It was November 22, 1973, and Linda Warino picked up her '74 Dodge Charger Special Edition from Straussbaugh Dodge in Youngstown, Ohio. The car was a real beauty. It was Deep Sherwood Metallic with a dark-green vinyl top and jade-green interior. This car screamed '70s style.
On June 27, 1978, Linda's first-born son Joe was brought home from the hospital in the Charger. According to Joe, "I always loved to ride in the Charger even when I was a little tyke. In fact, I loved the car so much I added a little touch of my own-two teeth marks on the passenger-side door panel." It's possible Joe was marking his property early on.
Through the years the Charger suffered the normal wear and tear of being an Ohio car. It was almost completely taken over by rust, and the 318 was getting tired. it wasn't until June 1988 that the car-compliments of a spun main bearing-became a semipermanent yard ornament. It looked as if the Charger had seen its last days, but fate stepped in when the Hot Rod Super Nationals came to Columbus, and young Joe wanted to go.
While browsing through the thousands of cars, he and his dad stumbled across a beautiful triple-black '72 Dodge Charger S/E. It looked just like the car at home-well, sort of. This particular car-unlike the one at home-was equipped with a 440, a power bulge hood, and missing the rust, dings, dents, and steel-belted snow tires. Joe tells us, "I couldn't sleep for days thinking about that Charger." But soon after, Joe's parents broke the news to him their car was going to the junkyard. Joe was crushed.
But after listening to a 10-year-old crying for two days, his parents decided to keep the car. The next day, Joe went to the library to check out a Chilton's manual and started looking in the newspaper for a new 318. Keep in mind, he was only a 10-year-old. His father Joe Sr. made the mistake of telling him he would fund the project if young Joe would do the work (with dad's help, of course). Four years, five gallons of Bondo, and a slightly used 318 (purchased for $125 dollars) later, the Charger was back on the street. The Charger was entered in the Hot Rod Super Nats every year after with a major progression taking place each year.
When Joe was old enough to have a job, the Charger began improving by leaps and bounds. Most of the Bondo was removed and replaced with new sheetmetal, and a freshly built 440 replaced the old 318. Carl Rossler rebuilt a 727 transmission, and an 831/44 rear with a Sure Grip and 3.91gears was installed. By spring 2001, the car had received a major facelift. It was getting closer and closer to the vision 10-year-old Joe had years ago.
On November 8, 2002, the Charger caught fire in front of Joe's new home in Marysville, Ohio. "It was probably the most gut-wrenching scene I have ever witnessed," exclaimed Joe. After the fire department left and the damage was assessed, Joe decided to tear the Charger down once again. The entire engine compartment was cooked, the hood was warped, and the fenders were singed. Luckily, the fire stayed under the hood and the car could be salvaged. It was a month later that Mike Cooper of Mr. Brick's Race and Restoration in Marion, Ohio, and his crew proceeded to straighten all the sheetmetal, including the new power bulge hood, and remove the rest of the cancer from the car. After that was done, the car was squirted with two coats of Dupont Urethane Deep Sherwood Metallic and three coats of Urethane clear. The car was then wet-sanded and buffed. The interior was freshened up by Joe and friend Greg Jasinski using pieces from Legendary Auto Interiors and features new carpeting and seat covers. The side panels were cleaned up and retained, even young Joe's teeth marks on the passenger door.
The .030-over bored 440 received a new Mopar Performance 509 Purple camshaft, a set of Muscle Motors Street Killer heads, and an Edelbrock 800 carb. The car is a 10-year-old's dream come true. It's a good thing Joe marked the car early on as his.