The chronic snubbing was unbearable. The sloppy journalism didn't help, either. Year after year, one badass Mopar build after the other, Steve Enochs and the crew at Muscle Rod Shop kept getting snubbed, backstabbed, and otherwise ignored. When you've made a habit out of crafting machines that look as sinister as this '68 Charger, it doesn't take long before the national spotlight comes shining your way. And indeed the press coverage came, but the wrong guys ended up hogging all the attention. Sometimes, it was other shops taking credit for Steve's work. Other times, certain cars tagged as homebuilt weren't really as homebuilt as Steve's customers claimed. Instead of crying about it, Steve responded like a man, letting his mad fabrication skills do the talking. By building an in-house shop car that looks like a million bucks, but only cost $25,000 from top to bottom, San Antonio-based Muscle Rod Shop (MRS) is making one heck of an opening statement.
With bulging quarter-panels, a trick Viper-inspired hood, and an insanely aggressive stance, the claimed $25,000 figure invested into the Charger's creation seems seriously suspect. Further reinforcing the visual deceit is how MRS managed to tuck the rollers deep into the wheelwells and damn near drag the rockers on the pavement while retaining a bone-stock suspension. The net result is a car whose implication of outward sophistication belies the reality of its inner simplicity, the product of an outside-the-box approach to car building that distorts your perception of reality with purposeful effect. Interestingly, breaking the cookie-cutter mold wasn't the primary mission, but rather a product of necessity. "Since this is our own car, and not something paid for by a customer, we didn't have a lot of money to put into it. Although we have the luxury of doing metal and paintwork in-house, we had to keep the costs down with budget parts, or trading stuff out," Steve says. "If I had a ton of money, I'd love to put a Hemi and a fancy suspension in it, but that wasn't in the cards. We decided to see how far we could push the limits of design while sticking with mostly stock components. The goal was to find out if we could build a car that could compete with the megabuck builds in the eyes of the public without the megabuck price tag."
Since a solid black stripe would have been too ordinary, Muscle Rod Shop created a unique
The two primary components in achieving this illusion are the Charger's custom sheetmetal and killer stance. As someone who finds the current Pro Touring trends somewhat bland and generic, Steve saw the Charger as an opportunity to create something with a different purpose—rather than building for speed or cornering prowess, he would do a modern-day custom cruiser, something to be relaxed in and seen with about town. "The trend these days is to build Pro Touring cars with big motors, big brakes, tucked bumpers, shaved marker lights and door handles, and a dropped suspension in a car with relatively stock body lines. This set standard of mods has become almost cliché, and it makes all the hard work that goes into building these cars a little less impressive," he says. "Each of these cars are awesome and the skill and talent it takes to build them is impressive, but this standard style of building makes it harder for any one car to rise above the others. At Muscle Rod Shop, we like our cars low, wide, and mean with an exotic flair. To enhance the Charger's sexy lines, we widened the car's hips by adding 5 inches to the quarter-panels." Not only does this accentuate the car's body curves, it also provides the extra space needed for the 315mm-wide Nitto Invo tires. The extra body width tapers all the way up through the doors to keep the lines looking factory. Likewise, the rockers have been flared and dropped another 2 inches to bring the car as close to the ground as possible. "These cars can look like they're packed with a trunk full of concrete when lowered," Steve says, "so we flared and raised the wheel arches 2½ inches for more natural-looking proportions."
As no surprise, the Charger’s bling-free interior is all about functionality. The only non-stock items are a Vintage Air A/C system, a JVC stereo, an ididit steering column, and a Guard Dawg push-button start system.