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."

Not to be overshadowed by the sultry skin, the Challenger's mechanical pieces are equally as impressive. Between the framerails sits a 528ci Indy Cylinder Head crate Hemi that spits out 730 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque. It's based on an Indy aluminum block bored to 4.500 inches, an Eagle 4.150-inch steel crank and rods, and Wiseco 10.25:1 pistons. Matched with a COMP 248/254-at-.050 mechanical roller cam, a Barry Grant 850-cfm carburetor, and Indy 440-cfm cylinder heads and intake manifold, the combo is both heroically nostalgic and potent. "It sounds absolutely wicked. The only appropriate motor for a Mopar is a big, naturally aspirated Hemi," Jeremy says. Moving farther rearward, the massive elephant mates to a Tremec TKO five-speed stick, which dispatches torque back to a Heidts independent rear suspension. The slick setup was originally designed by Heidts for street rods, then later adapted for muscle car applications. It's both simple and effective, and features a Ford 9-inch centersection mounted to the frame with a crossmember, 2-inch halfshafts, tubular lower control arms, aluminum spindles, QA1 coilovers, and inboard-mounted disc brakes.

Proving that its superb crafting skills aren't just limited to shaping sheetmetal, the Roadster Shop put on a veritable fabrication clinic beneath the car as well. Cradling the Hemi is a custom-built tubular K-member, which anchors custom control arms and aluminum spindles. A NASCAR-style splined front sway bar keeps body roll in check, and custom subframe connectors-triangulated at several points-run the length of the frame. Likewise, the exhaust system is more art than mere utilitarian piping. The elegant river of stainless steel tubing starts with custom 21/8-inch long-tube headers, which flow into 4-inch collectors and X-pipe. From there, dual 3-inch intermediate pipes tuck tightly into the trans tunnel before feeding Flowmaster mufflers, negotiating the IRS, hugging the sides of the gas tank, then merging together once again while exiting into the custom roll pan. Since band clamps and saddle clamps are just too ordinary, fancy V-band clamps join the tributaries together. "Even though this car sits very low, the exhaust is tucked in so nicely that nothing hangs less than 5 inches off the ground. This is very important, since driveabilty is a top priority," Jeremy says. "Unfortunately, it was the middle of winter when we finished this car, but we couldn't wait to drive it so we took it out anyways. It was a riot trunkin' it through the streets of Chicago during the middle of a snow storm. I can't wait for some nice summer weather so I can cruise it and run it on the autocross."

The Roadster Shop has proven once again that applying street rod savvy into building a muscle car yields one heck of a street machine. So why would a well-known street rod shop venture into the world of muscle cars? Jeremy says it's an escape from the stresses of building gazillion-dollar roadsters for the sole purpose of winning a trophy. "We started out as a chassis shop building frames for '32 Fords, then transitioned into building complete cars. However, indoor car shows aren't for everyone, so we're now taking on more and more muscle car projects," he says. "When it came time to build our own car, we wanted to build something that was over the top, but still completely streetable, functional, and comfortable. Personally, I have more fun building muscle cars because if you plan on running them hard, they have to be overbuilt and over-engineered to handle the rigors of abuse. As a car builder, I really enjoy that challenge."

For Jeremy and the rest of the Roadster Shop crew, the Challenger isn't their first crack at building a street rodded muscle car. Its LS7-powered '62 Corvette, dubbed C1RS, took home the 2009 Goodguys Street Machine of the Year award, and ripped up many an autocross course along the way. For seasoned street rod veterans like Jeremy, this muscle car stuff must seem way too easy. That's why if you ever start talking to him about his Challenger, you'll probably sound more excited about it than he does. While he most certainly appreciates what he's accomplished with the car, he also hails from a different league, where the typical best-in-show caliber muscle machine wouldn't even garner a second look on the indoor car show circuit. More than anything, that explains why the man is so confident, and why his cars reflect that aura of understated confidence. After all, as impressive as a 450-foot Albert Pujols home run may be, how excited would Pujols get about those long balls if he hit them off of minor league scrubs throwing 85-mph heaters?

By The Numbers
'70 DODGE CHALLENGER
Jeremy Gerber • Mundelein, IL
ENGINE
Type: Chrysler 528ci Hemi
Block: Indy Cylinder Head aluminum
bored to 4.500 inches
Oiling: custom Indy dry sump with Moroso pan
Rotating assembly: Eagle 4.150-inch steel crank
and 6.860-inch rods;
Wiseco 10.25:1 pistons
Cylinder heads: Indy 285cc aluminum castings
with 2.25/1.94-inch valves
CNC-ported to flow 440 cfm
Camshaft: COMP 248/254-at-.050
mechanical roller;
.604/.591-inch lift;
110-degree LSA
Valvetrain: COMP lifters and timing set;
Indy 1.6:1 shaft-mount rockers,
Induction: Indy 426-2 single-plane
intake manifold,
Barry Grant 850cfm carburetor
Ignition: MSD billet distributor,
6AL ignition box, coil,
and plug wires
Fuel system: Rock Valley Tank, Aeromotive pump
Exhaust: custom 21/8-inch long-tube headers
and 4-inch X-pipe;
dual 3-inch Flowmaster mufflers
Cooling: Edelbrock water pump,
AutoRad radiator
Output: 730 hp at 6,600 rpm
and 660 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm
Built by: Indy Cylinder Head (Indianapolis, IN)
DRIVETRAIN
Transmission: Tremec TKO 600 five-speed,
Centerforce clutch
Rear axle: Heidts independent rear suspension
with Ford 9-inch centersection,
3.90:1 gears, and aluminum halfshafts
CHASSIS
Front suspension: custom tubular K-member
and control arms; QA1 coilovers
Rear suspension: Heidts IRS assembly
and tubular control arms;
QA1 coilovers
Brakes: Baer 12-inch discs with
six-piston calipers front and rear
WHEELS & TIRES
Wheels: Budnik Gasser
19x9 (6-inch backspace), front;
22x12 (6.5-inch backspace), rear
Tires: Pirelli P-Zero
255/30R19, front;
335/25R22, rear
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