When it comes to late-model Mopars and drag racing, we know what you’re thinking: These cars are too expensive to make into dedicated drag racing vehicles. And while purchasing a new Challenger off the dealership lot, or acquiring one of the limited edition Dodge Drag Pak vehicles may not be in your budget, there is another way to build a late-model race car. Just like muscle cars of the ’60s and ’70s, many new Dodge Challenger and Charger R/T and SRT models are being sold to anyone who can get financing or write a check, and not necessarily strictly to drivers that can handle the cars. As a result, we’re seeing these cars show up at auctions and scrap yards after being wrecked, and many of these vehicles can be had for pennies on the dollar, depending on the extent of damage they’ve incurred.

Of course, there are drawbacks to purchasing a wrecked car and using it to build a race car, but there are many distinct advantages as well. On the drawback side, it’s a lot of work to rebuild a car that has been in a bad collision, and you’d better enjoy bodywork or have a friend who owns a body shop to fix one of these cars properly. If the car has had substantial damage, the frame may be tweaked as well, requiring the car to be re-squared before it can be safely driven or raced. Additionally, cars that have received extensive damage in an accident, often come with what’s called a salvage title, meaning they are either only good for parts, or they must be rebuilt and inspected by the DOT before they can be put back on the road. For the purposes of racing however, this last drawback isn’t much of a concern, and can lead to a good deal.

On the positive side, purchasing a wrecked late-model Mopar generally means that you can score the car for a lot less than the sticker price. Cars that are considered totaled, generally sell at auction for a quarter or less of the new value, depending on the damage, and more damage can lead to a better deal. As an added benefit, these cars often have low mileage, and many parts such as the interior and drive train can be salvaged and sold to recover the money invested in the car. Of course, you’ll have to have a dealer’s license to buy a car at an auction, and many salvage yards won’t sell you a wrecked car in entirety since its worth more to them as parts, but if you know a dealer or have some connections, these cars can be had.

Since our friend Fred Menditto is a local Florida dealer specializing in wholesale vehicles, he has just the credentials necessary to pick up one of these damaged cars at auction. Fred and his family are also dedicated Mopar racers, and both of the Menditto kids grew up at the track driving “Mopar” junior dragsters and funny cars, and eventually racing a series of big-block and Hemi powered Dusters at tracks in Florida, and the Southeast. At the car auctions that Fred attends for his business, he began noticing damaged late-model Mopars showing up, so he decided his son Rick’s next drag car would be a new Dodge Challenger.

Eventually Fred found a deal on a ’10 Challenger R/T that was involved in a rollover accident, and purchased the car as a foundation. We decided to follow along as Fred transformed this car into a cool, late-model drag car, and teamed up with Fred and his son Rick to build this car in to a competitive racer. In previous issues of Mopar Muscle, we’ve tackled the car’s front and rear suspension, brakes, fuel system, and transmission. We also showed how great the third-generation Hemi engine is by teaming up with Indy Cylinder Head to build a powerful 426-inch powerplant, making 719 horsepower on 93 octane pump gas with a relatively mild hydraulic roller cam and single 950-cfm carburetor. This month we’ll show you how this totaled Challenger was made to look new again, with the help of Silverking Collision Center in St. Petersburg, Florida.