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.
The first thing David did when he got his Challenger home was take the 383 to Auto Specialty in Lafayette and have it taken completely apart. The block was bored .030 over and the holes filled with forged TRW pistons. A Mopar Performance Purple Shaft camshaft was added, along with a Holley Street Avenger 770 carb. The stock 906 heads were treated to MP valves and a good clean-up. A March Performance billet pulley set, a polished Edelbrock Performer intake, an MSD billet distributor, a Mopar Performance 6AL box, and Cool Flex hoses hooked to a Be Cool radiator were also added. The tranny was handed to Guaranteed Transmissions, also in Lafayette, where it was freshened up, and a TCI torque converter and B&M Shift Improver Kit were added.
Troy Anderson of Anderson's Automotive Restorations spent 11 months restoring the Challenger body from the ground up, and a few modifications were added at the time of restoration. Personal touches like a set of front-disc brakes from Master Power Brakes, stainless steel brake and fuel lines, G-max sway bars, and a 3-inch custom exhaust system by Greg Budreau of Auto Specialty in Lafayette finished the job. The car was painted blue-black, using Spies Hecker base/clear paint, and the underbody was painted a semigloss black. A set of Stockton T.Q. wheels was added, wrapped in BFG Radial T/As. Also, in 2001, Jim's Custom Trim restored the interior with new seat covers and foam from Legendary Auto Interiors, and the headliner was replaced with one from Year One. For tunes, a Custom Auto Sound AM/FM radio with a six-CD changer is used. Performance Car Graphics in Florida treated the stock gauges to a white-face conversion, and the dashpad was sent to Just Dashes and redone.
Sure, it may have taken David 20 years to reintroduce himself to a Mopar of his own, but hey, that's the luck of the draw.