ALLEN KIRGAN'S MOPAR COLLECTION
Text and all photos by Allen Kirgan
I am new to Winged Warriors and look forward to meeting other Mopar people. I have always been around Mopars. While my dad was never really a car guy, I always remember us having Mopars. I learned to drive in the family 1974 Charger. I did not have my own car until after I was married. My wife blames that for all the cars I have had since then. Growing up, I always competed with siblings for the use of that single family car.
My first new car was a 1983 Omni Charger which I bought new in Jacksonville, Florida. Later that year, I re-enlisted in the Navy and was transferred to Millington, Tennessee, where I was assigned to the auto hobby shop. It was there that I got the Mopar bug. My supervisor was a retired Navy Chief named Henry McCurdy and he was a certified Mopar nut. He had owned several Mopars and I remember a 30-something coupe with a 392 hemi he always drove to work.
That same year, with Henry's guidance, I bought my first car from a Marine being shipped overseas. It was a 1970 Challenger convertible that I still own to this day. We agreed on the price of $2,000. I went to my bank only to find that no one would lend $2,000 on an old Dodge. My father-in-law loaned me the money and the car was my daily driver until 1994.
I did not have a garage until after I got out of the Navy in 1989, so the Challenger was kept outside in the weather year-round and was in need of a restoration. The car was red with a torn-up black top, 318/904, 8-1/4 rear end when I bought it. I later found out it was originally a yellow six-cylinder car.
Shortly after I got out of the Navy, I bought and sold several Mopars, intending to restore them with my son and gain the knowledge to tear into the Challenger. I had a 1968 Charger with no drive train, a '74 Rallye Challenger, a '66 Charger. He was never interested in the cars and I sold all of them before doing any restorations. After he got his driver's license, I bought him a 1967 Plum Crazy Barracuda. He drove it for about a year, but never liked it. He asked if he could sell it because his grandpa told him he would give him his Chevy Barretta with A/C.
In 1994, I went to pull the engine and clean up the greasy block in the Challenger. It sat in the garage for over fifteen years before I got around to restoring her. I decided I needed a car to drive and take to shows and cruises to keep me motivated. I found a 1972 Charger 440 automatic with a R/T louvered hood in Kentucky, about nine hours from me. I bought it, drove out with my wife and drove the car back home with her following behind. After that I stumbled on a great source of resources and knowledge on www.dodgecharger.com. On that site, I found another Mopar guy that lived close to me.
He went by CudaKen and he had a 1969 Charger and a 1968 RoadRunner. We spent hours in his garage talking Mopars. We both had always wanted a winged car and discussed a clone with his '69. The more I stared at the lines on that second generation Charger, I decided I had to have one. I found a pair of '68 Chargers for sale on www.dodgecharger.com and arranged to have them sent to Illinois. One was a drivable, numbers matching 383 4-barrel, 727 automatic. The other was a roller with power windows. I sold the roller to help fund the restoration of the other. It was ready to show and cruise in about a year and the Challenger had seen little progress.
I decided to sell the '72 Charger and use those funds to get the Challenger finished. I swapped the tired 318 for a freshly built 340 and traded the 904 for a fresh 727 and put in an 8-3/4 rear end. In the meantime, I was enjoying the 1968 Charger but found I missed driving the third generation. I decided to find another third generation Charger. I found a 1973 "U" code Rallye in Pennsylvania. It was advertised as a rust-free, numbers matching 440 with a 1971 Ram Charger system. I bought the car and had it shipped to Illinois. That was a valuable lesson, because I found the car was not numbers matching and any place that was not rusted through was several inches thick in poorly applied body filler. The car was so wavy, I felt I was back at sea. The body filler was popping out every place. The Ram Air system consisted of a Ramcharger hood only with a broken door. I took it to the Monster Mopar to sell it at a loss. After the fact that no one would even make an offer on it, I decided to create the WannaBee. I posted on www.dodgecharger.com that I was in need of a donor car as the fenders, doors and deck lid were beyond using. Mike Schrader located a '74 SE in central Missouri, about two hours from me and put me in contact with the owner. That car was the source of both front fenders, both doors, deck lid and several interior pieces. From there, I went back to the dodgecharger website, where a member photo-shopped for people. I used this thread throughout the build; the images helped me decide color, wheels, stripes and decals. I chose Sublime for the color and preferred the tail stripe with the bee on the quarters to the ribbon stripe on the '71 Bee. I decided to replace the traditional SuperBee decal with the Rumble Bee from the trucks. I decided to stay with the SuperBee hood decal and blackout. I also found that to make my Ram Charger hood functional, I needed everything including the air cleaner. After a few $$$ and some help from Alan Wilson, I was able to get the hood working. The interior is pretty much stock other than the Gunslinger pistol grip shifter knob (the coolest mod; I plan on putting one in the Daytona as well). I guess the WannaBee came to be because no one wanted it?
