Bill Bembinster of Bemco Engineering in Wausaw, WI built this Charger for owner and driver Bob Brevak of Ashland, WI. It was the fourth car built by Bill after he left Nichels Engineering and opened his own shop.
When Bill was finished building the car, Brevak Racing bought the car home in gray primer and put the number 34 on with tape and raced it at the ABC Raceway in Ashland, WI. They won the feature race that night. After that race, they painted the car Petty blue and red and put the number 34 back on. The car now had a 426 Hemi engine under the hood.
The Brevaks raced the Charger on the USAC (United States Auto Club) circuit from 1972 until 1977, when they re-skinned it to a Magnum. They raced for one more year as a Magnum and then sold it to Herb Wilson of Canton Center, MI.
Some of the USAC tracks it was raced on include: Milwaukee, Illinois State Fair, Texas World Speedway and Michigan International Speedway. Herb got the car in 1979 and repainted it black and red and renumbered it 97. He raced it in ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) and IRA (International Racing Association) from 1979 until 1984, placing 10th in IRA points in 1981 with the car. Herb was going to re-skin it to a LeBaron but the chassis was so old that he parked it until I bought it in 1996.
When I looked at the car, it had no engine or body, but Herb said that it had been a 1972 Charger and Bob Brevak had owned the car before he bought it. The VIN tag on the dash was put on by Bemco Engineering and had the year and make of the car on it. With information from the VIN tag and from Herb and from some pictures that Brevak Racing sent, I was able to restore the car close to when it was race-ready in 1972.
Here are photos of Bob Brevak with the car in its early years and as it was when I bought it. It doesn't look like much in these photos, but this is what the race car consisted of when I bought it. It was just a chassis, dash and roll cage.
It took a lot of phone calls and looking around but I was able to find almost all of the old race parts. I was able to get an engine that Ernie Derr used as a backup engine (built by Petty Engineering) and found a body at the Mopar Nats. The front bumper and grille came from a 1974 Charger driven by Dick Brooks and the rear window and safety straps came from Don White's Charger. Other parts came from Jim Vandiver, Jimmy Johnson, Tiger Keselowski, Timmy Pistone, Butch Hartman, Kim Haynes, Ron and Bob Keselowski and lots of help came from Adam Smith, Drain Mayer and Kerby Conne.
The radiator came with the car. It was made to fit the Magnum body, so it was about 1 1/2 inches too tall for the Charger body. I sat and looked at it a long time and then finally decided that the radiator was no good like it was so I took the bottom tank off and cut off 2 1/2" with the Skill saw. Then I un-soldered the plate on the bottom of the fins and cleaned it up and set it aside for now. Before putting the plate back on the bottom, some of the fins had to be removed from the vertical tubes. Then the plate goes back on. There are seven rows of tubes with 20 tubes in each row. All of the tubes have to be put back in the hole at the same time and then you solder around each one. Then the bottom tank goes back on. I had to set the radiator aside because I have not been able to get all the tubes to stop leaking. I bought a smaller radiator so I could get the car running, but I'm going to try to get the other one put together someday. It will look a lot better in the race car.
I had some help with the body work, but I painted the red and blue myself. Then I had a sign painter do the lettering. I had a hard time finding a sign painter who paints with a brush. They all want to make the numbers and lettering on the computer.
My son-in-law and I made the gas filler. I talked to Tommy Johnson and he told us what to use: take a 4 1/2 inch thin wall tubing, cut a plate and weld in one end then take a short gas filler and put it in the plate that you welded in the tubing. Then we cut a hole in the side of the car and welded the assembly in. The exhaust is just a 10-foot piece of 3 1/2 inch exhaust tubing slipped over the end of the exhaust header. USAC used to run their exhaust out the rear of the cars in the late 1960's and early 1970's, but changed to side exit exhaust sometime around 1974 or 1975.
I have a few things I picked up for display with the car but not everything I would like to have. I have a gas can that I got from Ron Keselowski and one from Tommy Johnson, and a helmet and crew uniform from Bob Brevak. I also have a 3' X 4' STP sign to put on the wall that came from Ramo Stott.
I took the car back to Ashland, WI on September 29, 2001 and was able to meet with the Brevaks and stayed with them for the weekend. I was also able to meet some of the original crew, shown in one of the photos here. We put the car on display at the IGA store in town and then out at the raceway. Lots of people were looking at the car and asking lots of questions. Some wanted to know where Bob had it stored all these years! The Charger was also one of the special feature cars at the June 2001 DEMA show in Auburn Hills, MI.
The Brevak family has an important place in racing history. Frank Brevak, Bob's father, built the Chequamegon Raceway in 1957-known today as the ABC raceway in Ashland, WI. Bob got his start in racing on the red clay at the ABC Raceway and then moved on to USAC tracks, got the 1990 ARCA championship and moved up to NASCAR, where the family now races in the Craftsman Truck Series.
When Frank passed away after the ABC racing season had ended, the track crew prepared the track and Frank was given a "last lap" around it with his family and friends following behind.
I think the best thing I got from restoring this car is all the memories and stories from all the people I've talked to while I was looking for parts and information-and there were a lot of them! Some of those people are: the Keselowski family, the Brevak family, some of the guys from Bret Bodine race team, Ted Musgrave, Bill Bembinster, Ernie Derr, Jim Vandiver, Ray Nichels, Kim Haynes, Tommy Johnson (crew chief for Bobby Allison), Tom Pistone, Bobby Hamilton and many more. I looked at every old race car that I could find and I discovered that every one is built just a little different.
Here are photos of the car restored back to the way it was raced in 1972. In the first photo, the original crew assembled at Ashland, WI in 2001: from left to right are: Bill Gast, Shelly and Bob Brevak, Tom Yankee and Weaver Wherritt. The last photo shows one of Bob's helmets and a crew shirt.
Here are photos of the Charger on display in the Walter P Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, MI.
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