By his own account, David Wolfe never planned to own a Dodge. Chevelles, Camaros, and the other usual suspects were more his thing. But when he found out there was this unfinished '73 Challenger project that had a Hemi attached, he switched teams. He says: "Growing up I was always a Bow Tie guy, but my best buddy from age 12 on was a Mopar guy. We always talked about 426 Hemis, and he was a big, big Mopar guy, but I was just always a GM guy. I don't know if it's genetics from your parents, or you just grow up with whatever loyalties that they had." That all changed one afternoon at Performance Restorations in Mundelein, Illinois, a little over two years ago.
Brent Jarvis of Performance Restorations had done work for David in the past, including a supernice '71 Camaro (PHR December '07, see "Show N Go") and the two had become friends. Whenever David would stop by for a visit, there was always this old Challenger in a total state of disarray in the corner of the shop. When David asked about putting a high-powered big-block in his Camaro, Jarvis said no; for that kind of power he needed something like that old Challenger.
Time passed and as it happens sometimes, one man's misfortune became another man's gain, as the Challenger's previous owner ran out of steam for the project and it came up for sale. "When I found out that this car was going to be on the market, truly the tip-in was that it was going to be a Hemi. It doesn't matter whether you're a GM guy, a Ford guy or anything else, just 'Hemi,' that's all you gotta say. Especially that big of a cubic-inch Hemi with that kind of horsepower." How big? How's about 605 fire-breathing, neck-snapping, wheel-burning cubic inches? How much horsepower? How's about 886 horses running at full steam on pump gas with no baby bottles or hair dryers needed!
It gets even better when David flips a little switch and two solenoid-activated doors open up, bypassing the exhaust and freaking out the old ladies at the stoplight next to him. That's probably because this isn't just a show job, it's a real driver. Regarding when David originally acquired the project, he told us: "It was designed to be a go straight really fast car, and I wanted it to be a little more utilitarian. Not a grocery getter by any means, but I wanted to be able to drive it on the street. So I put bigger brakes on it and different wheels and tires." Pentastar enthusiasts will also be happy to note the pistol grip shifter still in place. It is connected to a Passon Performance four-speed that has been beefed up to transmit power via a McLeod dual-disc clutch setup. As part of the original project, the drivetrain was definitely set up for the strip. "It had a spool and 4.56 gears, and you'd be going about 4,000 rpm to hit 55 mph. So I did change the rearend to a posi and a 3.55 gear."
The impetus for this whole project-the Hemi-was built by some guys up in Indiana who might know a thing or two about them. You might have heard of Indy Cylinder Heads. Yeah, they build complete engines in addition to their line of big- and small-block Mopar and AMC heads. The elephant powering this Challenger is a spare-no-expense, take-no-prisoners pachyderm using their own aluminum block, a Callies 4340 steel crank, and Wiseco forged pistons down below. Topside is a pair of their Legend series heads with full CNC port and polish, and K-Motion springs. Naturally, a COMP Cams solid roller thumps the lifters up and down and gives just the right signal to the big King Demon 1,190-cfm carb sitting atop the high-rise intake. In addition to the nearly 900 horses, this bad boy just about rips the dyno in half with over 800 lb-ft of torque. Let me reiterate, this is on pump gas!
The chassis has been modified to the extreme to handle all that power. The entire drivetrain, which was traditionally offset, was centered in the chassis, and the body tied together with custom framerails. Beyond the obvious swing-out door bars on the rollcage, there are a total of 14 points that attach the cage to itself and the body.
Indy Cylinder Heads built...
Indy Cylinder Heads built David Wolfe's 605ci Hemi, which pours out 886 hp on pump gas. In the Mopar world, Indy has established itself as the premier source for Pentastar power, manufacturing individual components like heads, intakes, and blocks, to complete crate engines.
