Some dads teach their boys how to fish, others how to play ball, but some teach their boys how to haul ass. Craig Baxter's dad did exactly that.Craig's first car was a '73 'Cuda. In the heyday of smog emission laws, outrageous insurance costs, and federally regulated performance caps, monster motors coupled with smaller, lightweight production cars were nearly extinct.
That didn't matter to sixteen-year-old Craig. Within five months, the 'Cuda was totaled. Amazingly, his patient father guided his son toward another Mopar. Discovering this '73 Charger in the summer of 1978, Craig walked away with it for a mere $1,800.
Fueled by the tauntings of the neighborhood Brand-X and FoMoCo boys, Craig started competing his (then factory dark green) Charger in the local drag races and even in the Street Machine Nationals in Indianapolis a few times.
The saying, "It's not what you know, but who you know" applies here. Craig's father was employed at the local Chrysler/Plymouth dealer and assisted his son in all his youthful purchases. The Charger received new go-fast goodies, such as headers, a more aggressive bump-stick, intake, and carburetor. Even minor improvements in the transmission and differential were needed as Craig pushed the hulky Charger down the quarter-mile. Unfortunately, a spun rod bearing at the strip halted Craig's exploits.
Taking upon himself the challenge of rebuilding the motor, he opted for higher compression TRW 11.5:1 pistons, and landed nearly everything else through Direct Connection.
Time changes our plans, and so it was with Craig. After Craig got married, the hot rod Charger soon found itself stowed away in the garage more weekends than Craig would like to admit. Even with the newly rebuilt motor, the Charger sat on the back burner. But after owning the car for nearly a quarter of a century, Craig began to worry as the B-Body began to show its age. The pearly white vinyl atop the roof was yellowing, the carpet was rotting, and it began showing spots of rust. Craig, desperate for help, turned to Mopar Muscle.
Watching the progression of the Holley Road Runner project, Craig decided that only the boys at Muscle Car Restorations were worthy enough to tackle his beloved Charger. Unfortunately, since MCR is widely renowned for their talent in bringing old classic American musclecars back to life, Craig had to sign on to a two-year waiting list as his Charger sat in the garage.
Then out of the blue, MCR's John Balow called the Baxter home a year early telling him to "bring 'er on in." The restoration process took nearly two years, but Craig feels it was worth every minute. Optioning for the R/T bulge hood, the car's 5-mile-an-hour rubber bumpers were canned for the "right look." Trading in the ho-hum dark green, the Charger was basted in several coats of unmistakable Plum Crazy Purple.
Craig notes his pleasure with the near-factory restoration of the interior. Turning to their partners in crime, MCR contacted Year One for everything between the doors and glass. New brilliant white seats and door panels were installed, along with new carpet and darn near everything else. The only interior change, Craig admits, is the replacement of the giant in-dash clock with a period-correct tachometer.
Making sure his newly resurrected Charger was no mere trailer queen, he had Wheeler Race Engines of Minnesota rebuild the powerhouse. Stroking the RB block to 498 inches, the motor was topped with Edelbrock's aluminum heads and a RPM Street Performer intake. Making it a little more street friendly, the cam chosen was reliable with a mild .546-inch lift. Also, the compression was lowered to a more street friendly 10.25:1 using JE pistons. Wanting to expel the fumes as quickly as possible, Craig chose a tti 3-inch exhaust package, running from polished headers all the way down to factory style slotted Machine Gun exhaust tips.