WINGED WARRIORS/NATIONAL B-BODY OWNERS ASSOCIATION
SPECIAL FEATURE CAR
JOHN SCHOFIELD'S 1969 DAYTONA
Like those of you reading this, we all know what kind of blood, sweat, tears and money go into our pride and joy Mopars. That is why I welcomed the chance to tell the story of my two Chargers. Classic cars are like a hole in the ground you pour money into. But at least my wife knows where I am at night, while the glow of fluorescent light spills out of the garage windows onto the front yard!
The 1969 Charger you see pictured below was originally owned by my father. I can still remember the dinner table conversation when I was 9 years old and my older sister said that dad should consider buying a Dodge Charger because they were pretty cool cars. My dad had always been a Chrysler owner so it was only a matter of which one he would buy. I also remember urging him to buy the Chrysler Imperial which he also considered when we were looking at new cars. After considering primarily cost between the two, he decided on the Charger, which would be his first car ordered from the factory (the car was built at Hamtramck). Dad traded in his 1963 Newport (I always thought the push button trans was cool) and took delivery on March 4, 1969, six days before my 10th birthday. I do not have the original window sticker but do have the original hand-written order form, invoice showing the trade in value of $250 for the Newport, and the original broadcast sheet.
Although he enjoyed automobile racing, my dad was never really a lead foot. After much research (which included a phone conversation with a Dodge engineer he tracked down) he decided on the 383 2-bbl with TorqueFlite automatic transmission, Dad decided this was the right combination of family car, performance and economy. I still find it ironic that the house we lived in as I grew up carried the street address of "426". Dad even got license plates that read "KK 426" because it would be "easy to remember". Following is a list of the equipment ordered on the car: factory air, power disc brakes, power steering, console, black interior, AM/FM radio with rear speaker, vinyl roof (green), customer wheel covers, 3-speed wipers, light group.
The car was driven as our family car for eight years. It took us on eight family vacations, saw eight Northern Ohio winters, pulled a camper a couple times, and was the car I learned to drive in. Right after buying the car, Dad and I took an interest in what was then NASCAR Grand National racing. Coverage of this sport was almost nonexistent at that time. We were lucky to catch 15 or 30 minutes coverage, usually tape delayed, on ABC Wide World Of Sports. But, it was enough for me to catch the NASCAR bug which I maintain to this day. More importantly, it allowed me to get a glimpse of the Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbirds that dominated 18 months of NASCAR competition.
During those eight years, I convinced my dad to make a few cosmetic changes to the car which included installation of R/T emblems. We also converted it to dual exhaust (a muffler and tail pipe for Dad's birthday) and installation of the hood pins occurred during this time. I will never forget the look on Dad's face when the drill went through the outer sheet metal of the hood for the first time! He said, "Well, I hope it's in the right place." Dad even considered having a Daytona wing installed on the car but the $500 cost was prohibitive. (What would many of us do to acquire an OEM Daytona wing assembly for $500 today?)
During this time, the car also developed a soft spot in Dad's heart and mine....enough so that he maintained the body work (including 2 replaced front fenders) and I could be caught washing it in mid-winter with the engine running to avoid having things freeze up. I bet over that time, Dad loaded the inside of the doors with five gallons of oil to displace the water and salt! I remember him having the doors open in the drive with newspapers under them to catch the oil as it ran out. For my birthday in March of 1977, and with almost 88,000 miles on it, we had the ET wheels installed that are pictured.
I left home for college in the fall of 1977 and received one of the most important telephone calls of my life one evening in my dorm room. It was Dad to let me know that he had just bought a new car, a 1977 Cordoba. By this time, my mom was driving a 1973 Dodge Monaco (what a boat that was!) and we had a single car detached garage at home. My question was simple--"Wow Dad, which car is going to go in the garage?" He simply replied, "Oh, the Charger."
During my sophomore year in college (1978-79) I transferred to Cleveland State University which allowed me to move back home to attend school. The car was being driven, mostly by me, in fair weather during this time. However, the passenger quarter was full of body mud, the car had three shades of green under certain light due to the intermittent body work that had been done to it, and it retained the thick undercoating popular in the era. It had also accumulated the undercarriage and engine road grime that goes along with being driven eight years in a Midwest climate. On November 8, 1980, Dad officially signed the car over to me. It was soon after this that I started a full restoration of my own.
