Building a project car from the ground up is very much like building a house in the same fashion. Without a set “blueprint” or plan, your project car can become a convoluted mess of styles, murky themes, unplanned additions and last minute fixes. We’ve seen way too many project cars start off with the best of intentions but as life and shortsightedness got in the way, these cars ended up the automotive equivalent of the Winchester Mansion or – worse yet – never completed at all.
Right now, we’ve got a lot of irons in the fire for our Killer Kong ’69 Dodge Charger. We’ve got parts on back order, parts we simply can’t find, and quite frankly, parts we just can’t afford just yet. While it could be easy to let impatience get the best of us and strike out in another direction, we’re holding to our guns and waiting out to build the Charger the way we wanted to from the start. Like we said, sticking to your original blueprint is the only way to keep from building a basket case.
Practicing this degree of self-mastery gets all the more difficult when new opportunities arise. It’s human nature – and that of most brainless insects – to lose focus at the appearance of the next new shiny object. It’s tough to walk the halls of SEMA or flip through the pages of a glossy magazine and not want to throw caution to the wind and turn your Pro Street ’57 coupe into a straight axle gasser. Rather, it’s the practiced art of seeing something through to the end that will yield the greater reward.
Before we wax too philosophical, its important to step back and consider, “Why am I building a car?” If you’re like us, you love muscle cars for what they are, but yearn to be original. You want your car to be truly different from the rest. That’s a lot easier said than done, especially considering that the cars from this era are nearly half a century old, and, without sounding too glib, most everything has been done before.
This task can be made more difficult when considering what car you’re interested in building. If your interests are varied and you’re against building yet another cookie-cutter street machine, don’t go the easy route. It’s nearly impossible to be a unique individualistic penguin in a field of penguins. Cars like ’66 Mustangs and first generation Camaros are cool, but ultimately are made the penguins of muscle cars due to their copious production numbers.
If you don’t want to get lost in the crowd or dare hear those dreaded words from a passerby, “Oh, it’s just another Camaro,” start with something different. Something that speaks to you. Something that will ignite your love for muscle cars and provide you an ideal foundation for creativity.
For us, it was simple; the second generation Dodge Charger. Easily one of the most iconic Mopars of the muscle car era, the Dodge Charger is long, muscular, and brooding. Yet, obtaining a Charger provided us merely a canvas from which to create.
What was the strongest inspiration to us was Dodge’s storied drag racing history. Standing at the forefront was Dick Landy, a short, steely-voiced Southern Californian who told it like it was and let his time slips to most of the talking. Meticulous in appearance, the dapper racer soon earned the name “Dandy Dick” and was rarely seen without his iconic unlit cigar.
Although Landy’s greatest accomplishments include the development of Chrysler’s altered wheelbase A/FX cars with that of the unrivaled success of his ’68 Hurst-build Super Stock HEMI Darts and E-Body Challengers; Landy also raced all three model years of second generation Chargers. While he wowed the audience with sub-10-second passes in the Darts, the larger B-Body Chargers permitted him dominance in the other Stock and Super Stock classes.
And, it was in the Chargers that Landy’s best innovations were first tested, including the first use of the dual spark plugs-per-cylinder HEMI in 1970. Landy and his brother Mike were pioneers with the Chargers and sparked what ultimately would grow into the final theme for our Killer Kong project: If it could run 10’s in 1970, it sure as heck could do that today.
Yet, unlike Landy’s successful Chargers, our ’69 Dodge would remain in its factory stock livery. Does the factory T7 Bronze paint and black R/T bumblebee stripe, showroom trim and full interior make ‘Kong a sleeper? Not in our eyes; but it does make for a fun surprise to the unwitting stop light contender.
Obviously, there are visual cues to this resto-modded Charger, but we’ve done our homework to make ’em subtle. The semi gloss black-painted six-point cage was positioned to line up with the chrome side glass divider, the sub-frame connectors are tucked up high against the floor and butt up to factory-style torque boxes (used on convertible models for added structural strength).
We removed the A/C, power steering, power brakes, and patched the firewall. We even notched and boxed the K-frame like he used to. Since we weren’t going to acid dip the fenders, hood and front bumpers, we opted for a ‘glass hood from AAR fiberglass held down by factory Mopar hood pins – the same used on the ’69 1/2 440 Six-Pack Road Runners and Super Bees! Mopar 6-leaf Super Stock springs replace the factory’s springs, and front lower control arms have been reinforced.
When purchased, the Charger was a complete roller that we even drove around the neighborhood for a month or two. But knowing where we wanted to go and what we needed to get there, we could build a solid road map to lead us to our final destination. We want to welcome you along for the ride as we rewind the clock for a couple articles showing how we got to where we are now, while showing you how we’re currently getting ‘Kong ready for the street.