Up front, a Magnum Force tubular K-member, QA1 coilover shocks with 550-pound springs, an adjustable swing arm, and a monster 1.25-inch sway bar were carefully positioned so that when David gets the itch-and he's itching right now-he can take the car to a track day at a road course for some bendy road fun. He says the manual rack-and-pinion that are in it now are great for straight-line stuff, but have got to go unless he does some serious workouts before the track day. Evidence of the original plan is also seen in back with a quick peek at the Dana 60 hooked to a ladder bar and QA1 coilover setup.
When viewing the underside of the car and scoping out the chassis, it is truly amazing how clean and efficient the workmanship is there. No gaudiness and nothing is overdone, just right. Brake lines routed and tucked in nicely, custom 20-gallon fuel cell hidden in the trunk, ladder bar crossmember tied to the framerails, as if Ma Mopar wanted it there.
The rolling chassis would be incomplete without the goodies that go round and round. In this case, a set of Boze 19x8s up front and 19x12s in the rear are banded by two pairs of Bridgestone Potenzas for good traction.
What's so neat about all that work underneath and inside the engine bay is that once you stand back and look at the car, it looks right. Filled body seams, a custom 'glass hood, worked over floor pans, and a custom firewall and fenderwells look absolutely clean and spectacular. Also, '09 Dodge Challenger Hemi Orange paint really pops against the T/A-style side stripes.
The interior is just as clean and understated as the exterior. Crack open the door and it looks like a bone-stock restoration. Danny's Glass and Trim in Wauconda, Illinois, was responsible for the immaculate dash, headliner, and carpet while the factory gauges were restored to their original condition. Minor additions in the cockpit were an oil pressure and temp gauge. As David tells us: "Some of the factory gauges were just slightly better than idiot lights." He was also a little leery of the old lap belts with 886 horses letting loose at the blip of his right toe, so he added a pair of Crow harnesses "to keep your ass in the seat when things get interesting." So Spartan is the interior that there is no stereo! David claims the only sound he needs is "just two huge Flowmasters barking out Hemi horsepower."
Now that he has the whole package together, his view of the Mopar world has finally found its home. He's no longer just a Bow Tie fanatic, he's a more enlighted and, shall we say, worldly enthusiast of the vehicular arts. "The more I drive this car, the more I appreciate the factory setup from Dodge. From the dash gauges to the pistol grip shifter, I think the guys at Chrysler really knew what they were doing when they built the E-Body cars." It's also clear that he appreciates the attention that the car brings. "It doesn't matter where I am with the car, when the engine roars to life, everybody stops what they are doing to see what the hell all the noise is." Maybe all that noise is the sound of this switch-hitter knocking a home run.
|David Wolfe • Long Grove, IL
||Indy Legend Series
||King Demon 1190
||886 hp at 6,700 rpm
|WHEELS AND TIRES
||Boze 19x8, front; 19x12, rear
||Bridgestone Potenza 235/35R19, front; 345/35R19, rear
||four-speed by Passon Performance
||Dana 60, 3.55 gear and posi
||chrome-moly with billet yokes
||Magnum Force tubular K-member, QA1 coilovers, 1.25-inch sway bar
||ladder bars, QA1 coilovers, custom sway bar
The interior of David's Challenger...
The interior of David's Challenger looks just as inviting as it did in '73. Tall buckets were a signature item for the Mopar hot rodder and they provide just enough stability to make you feel almost in control when you stab the skinny pedal on the right. David says they get the strangest looks from people when they pull up wearing the four-point race harnesses.
The fitment on the seams where...
The fitment on the seams where the body panels come together is a testament to the quality of Brent Jarvis and Mark Webster's work at Performance Restoration. Every piece fits perfectly and the addition of modern components like the wheels and brakes that are visible don't detract from the aesthetic beauty. The whole car just flows.
A flick of a hidden switch...
A flick of a hidden switch underdash and the electronically activated exhaust cutouts open up to really scare the bejeezus out of anyone nearby. It's hard to believe by the condition of the undercarriage that this is a street-driven car. David made sure that Performance Restorations knew he would be driving it, and they built it accordingly.