With a blow torch in one hand and a putty knife in the other, I scraped off the heavy undercoating and then used solvent to wipe any residue off. The entire front end (fenders, bumper, grille, light assemblies and valance) were removed. All the component parts were cleaned and repainted where appropriate. The fenders were solid, but given to a local auto restoration shop to be cleaned up and primed for protection. During the project in 1981 I got married to my understanding wife, Cathy, graduated from college, and started a career. Dad and I occasionally drove the car with intentions of completing the restoration.
Then in October 1983, the unthinkable happened. My dad came home from work one night, had a heart attack and died at the age of 56. I felt like my own heart had been ripped out of my chest. During that winter, I did not do much on the car and our family dealt with our loss. Then, in the late summer of 1984, I was rear-ended in the car. The rear valance was destroyed, bumper bent, and the gas tank crushed to the point of leaking. The car was categorized as "just an old car" by the insurance company of the person at fault, but I fought for as much fair value as I could and used Hemmings Motor News to acquire the parts I needed. I also had a new mission to finish the job Dad and I had started.
With the help of Scott Poltorak, a friend since 3rd grade, the engine and drivetrain was pulled out. A lower gasket set was installed, main bearings were checked, and bolt-on parts were removed. Everything was cleaned, painted and readied for re-assembly. The engine was painted in Hemi Orange vs. the original turquoise blue and it retains its stock build, now with 124,572 original miles on it, a little over 12,000 since the restoration in 1985-86. During the restoration, the car was trailered to Ramser Auto Body (whose work I had seen on several other muscle cars) where a rust free passenger quarter panel from South Carolina was installed and fresh F8 green paint was applied. The vinyl roof is original, and the interior is original with the exception of seat covers and carpet acquired from Legendary. Final assembly occurred during the summer of 1986 and the first "new drive" took place the evening Cathy was enjoying a baby shower for our first of three children. Like I said in the opening paragraph....at least she knew where I was at night!
Fast forward 15 years to July of 2001. Over that time I maintained or improved the car mechanically, and started a family of three children with Cathy. The car always gets looks and offers to buy, is a blast to drive, and helps me keep a kind of connection with my Dad. Over this time, and actually dating back to those days in the early '70s, I still had always wanted to some day acquire a Daytona. I saved every article I ever found published on them, had collected die cast models of Daytonas and had read all the information I could find. Starting in the year 2000, I began to look more seriously at Daytonas for sale and made a personal decision that, if the right set of circumstances came along, it would be time to pull the trigger.
One evening in July 2002, I came across a listing for a Charger Daytona on eBay. It was listed as the same owner for 22 years, "fully restored", with a "period correct" 440 and automatic transmission. Although it did not have the original drivetrain, the length of ownership and apparent condition intrigued me....and it was F8 green! The car has a remote control side mirror, AM radio, console, rear window defogger (which I have since learned all Canadian-bound Daytonas had) and dark green leather interior.
I sent off an e-mail to the person listing the car and found out they were brokering it for the owner on eBay. Two days later at 10:00 in the morning from my office, I made sure I had the highest bid entered, but stayed below the reserve. With the car not making the reserve, it was removed from auction and I was able to get in touch with the owner where the car was located in Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. Wayne and I had several late night conversations and he described the car as fully as he could from stem to stern.
He had driven the car while in high school in primer gray, then in 1979 commissioned a local engine shop to build the "period correct" 440 (the car had a 383 in it when acquired by Wayne) and a body shop tend to the sheet metal. Both quarters have replacement panels from the waist-line down and both front fenders were replaced. A new hood was also used in the restoration. The interior is original with the exception of the front seats, door interior panels and carpeting. Wayne also fabricated a replacement package shelf from masonite because he could not find a replacement part for this. Many of the rubber seals and name badges were replaced with OEM replacement parts available at the time. He provided me with documentation and we had many conversations over the phone.
This process, along with the fact that another person had flown out to look at the car (that was a sleepless night!) carried us into early September 2001. After another evening conversation with Wayne, I went to work the next day having decided to purchase an airline ticket to go look at the car myself. The only problem was that the date was 9/11. With all the circumstances that ensued after 9/11, even after airline traffic resumed, I was not ready to jump on a plane and fly to Edmonton, Canada. However, I had arranged for the car's VIN and fender tag to be traced and decoded by Galen Govier. While discussing the car with Galen he made me aware of an individual near Alberta, who he had used to inspect several cars in the past.
