About four years ago, Jim Ford looked online and found a '72 Challenger for sale. "It was in Arkansas, and it was a rust bucket," recalls Jim. An original 318-powered car, it was somewhat complete, with four decades of rust to its quarters, floors, and trunk floor, subtracting from its original curb weight.
The rust wasn't an issue for Jim, as this wouldn't be a back-to-stock restoration. Not when a totaled '06 Charger R/T with just 13,500 miles found its way to Jim a couple months after the Challenger. The idea: Swap as much from the late-model Charger into the E-Body as he could.
Michelin-shod stock ’06 Charger R/T wheels front big Wilwood discs at each corner.
Despite crash damage that buckled the Charger's floorpan, it was a yard-driver whose Hemi, overdrive automatic transmission, and electronics were in good shape, as well as its cabin. "I took everything out of it except the front end and the rear end, and put it in my Challenger," says Jim. "Everything that I could fit, I put in."
Before anything could be transplanted from it, the Challenger had to be made ready. "I put on all new quarter-panels, fenders, and most everything else," he says of his unibody restoration, which he did himself in his two-car home garage.
The floor pan needed extra work to allow the Charger's seats to fit—not a problem when replacing a rusted-out original with a reproduction. Says Jim, "I had to drop [the floor pan so I could get the seats out of the Charger to fit] in there. I'm a little over 6 feet tall, I had to drop [the floor] about four inches." The Charger's rear seat and dash also needed "tailoring" to fit the Challenger's cabin, which Jim accomplished by shortening the dash, and his wife, Bonnie, down-sized the Charger's rear seat.
Underneath, the Challenger's K-member came out, and a Magnumforce tubular K-member went in before the Charger's bone-stock Hemi and overdrive automatic did, along with a Mopar 83⁄4 rear.
The ’06 Charger’s dash was trimmed to fit, and then its gauges, GPS, sound system, and HVA
In all, it wasn't a complicated process to swap in the Charger's modern hardware, wiring, cabin, and electronics. "It was time consuming," says Jim of the two years plus this project took. He adds there was one challenge in particular to this updated Challenger. "Getting the computer to talk to the transmission correctly," he says. "I bought myself a code reader, and used it to read what the computer was ordering. Fortunately, the first time I hit the key to start it, it fired right up."
Outside Jim shaved off the drip rails before he sprayed on the two-stage PPG Synergy Green and White Pearl in a distinctive two-tone scheme. "It was something that I'd seen a long time ago, and I thought, I'm going to work something in like that." Jim also fitted the bumpers closer to the body for a smoother look.
What's this updated E-Body like to drive? "Firm," says Jim. "With the Magnumforce tubular front end under it, it's very firm." He adds, "It's very quick—I don't know how fast it is, but I know it's very quick."
If you've got the idea to update a vintage Mopar with a modern-tech Hemi and other parts, Jim has this advice for a donor. "Look for a Ram pickup," he says. "It makes a much easier conversion—not only the u-joints, but the transmission and also the computer is a little bit different. A late-model Hemi from a pickup, or a Jeep Cherokee, makes a much easier conversion than one out of a Charger or Challenger."
You thought this was a modern Challenger’s engine bay, didn’t you?
1972 Dodge Challenger
Lake Havasu City, Arizona
|Engine: Even though it's totally stock, the 5.7 Hemi puts out twice the power the original 318 did.
|Transmission: It's an electronically-controlled overdrive automatic from the donor Charger.
|Rear: 83⁄4 Mopar with 3.23 rear gears
|Suspension: (Front) QA1 coilovers (Rear) Re-arched leaf springs with QA1 coilovers
|Brakes: Wilwood discs at each corner replace the original front disc/rear drum system.
|Wheels/Tires: Stock '06 Charger R/T 18-inch 5-spokes wear P235/55R18 Michelin Pilots front and rear.
|Paint/Body: Jim restored the unibody in his three-car garage with new quarters, trunk floor and (lowered) floorpan before he sprayed on the two-stage PPG Synergy Green/White Pearl colors. Pinstriping by Scott Montverard at Letters, Lines & Designs was the only thing that Jim and his wife, Bonnie, didn't do.
|Interior: The donor Charger's dash (with all electronics, GPS, and sound system), console, front and rear seats were all swapped in, with the dash and rear seat needing some "tailoring" to fit.