WINGED WARRIORS/NATIONAL B-BODY OWNERS ASSOCIATION SPECIAL FEATURE CAR
1971 CHARGER OWNER: KELLY SCHITTENHELM, ALASKA
I was listening to the local radio station here when "tradio"
came on. It is a show where people from around the state buy and sell things. I
heard about a
Charger for sale and called the number. I have had many old cars, that like so many of us, we let them get away. I planned on changing that and restoring an old car.
Taking my money, I went to Anchor Point, some 250 miles from my home. I arrived at the home of the seller. I remember well what he said to me, "I will only sell this car to you if you fix her up."
I had told him that was my plan. I signed the papers and off we went.
We drove through a couple of miles of dirt road covered in snow. We got to the highway and I took off. Noticing that the speedometer didn't work, I stayed behind the car we drove down in. During the course of the drive home, I ended up in front of the lead car. The other car was right behind me, thinking I was going to slow down. I sped up. When we got to the town of Soldotna, we had to get gas and check the radiator (I was told it leaked). The lead car pulled in and I was informed I was going 120 mph! It felt as if I was going 50 mph.
I got the car home and parked it. The next day I decided to go to the DMV and get it registered, but wouldn't you know it, it wouldn't start! I tried to narrow down the problem with no result. I had one of my kids get in to help me figure out what the problem was. Unknown to me, she leaned on the blinker and it started when she turned the key. Sneaky car! We experimented and figured it out.
I then proceeded to drive it into town. No more than 100 yards from my driveway, the exhaust pipes fell off. They were rusted through of course. Back to the driveway. I adjusted the timing so it sounded as if I had headers. After that I was driving into town and at every turn the steering wheel would click and hesitate. I finally got it to the DMV and was told by the local police that the [window] tint was illegal for this state, but the rear window was not tinted so I could drive it around town. I got it registered and insured.
I proceeded to read up and learn about restoring a car. My daughter recommended I go into a chat room and learn and discuss things. I told her, "Yeah, right", but held off on that idea.
During the first couple of years, I had to drive the car through sun and snow, in the winter parking it down the driveway and driving it to work and back. I got really good at putting [tire] chains on. I had done regular maintenance on the car along with a new carburetor, patched up the radiator and did a few cosmetic changes, adding a hood scoop. I had never done fiberglass work before, but I had to have a hood scoop! I just did it. I drove it to work when I got it done. Everyone was asking me where I bought the hood! Later on, when we did the major body work, I was told that I had done an excellent job!
I had come across a hard job and was at a loss as to what to do. Only then did I go to a chat room. I had asked a question and seeing as my name was LadyMopar, I got a lot of stupid answers. One guy who answered me--after I did the work and the problem was fixed--I went back and thanked him. We conversed for many years after that. He is now my husband of five years!
During all of this, I had also decided that the car was going to have a Daytona wing. Everyone said it would look dumb and as the years passed by a wing never materialized, confirming everyone's belief that it was not meant to be. I was persistent on the wing (I didn't want a small cheesy wing for MY car). I was even designing my own to put on. Six years later, I received a call that someone had a wing for me! I didn't hesitate and said yes, and made arrangements to get it up here. When it got here, it was too wide and too short! My husband worked many hours and molded it into the car and added two inches. I love it so much! I must say that Daytonas, look funny now, they're wings are bolted on.
I had also had an idea to make the car stand out. I painted my grilles bright green to see if I liked the color. I loved it and five years later, had decided that it was going to be the color of the car.
Waiting for the wing, I had rebuilt the [steering] gear box which is manual. It is still debated in my family that I should have power steering. I had the radiator rebuilt and custom exhaust built for the car. The time had come to start the body work. The car was also chewing up tires every 200 miles. We changed the front end and the car continued to chew tires. I was NOT about to give up. We found out after four set of tires that it was a strut bar that was bent slightly. We had to fabricate one for lack of finding one.
My husband was so dismayed by the shape of the car that he had said "Only because you love the car will I fix it up." As you can see, he did a wonderful job! I continued to find parts from other Dodges in the area and around the states. The parts are all together and continuing to enjoy the open road, living happily under one body.
We were about to paint the car when we had to buy propane for the house and my daughter had to have work done on her teeth. I took all the money I had saved and bought the things we needed. The car would have to wait another year. My husband snuck around behind my back and did the work on the car. I came home from work to find him washing clothes and doing things that did not register to me as anything but working late on customer's cars and trucks. When I told him I didn't want to see the car just yet, he insisted on dragging me down to "look" at the new tires he got for the car. I whined and sniveled because I was not ready to deal with the car yet, but he persisted so I said okay.
He literally had to drag me down to the shop. He opened the door and told me to walk in. I was, to say the least, speechless! I still get choked up thinking about it. The car was just too cool! When we got home he asked me what I thought of the new tires. I just said to him, "What tires?"
I first called my parents, who were following the fix-up through pictures I was sending to them. The first drive was to work where all my co-workers and boss had to put up with pictures and such as well. The comments I get are great and people take a double-take when seeing the car. I had to prove that it was the same car. I took the car to the police station to get it inspected and they had no idea how to measure the wing.
I thought I was something in the car before, now I know I am. I love the reactions of the kids with their little "fast and furious" cars.
My car had no name until last year. I have had lots of people call it lots of things. A friend of mine asked where my little green angel was. I thought about the name and decided that was going to be her new name. She is my little green angel. She brought me a husband, good friends and sets my heart and soul flying when I drive her. Not to mention, she was never meant to be--anybody else would have let her die in a junk yard.
I hold the honor in Alaska of having the only "winged" car. We used to have two but the other car has moved to the lower 48. My husband says also that I am the only one here with a flowerpot in the car--a light holder that shines through a green pentastar in the rear window between the speakers!
I now put on car shows in Seward and enjoy showing her, never forgetting all the trials and tribulations of building her. I want everyone like me to drive and show their cars off! They are a true labor of love.
I recently ran into the original owner of the car. She lives in Kenai and works for Kenai Chrysler. She absolutely loves the car.
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