After a couple conversations, very minor negotiation, and the creation of a "punch list" of items I wanted checked, the arrangements were made to have the car inspected. The individual spent an entire Saturday looking at the car and I was soon in receipt of six e-mails consisting of all the information I asked for and more. In hindsight, the description was very conservative and probably done more objectively than I would have done myself. The car had been garaged since the restoration (Wayne had put about 4,000 miles on it over the 18 years), and was described as good as it looked in the pictures. I was comfortable that everything that had been described to me was accurate. This included some minor points such as the need for a new water pump, universals, and an exhaust system which was rotted from sitting. The engine compartment was "kind of a basket case" but it ran strong. The 440 in the car was a 1974 Mopar replacement block, bored .30 over, with Speed Pro 11:1 forged pistons, an Edelbrock single plane Torker II intake and Carter 750 cfm AFB. It had a radical cam that didn't smooth out until almost 3,000 rpm, and the plumbing and electrical was pretty well thrown together. I knew this would be the first place I would be spending time on the car. It had also been fitted with Centerline Drag Racing wheels (15 x 12's on the back!) and bias ply oversized 70 series front and 50 series rear tires.
The final details of the deal came together over the next three weeks and in mid-October of 2001, the car was delivered via covered transport. I must pause here to recommend Mackie Transportation NOT be considered by any of you readers when looking to transport a car. The events I went through attempting restitution for damage to the wing, due to the car not being properly secured in the trailer, is a whole other story. Suffice it to say that the damage was beautifully repaired (at my own cost) by a local shop I had been referred to. We drew quite a crowd in the neighborhood when the 50' covered tractor trailer came down our street at dinner time that evening!
I drove the car "as is" that first summer in 2002, but the lack of drivability with with the engine set-up and the "Fred Flintstone" wheels/tires started to get kind of old. During the winter of 2002-03 I came dangerously close to dropping a crate Hemi in the car....to the point of having everything listed out that I would need to acquire, prices, phone numbers, etc. However, during the purchase I had confirmed this to be the 24th 440 Daytona exported to Canada. Thanks to the listings in the Winged Warriors newsletter, I also had located the dealership it was shipped to in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Unfortunately, the dealership had been sold and any documentation about the car discarded. However, the current owner of the dealership is the son of the owner when my Daytona was delivered. We had a great conversation on the phone as he remembered being eight years old when his dad drove the car home one night and all the neighbors came out to look at "the ugly thing". Also about this time, a good friend of mine located a 1969 440 HP engine with the date stamp two months prior to the build date on the car. At this point, I realized that I wanted the car to be as close to original as possible.
I had the HP engine rebuilt to original specs (it cleaned up at .20 over) and obtained a new re-issue of Carter AFB carb originally on the car from Summit Racing. Reproductions of the air cleaner, pie plate, fuel lines, HP exhaust manifolds, and other vital parts were acquired from Year One. We were also able to obtain an intake manifold with a build date corresponding to the car and I replaced the entire exhaust system, using Dynomax mufflers. I also decided to put 15" Magnum 500 wheels on it, even though I had acquired the original steel wheels and covers when I bought the car. All this was done over the winter of 2003 and I truly got to enjoy the car the next summer.
Every winter I choose a couple things to work on or improve on each of the cars. One year included a rebuilt and sleeved master cylinder (care of White Post Restorations) for Dad's car. I also found the correct rear package shelf for the Daytona (via Layson's Restorations) and I will be getting a new headliner installed for summer. The current headliner is original but has a critter hole above the passenger sun visor.
I never have had the opportunity and would like to publicly acknowledge several friends that have helped tremendously over the years with the cars. As I am fond of saying, "I know enough to be dangerous, but I'm also smart enough to know when I'm in over my head!" First, I would like to thank one of my closest friends since 3rd grade, Scott Poltorak. I could not have done the tear-down and reassembly of my dad's car without Scott's help and even though we're now 600 miles apart, he still provides critical moral and technical support to me! Dave Tomko, Service Manager at Ed Tomko Chrysler-Jeep, has been helpful and accommodating though the adventures of both cars. If it is not going to be done right, Dave does not want to do it. Vince Hall works his magic on both cars as a Service Technician at Tomko Chrysler-Jeep, and has helped out in my garage as well. I would also like to thank Elmer Fern, whom I met through Vince. Elmer has been my guardian angel since acquiring the Daytona. He was turning wrenches on Mopar muscle cars in the '60s and '70s and I have never met someone with so much knowledge of these beasts committed to memory. Lastly, I would like to thank my wife, Cathy, who has always understood my passion towards both cars. Some of my favorite times in the summer are attending various area "cruise-ins" with my kids, as my oldest son is able to drive one of the cars. They look great together and we turn a lot of heads when cruising down the road. I dedicate both cars to my dad, who would have thoroughly enjoyed taking this adventure with me. I know he would appreciate both cars and what they represent.
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