At first, the reservation with which Jeremy Gerber speaks about his utterly wicked '70 Challenger seems a bit peculiar. After all, this is a machine encased in artfully sculpted sheetmetal that packs a 730hp all-aluminum Hemi, a Tremec five-speed, humongous brakes, and a trick independent rear suspension. As our conversation continues, it suddenly hits us. That's not a lack of enthusiasm in his voice, but rather an aura of quiet confidence-the kind of confidence that can only come from playing in a different pantheon of competition. Along with his dad and his brother, Jeremy spends his days building high-end street rods at the family business, the Roadster Shop (www.RoadsterShop.com). Although enthusiasts often criticize street rods as nothing more than outrageously expensive manifestations of rich guys' egos, there's no question that they represent the pinnacle of hot rodding craftsmanship. Applying those same skills to a muscle car has created quite a machine, one that exudes the same understated confidence as the crew that put it together.
Surprisingly, despite the Challenger's stunning craftsmanship and overall execution, the car was an on-again, off-again project. "Personal cars don't have deadlines, and customer cars do, so the Challenger sat in the corner of the shop and we worked on it in our spare time," Jeremy says. "Our original goal was to build a Hemi clone car, but that plan quickly went out the window. We really took a liking to the Pro Touring scene around that time, and wanted to build a modernized g-Machine that could do it all. We wanted something we could drive cross-country, run hard on an autocross, then drive back home."
From every angle, the street rodding influence is resoundingly evident. Fastidious attention to detail oozes from every nook and cranny, and all the custom contours and crevices of the sheetmetal conspire to serve a single, dedicated purpose. At the nose, the Challenger has been fitted with a custom lower valence, chin spoiler, and grille. The hood started out as a flat reproduction piece, but since it looked way too ordinary, the Roadster Shop cut out the middle and molded in a recessed scoop. Beneath the vent, a custom air snorkel crafted from sheetmetal draws cool air and feeds the carb. Reshaping the rear profile is a custom lower roll pan, a slick center-outlet exhaust, a ducktail rear spoiler, and a tailpanel that narrows the taillights down to two tastefully thin slits. Furthermore, the front and rear bumpers have both been narrowed and flush-fit to the body, and the handles, trim, mirrors, and driprails have gotten a clean shave.
Topping off the visual tweaks are a set of halo-eyed headlights heisted off of a BMW, and a conservative black-on-gray paint scheme. The overall look is both menacing yet subdued, which is exactly what the Roadster Shop had in mind. "Challengers are such sexy-looking cars to begin with, so instead of completely changing the appearance of the car, we just wanted to make it look cleaner, and more modern and refined. The idea was to build upon the lines of the factory design, and turn it up a notch," Jeremy says.
"The car's color combination and graphics are totally out there, and people tell us that it looks like we sprayed clearcoat right on top of primer. The gray is actually some leftover paint we had from the very first roadster that we built. Most two-tone paint schemes have bright colors with lots of contrast. We decided to take a more low-key approach, and left the roof, trunk, and tops of the quarters the same color as the rest of the body."