There are basically three camps in the Mopar world. On the one hill you have the hard-core restorers-date code this, correct finish that, polish it up and leave it sit. Another hill holds the rebels-they'd be the bore it, stroke it, hack it, and flog it bunch. Somewhere in the middle are the moderate-fix it up, put it on the highway, and cruise on, brother. Phil Painter of Las Vegas, Nevada, is a textbook study in eclectic Mopar behavior. A former standard-bearer of the restoration class, today Phil's philosophy, manifest in the '70 Challenger R/T seen here, is a blend of all three Mopar schools of thought-dressed to the hilt, obscenely modified, and always on the street.
"I found the car in the January edition of the Phoenix Auto Trader," says Phil. "It took me almost a month and a half after seeing the car for the first time to talk myself into another project. On the day that I purchased the car in late February, I called my wife to get her OK. Her response was, 'You have been in mourning ever since you sold the other two restored cars (a '70 purple T/A and a '70 B-5 blue Hemi 'Cuda). I'll have the garage cleaned out in the time it takes you to drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas if you'll promise that it will be a fun driver, and you don't go psycho and make it into another trailer queen.'
"Phil bought the car from Chris Gunthaner of Phoenix, who had already set the game in motion.
"Chris had done the initial paint work, retrofitted all of the wiring, engine, transmission, gauge cluster, and air conditioning from a '96 Dodge truck to a '70 Dodge Challenger," says Phil. "I think the wiring had done him in. That, in itself, was a major project. Overall the condition of the car was estimated to be about half done. As far as Chris was concerned, he was done. I, on the other hand, underestimated all of the work it would take to complete."
A truer understatement was never uttered. What Phil had purchased was a semi-restored Challenger that had been retrofitted with a 5.9L truck engine, four-speed automatic with overdrive, and the electronics necessary to make it all work. Phil says it's the first time he tapped a project car that actually ran from the get-go. Before the buy, he discussed his plans with the folks at Fastway Automotive, a company he sublets work to for his two truck dealerships in Phoenix. They gave the project the nod.
The first step was to evaluate the car. Right off the bat, the rear end was in need of help. Dan's Driveline went through the axle assembly, replacing all the bearings and seals, as well as installing a 3.91 Richmond Gear Sure Grip. This, it was calculated, would provide the best overall performance given the tranny's overdrive unit.
The next decision was to figure out what kind of car this already modified beast would end up being.
"What I wanted," says Phil, "was a car that had the '70s musclecar look, but had all of the benefits of modern technology. My two previous cars were restored to 1970 specs, and didn't get driven-partly because neither had A/C, and it gets a little warm in Las Vegas in the summertime. I wanted a car that rumbled, that if I stood on the gas pedal would make me smile. And when I was through imitating John Force, I could push on the overdrive, A/C, cruise control, hit the boom box and smile some more, and yet be mellow enough that my wife wouldn't be intimidated to drive it."
At this point, attention turned to the 5.9L Dodge V8. Fastway whipped up a hot combination consisting of a Comp Cam camshaft, Vortech supercharger, Dayco torque converter, and a TransGo shift kit, all purchased through Jegs and Summit Racing.