The year was 1988, and David Smiley of Lafayette, Indiana, was looking to buy a 'Cuda as his latest project. His reason for wanting a 'Cuda (other than the fact that it's a really cool car)-when he was younger, he owned several 'Cudas, including a '70 Hemi version. But, because of family reasons, he had to sell the Hemi-powered 'Cuda, and that left him Moparless for 20 years.

Just by coincidence, on this fateful day in 1988, David's son, Zach, was perusing the latest Auto Trader magazine and saw a '71 Challenger R/T for sale. David pondered owning a Challenger as opposed to his favored 'Cuda and decided if the car looked as good in person as it did in the pictures, it would be a contender to join the Smiley family. When David called to inquire, the owner of the car informed him of another gentleman who was also planning to look at it. Before the conversation ended, David made arrangements to look at the car the following day after work.

Throughout the workday, one thought passed through David's mind: I hope the other guy doesn't show up. He called the owner one more time before he left work, and David was in luck-the other guy hadn't seen the car yet. David left work with deposit money in hand, heading to Champaign, Illinois, on a journey that probably seemed to take forever, as he wondered if the other guy had arrived yet.

When David finally arrived, the owner said the guy hadn't shown up. David then spent a fair amount of time speaking with the owner and took the Challenger for a spin. During the drive, we can only imagine the thoughts going through David's head. David returned the car to the owner's home, and after he got out, the owner told him the other guy wouldn't be coming after all. Apparently, he was involved in an accident on the way and damaged his car badly enough that he couldn't finish the trip. While unfortunate for the other guy, this was David's lucky break. It had taken 20 years, but when David said he would take the car and handed the owner a deposit, he finally had his Mopar.

Even though a 440-transplanted from an Imperial-powered the Challenger, the numbers-matching 383 was lying in the corner of the garage and came with it. The car was originally from Daly City, California, and was never titled in Illinois, so David also had the California title with the car. When he got it home, it was in fair condition-fair meaning it did need a few minor repairs. There were small cracks by the rear window, where someone had filled in the body seams, and the bottom of the driver-side door had body filler in it. Straight pipes came out of the holes in the rear valance with no tips, and all the trim on the back of the car was flattened. The parking-light lenses were even cracked. The passenger seat had yellow overspray on it, the driver seat had a split in the side, and the dash had three cracks in it.