well before they were accepted as cool or respected as a novelty vehicle. "It was a total nerd car," he jests, "and it still mentally traumatizes me to this day!" There was, however, a single glint of hope for Craig. Each day he drove the little Gremlin to campus, he was teased by a white ’73 Challenger that sat in a driveway along his route. It had a Rallye hood and side strobes, he recalls, "It was tough, it was cool, it was my salvation."

"One day, the yellow nerd-mobile suddenly developed a stuck thermostat and severely overheated, ruining the engine," he says. As luck would have it, the ’73 Challey came up for sale shortly afterwards, and Craig was there with cash in hand to regain his self-esteem. This car changed everything for him but, as his life began to develop, things changed. "I got married, started a family, and my priorities changed." he says. In a nutshell, the Challenger was sold.

Fast forward a couple of years to 2003. He knew he wanted another car, and he also knew that it had to be either a ’70 Challenger or ’71 ’Cuda with a big-block and four-speed. Since a finished car was a little too expensive, he figured he would find one to restore over time. Within a few months, Craig located what he was looking for--a ’70 Challenger RT/SE with a 440 four-barrel, a four-speed, and a Dana 60. He spoke with the owner and verified the VIN and fender tag numbers before coming to an agreement on price. Then it was back home to begin the five-year restoration.

"Being an RT/SE car with the 440 and four-speed transmission combo, it was one of only 142 ever produced that way, with only about 50 known to exist yet today," he claims. "The rarity comes from the fact that it was an SE and four-speed car. Since the SE cars were 'more luxurious,’ 733 came with automatic transmissions." It did, however, lack in a few creature comforts that most SE cars came with. "It didn’t have power steering, power windows, or air conditioning," he explains. "It’s all business with the engine and trans combo, power disc and drum brakes, Dana 60 and 3.54 gears."

Several months into his ownership, he found a set of seatbelts online in Texas, and after talking with the seller about other parts, he found out that the man owned a body shop with a very good reputation. He arranged to have the car picked up and taken to Texas to begin the bodywork. Shortly after its arrival in the Lone Star State, the project was derailed when the shop began to fall apart financially. "He laid off his help, his wife left, and he was essentially a man with nothing to lose," he explains. "Great, I should have known better! I read stories about this happening to other guys, now it was happening to me."