I did work on the Challenger at the same time and finished it in 2009. Despite having a '68 Charger, '73 WannaBee, and a '70 Challenger convertible, the desire to own a wing car was still there. After coming to the conclusion I could not afford a wing car, I began looking for clones. I was close several times and almost traded both the WannaBee and the '68 for a clone, but could never close the deal. About a year ago, Larry Roper posted a for sale ad on his '69 Daytona clone. It was close to being completed and was originally a triple black R/T SE.
Larry had made a deal to purchase a real Superbird, and needed to sell the Daytona clone to make the deal happen. (**See Larry and Sandra Roper's Black Ice Superbird feature elsewhere on this website). I felt the price was very fair and explained I was going to put both the WannaBee and the '68 Charger up for sale and as long as I could sell one or the other, I would purchase his Daytona. We kept in contact and in November I had a buyer in Australia for the '68, but he was having trouble coming up with the full payment. My dad stepped in and loaned me some money to put down on the Daytona and that with the deposit from Australia was enough to pull the trigger on his Black Ice Superbird. Larry had agreed to finish the Daytona he had started and I had arranged to pick the car up during my spring break at the end of March/beginning of April.
Photos above show the Daytona clone undergoing the final steps of the transformation at Larry Roper's shop in Arkansas.
As you can probably see, I spend way too much time on the dodgecharger website, but it is a great source of knowledge, leads and comradery.
So, while I was anxiously waiting for my wing car to be done, I saw a '77 Dodge D-700 car hauler for sale posted by Doug Schellinger. The price looked to be fair, but still a bit out of reach. I called to inquire if that was the bottom dollar. Doug was very nice and told me that the truck had a historic background. He explained that the truck had been given to Cotton Owens by Chrysler and Neil Castles had purchased the truck from Cotton to haul cars to movie sets and often drove stunts for the movies. I knew very little about NASCAR or its history, but thought the truck would be nice to take my Daytona clone to shows on. Doug put me in contact with Neil Castles and we struck a deal. I sent payment, received the title, registered the truck in my name and made arrangements to drive down and pick up the truck at the start of my spring break and the Daytona at the end. I decided to drive my minivan to Charlotte, North Carolina, load the van on the hauler, drive the hauler back to Illinois, drop the van off and take the hauler to Arkansas to pick up the Daytona.
Photos above: Picking up the Daytona clone from Larry Roper in Arkansas. Sandra and Larry Roper, their son and grandson and I pose with the Daytona.
Photos above: You have to look real close to tell that this is a Vega hatchback installed in my clone. It looks real close to the factory-installed Daytona window plugs.
Still having a few weeks to wait, I began researching the truck. I was given much of the information from Doug Schellinger and Neil Castles, but was able to contact Cotton Owens for some other interesting stories. The truck was given to Cotton Owens by Chrysler in 1977 as a straight rail truck. Cotton built the bed and tool box, as well as the 361 engine. I was told by Neil that it was original and had only 53,000 miles, but Cotton had broken the crank and replaced the 361. Cotton then sold the truck to his friend, NASCAR driver and country singer Marty Robbins, who had driven in several NASCAR races in several cars including a 1969 Daytona. Cotton said he bought the truck back after Marty died and later sold it to Mr. Castles.
The truck is pretty much a Survivor in original shape. I could see where the letters had been on the tool boxes saying "Cotton Owens Garage". I had them reproduced and put them in the exact spot they had been. I cleaned up some surface rust on the box, and spray painted those areas.
Mechanically, I had to have the rear end rebuilt and installed a new two-speed switch for the rear end. This, and the price of the gas kept me from using the hauler to pick up the Daytona. I have registrations with both Mr. Castles and Mr. Owens' names on them, the original owner's manual and Certicard. I am just as proud of the hauler as I am the cars. I had it in the Winged Warriors display at the Monster Mopar with the Daytona on the back. It wasn't up there the entire weekend, because it has always been a dream to drive my winged car on the track during parade laps.
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