Occasionally, life deals us some tough hands. The result of these events may force us to part ways with personal items like homes and/or cars. For Claus Williams, this meant he would acquire this '68 Dodge Dart from one of his employees going through just such a case of hard times.

The Dart was in relatively good shape when his employee originally gained possession. Unfortunately, this A-Body's luck soon ran out as his ex-wife backed into the driver's door, breaking the glass and destroying the door. Later, he backed into a pole. Claus, a self-employed cabinet builder, took the car off this bad-luck-ridden guy's hands in 1998. He wanted to build a nice driver out of the Dart but knew his wife wouldn't like that one bit. For this reason, the car was hidden at his friend Tom Feluer's house, which also happens to be where the body shop, Wizard Auto Body, is located.

As the years passed, he focused on other projects to distract himself from the car he shouldn't have. He eventually ran out of things to work on and decided it was time to start on the old Dart. "It had been sitting underneath a pine tree and collected about 4 inches of pine needles all over it," Claus says. Pine needles weren't the only thing the Dart collected as the trunk floor and quarter panels were now badly rusted and needed to be replaced. Claus brought the A-Body home and began the work on it himself by starting with the trunk. He took the opportunity to add a little more room in the rear wheelwells to fit more rubber underneath. Under the hood, he started to clean up the firewall, but this quickly overwhelmed him and he took the car back to the body shop.

When the car came back to Claus in primer, he planned to install the engine and transmission to make sure everything fit. Claus soon discovered his 440 block that he planned to use wasn't any good, so while a new engine was being assembled down at Witcher Racing Engines in Middleburg, Florida, he sent the car back to the body shop for a third time. Inside the new aluminum Indy Maxx block are Wiseco pistons, Eagle connecting rods, and an Eagle 4.150-inch stroke. The short-block was mated to a pair of Indy 440-SR aluminum heads and is good for 9.5:1 compression. An Isky .578/.578-inch lift, 244-degree duration camshaft sits inside and controls the massive 2.19-inch intake and 1.81-inch exhaust valves.

At the body shop, PPG Hemi Orange paint was being sprayed onto the freshly primed Dart. A fiberglass AAR hood was added for a more menacing appearance, as well as its cooling benefits. After many hours of block sanding and painting, Tom was finished with the Dodge and it was sent back to Claus. "Finally, I was able to dig into the boxes of goodies I had sitting around," he says.

Inside those nearly 10-year-old boxes were his interior pieces. The black vinyl seat covers were replaced along with the carpet. A Billet Specialties half-wrap steering wheel was fitted, and the dash was modified to accept the Auto Meter gauges and Flaming River steering column. Claus didn't want to get bored or uncomfortable while cruising around in his A-Body so he installed an Alpine CD player, Pioneer front and rear speakers, and a Vintage Air air conditioning system.

Suspending the 111-inch wheelbase is a modernized suspension. The front uses an RMS K-Member which Claus discovered wouldn't work with his motor mounts. "I called RMS up and told them my situation and they gave me the first good news since I started the project. They said they would take my K-Member and attach the appropriate mounts free of charge as long as I paid shipping," he says. With the engine mounting situation taken care of, the rest of the suspension was attached. QA1 10-way adjustable coilover shocks reside up front and a Flaming River rack-and-pinion and bumpsteer kit provide smooth steering. Out back, Super Stock springs support the 8¾-inch rear end filled with Moser axles, 2.92 gears, and a Sure Grip differential. Wilwood disc brakes now handle the stopping power on all four corners and sit behind a set of Weld Racing Pro Star wheels.

In the end, it took nearly three years to complete the project after he started working on it. He ran into many obstacles when trying to find parts, or getting them and having to wait on a six month backorder. Claus currently resides in Beaufort, South Carolina, where he enjoys driving his Dart and taking it to shows. "My next project is a '67 Belvedere, but shhhhh . . . my wife doesn't know about that one either."