Home‎ > ‎

A Challenging Endeavour

Words & Photos: Edward Danneberg

 

If you’re a MOPAR fan, finding a suitable project on a budget can be a difficult, if not daunting task. With much of the highly sought after metal already either spoken for or rerunning their last molecules to the earth, it is getting exceedingly difficult to find something that is both reasonably complete and somewhat rebuildable.

 Like many young men growing up in the 70’ and later, the MOPAR bug hit me early when, along with my Dad – a body shop owner and MOPAR fan himself – I had a hand in  building a ’66 Plymouth Valiant Signet. A beautiful tribute to the brand, it was done in mile-deep black lacquer (the show-paint of the time), a balanced and tuned 383, “final-run” Cragar wheels and bias-ply tires, with a white vinyl top.


Although I loved that car, I made a young man’s mistake of selling to pay off some credit card debt. Ever since, I have felt the sting of guilt and nostalgia for doing so. Now in my 40’s, with a new-found interest in the car hobby, along with the filter of time to want to correct past mistakes, I was ready to find a project worthy of the one that got away.

Rewind to 3years ago, when an ad in The Auto Trader caught my eye. Upon calling the number listed, I found that a group of local MOPAR Cub members had this - and several other – projects sitting in a farmer’s field near Laird, SK. This particular ride was a very complete and unmolested ’74 dodge Challenger, still barely running under her own power.

Already well into the big-money-for-MOPAR-era, the current caretakers where looking to get a princely sum for it. After some negotiating, and agreeing to also buy some of the required sheet-metal through them, I still paid too much but didn’t really care. I happily loaded up what extra parts they had and drove it out to where I could get it on the hook for the trip back home in the dead of a Saskatchewan winter. I was finally going to redo a MOPAR in the memory of the one that got away and finally be able to make amends to my long-departed father.


Once back in my small 2-car attached garage, already squeezed by a massive ’67 Galaxie that I had completed the year before, I took stock – and plenty of photo’s – of my new prize. As my two boys jumped in and pretended to be Vanishing Point hero’s, I listed all the parts I would need to bring the well—used and final-year example of one of the most iconic muscle cars of all time back to it’s as-sold-as glory.

 

While the car had retained nearly every part it rolled off the factory floor with, it had lived a long, hard life in the Prairie environs and would need a full, bolt-by-bolt, restoration.

 

New quarters, inner fenders, trunk drop-offs and rockers would be needed for sure as well as an entire interior. Bumpers and headlight rings would need plating and the wheels, while complete, would need serious attention. As front fenders where not available for a few more years for Challengers, my metal-work fabrication and skills would have to be tested as well.





Tear-down is always one of the most fun parts of any project. After having done a few resto’s in my time and reading hundreds of issues every car publication gracing my local newsstands, I knew enough to carefully photograph the teardown and to bag and label everything as it was removed. After a couple of weekends, I had the beginnings of what was no a daunting task. While projects can quickly turn from fun to overwhelming, the key is to remain organized and focus on one part – or area – at a time.

 

Week by week, owing largely to a wife who is also a car fan, in addition to being a fantastic friend, wife and Mother to our 2 boys, I managed to get the hulk cleaned up and the metal work under way. Having learned the craft in the 70’s, when lead was still used, all my previous builds where done with a gas welder. For this project however, I launched myself into the 21st Century and purchased a very inexpensive flux-cored welder.

 

While commonly referred to as a MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welder, it is not truly MIG if you aren’t using a shielding gas. From a sheet of 18 gauge steel I carefully cut and formed pieces for each weekend’s task, including inner and outer fenders, pieces for the inner rockers, inner floor patches and the drives floor as well. As I was grinding and working the patch panels, I found the wire used for flux core welding is much harder to work than gas welding rod. As per sources I had read, the new welding material was much more difficult to shape and apt to crack if worked to vigorously, thus requiring adjustments in how you work each weld.

There were a few parts, like where the quarter tucked under the bumpers and end panel, where I reverted to the Oxy-acetylene welder. This resulted in a softer weld and more shaping could occur, resulting in a nicer end-result, ultimately requiring little or no filler to finish

Subpages (1): [Untitled]