Read Barry Banks' cover letter and you quickly realize he's a man possessed by a single ambition: to build the ideal hot rod, and part with as little coin as possible. When he needed a 4-speed, he traded with a friend. When he needed an engine, he got it for next to nothing, and then built it himself. When he needed a paint job and got the run-around from local body shops, he painted it himself with a 30-year-old HVLP gun. ("Many ask, `Who did the paint?' I tell 'em he's retired.") The result is a high-dollar look for a bottom-dollar price--and lots of calluses. Starting with a '74 Challenger he purchased in 1986 for a mere $1,400, Banks drove the 318/Torqueflite car basically untouched until the summer of 2003. When the bug hit, Banks wanted the Challenger to do everything. "I was shooting for the hot-rodder's hat trick: show car, g-machine, and street/strip brawler," says Banks. That's exactly what he got, and he did it for $16,250. Two road course outings and a handful of dragstrip passes--all while driving it everywhere--have been lessons to Banks. "After the road course, it was obvious the brakes needed upgrading and after the drag strip it was clear the rear suspension needed work and a set of sticky DOTs." Yet Banks' tech sheet looks like an exercise in frugality, with skinny-kid parts like cast pistons, ported factory 906 iron heads, a non-overdrive four-speed trans, and rear drum brakes. With a little more snot at the rear wheels and a better ET, we might even do a photo shoot down the road. Great job, Barry!

1974 Dodge Challenger
Owner:Barry Banks; Poulsbo, WA
Engine:446ci (.030-over 440), iron 906 heads, Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, 10:1 KB pistons
Transmission:A-833 4-speed, Hurst shifter, Hayes clutch
Rearend:8 3/4 Sure-Grip w/3.23 gears
Chassis/suspension:Cal-Tracs bars, split leaf-link rear suspension
Brakes:12-inch front discs, HD drums rear
Wheels/tires:Wheel Vintiques 17 x 8, front; 17 x 10 rear; Bridgestone 245/45-17 (front), 275/40-17 (rear)
Best ET:13.76 at 108 (on street tires)
Total cost to build:$16,250