After completing all the metalwork...
After completing all the metalwork and priming the car, Brent had Paintshop101 (San Antonio) spray it in custom blue paint. The precise panel alignment and tight gaps are very impressive for a homebuilt effort.
Initially, the plan was to sand the car down, put a quick coat of paint on it, and go cruising. When funds permitted, the ultimate goal was building an R/T clone. Upon pulling the motor and trans for a refresh, however, Brent noticed much more body filler and rust damage than he anticipated. “I thought the car was in much better shape than it really was, so I decided to media blast it to find all the hidden problem areas. Afterward, I realized that the quarter-panels and trunk floor needed replacement, and the floorboard had to be patched in several spots,” he says. As someone who had never done metalwork before, this put Brent in a real pickle. In order to build the car to a standard that fit his vision, he couldn’t afford to farm out the work. Fortunately, Brent is a man with a lot of generous friends. “My buddy David Dean runs a hot rod shop, and he let me rent out a space there for my car. He was willing to teach me how to do bodywork and weld, so I jumped headfirst into the project and learned as I went. This was just the beginning of a four-year restoration process, and I wrenched on the car every day after work.”
As is always the case, the overall direction of the project changed several times. “The car had a stock hood on it, but the former owner threw in an R/T bubble hood as part of the deal. I really wanted a Shaker hood, but no one was making reproduction units at the time, and original hoods were going for $6,000,” Brent says. “I found a $700 conversion kit that let you cut up the flat stock hood and turn it into a Shaker. I figured the worst that could happen is that I’d be out $700 if I messed up, but if it worked out, having a Shaker hood would be badass. My initial measurements were off by ¼ inch, so I had to weld the hood back up and start over, but I got it right on the second try.”
With the success of the custom Shaker hood, the R/T clone concept got thrown out the window. Since the goal was to go cruising, not road racing, Brent figured the best way to building a streetable package with modern handing and braking dynamics was by assembling the Challenger in the g-Machine tradition. “Not building an R/T clone was somewhat of a relief, because they’re everywhere. There are tons of Pro Touring Camaros and Mustangs, but not a lot of E-Bodies,” he says. “I’m a low-key kind of person, so I wanted the car to be nice yet understated. I wanted someone to look at the car and say ‘that’s a nicely done g-Machine that’s not gaudy or over the top.’ I spent hours in Photoshop coming up with different ideas for color schemes, graphics, and wheels. Once I came up with something I liked, I had my friend Lance Peltier sketch a final rendering, and we used that as the template for the car.”
Once the paint and bodywork were completed, Brent shifted his focus on bringing all the mechanical elements together to execute his vision for the car while staying on budget. Not willing to spend the $6,000 he was quoted to rebuild his 440 big-block, he scoured online ads to find a more economical alternative. He eventually found a deal on a zero-mile 440 that had already been rebuilt with forged slugs, ported stock heads, and a Mopar Performance 238/238-at-.050 hydraulic flat-tappet cam. The motor included a freshly rebuilt TorqueFlite 727 trans and a matching converter, all for $5,000.