Some guys just don’t play by the rules. What’s good for the masses gets wadded up and tossed aside in lieu of originality and character. When Kenny Wayne Shepherd decided it was time to build a hot rod, he bypassed the cookie-cutter fluff and jumped straight into the world of forgotten ’70s Mopar-dom. Yeah, we’re talking about that Kenny Wayne Shepherd—guitar rocker and bluesman extraordinaire. And yeah, we’re talking about a ’72 Dodge Charger.
The life of a bluesman is...
The life of a bluesman is a lot like the life of a good muscle car. It has to take the ups and downs as well as the twists and turns or it’ll get left on the side of the road. Kenny balances his music and family life with a healthy dose of time behind the wheel of his ’72 Charger.
The Chargers that get all the love are usually the ’68-70 versions made famous by a couple good ol’ boys by the last name of Duke. Neglected are their younger (and older) brothers, but the ’72 had more than enough style and swagger to hold its own. When the body style changed in ’71, besides shortening the wheelbase a couple inches and widening it, the look was completely different from its predecessor and people didn’t really know what to think. As a couple decades passed by, the emissions-stifled B-Bodies were typically left untouched in the corners of a few junkyards. Castaways. Black sheep. It took the vision of someone like Kenny to mentally lift away the green hue of algae buildup and picture what could be done to make the car into a modern muscle marauder.
“I’m kind of drawn to cars that are underappreciated. That’s been my quest in the past; the last few years have been to realize the potential in the cars that seem to get overlooked. That was like my ’70 Plymouth Duster that was a cover car (Mar. ’08). Nobody had really done a serious Pro Touring Duster, and I saw a lot of potential there. I felt the same potential was in this car.”
As an enthusiastic car guy, Kenny’s built a number of cars to keep his roddin’ passion at bay. Although the years might vary on his rides, the dedication to the Mopar brotherhood has never swayed. This particular ride came his way in 2008 as one of those projects to be filmed and photographed throughout the process, but under the expectant eyes of the public, things got a little rushed. After the initial build, Kenny backed up and went through the whole process again, fixing the little details, tweaking the tweakables, and getting it just-so-right. He wanted to really showcase the unique style of the car.
Although his touring and recording...
Although his touring and recording schedule doesn’t allow Kenny to do the total immersion DIY thing, he loves working on his hot rods as much as time allows. Here Kenny digs in deep with a high-speed grinder to strip the old paint off the ’72.
“As far as Chargers go, the ’71 to ’74 is a bastard stepchild,” he says. “They’re very underappreciated. But the more I looked at this body style, the more potential I began to see. It’s another situation where when I built this car, nobody had done a real Pro Touring version of the third-generation Charger.”
That’s not to say they are completely unknown in the high-performance world. King Richard Petty, who was known for being mostly a Plymouth guy, had a ’72 Charger in his stable, which Buddy Baker drove, though there was also a version with the famous No. 43 on the side.
Kenny’s project began with a trip to Ted Moser’s Picture Car Warehouse (Northridge, California), which he tasked with the bulk of the build. Since Kenny’s cars are built to actually be driven, they decided the number-one step in moving the car into modern ride quality was to install a Reilly Motorsports AlterKtion front K-member and suspension kit. Though the kit usually employs coilovers to handle the load, they paid homage to the past and built custom hidden torsion bars to spring the frontend. Axing the old steering box in favor of a rack-and-pinion and redesigning the mounting points to reduce bumpsteer really help the car stick to the sometimes less-than-perfect road conditions as Kenny eases down Mulholland Drive in the hills of Los Angeles. “One of the great things about the AlterKtion frontend and the RMS four-link rearend is that with those adjustable QA1s, you can dial it in. You can loosen those shocks up and it drives like a Cadillac. Or you can tighten them up and take it to the track, and it feels like a track car. It’s a pretty versatile automobile.”
From 20 feet back, it’s tough...
From 20 feet back, it’s tough to spot how much effort went into making the hind end of the car right. Besides just molding the bumper into the sheetmetal, the entire rearend was smoothed, making the flat black taillight housing pop on contrast.
It goes without saying that...
It goes without saying that a rock star car would have the ultimate stereo. A Pioneer double-DIN system pumps through a custom-built Kicker Audio speaker setup. Kicker also built the trick center console merging the shifter housing to the main dash while maintaining constant character. Redline Gauge Works did the instrument panel dials.