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Discussion Starter #1

Project to restore car turns into a family classic

Some things bring families closer together.​

Imagine a father, son and grandfather working five years in a standard two-car garage in St. Peters restoring a classic muscle car. Imagine the car looking like a million bucks when they were finished. Now imagine them putting it up for sale at a collector car auction.

When Drew Stahlheber was 14, he decided he wanted to restore a car. His grandfather, John Thousand of Crestwood, had restored a couple of Mustangs and three Austin Healeys, so Drew knew he would have some expert advice, plus Grandpa had many of the tools.

In the spring of 2001, Drew had to decide what model of muscle car he wanted to buy and restore.

"I wanted something that nobody had," he said. "You see a lot of Camaros and Mustangs. I was looking for something with a big engine and a 4-speed transmission."

Well, how about a 1970 Dodge Challenger RT with a 440 cubic-inch engine?

Dodge only made this model from 1970-74, so there wouldn't be a whole lot of them out there. Drew began searching on the Internet, as did his father, Tom Stahlheber. It took them six months, but they finally found the car in Seattle. They bought it sight unseen for $4,000 and paid another $1,000 to ship it to St. Peters. They got it just before Christmas in 2001.

Oh, did it need restoring. It had been a show car, but had sat outside for several years. The body was rusted, the interior was a mess and the gas tank was missing, among other things.

No problem. Tom bought a commercial heater for his garage so they could work year round on the Challenger.

"It needed lots of attention," Tom said. He began what he calls "an international scavenger hunt" for parts on his lunch break. Most were bought on the Internet, via eBay. "A lot of people don't understand how much restoring a car costs," he said. "Just the headers (for the engine) were $900."

Grandpa was the expert on restoring the body, and he concocted "spits" so the car could be turned on its side and rotated. It was sandblasted and dipped to remove all of the rust and three decades of paint buildup from at least two color changes. A mass of thick undercoating also had to be removed.

The car needed new sheet metal patches on the quarter panels, and new floorboards were welded on. After the sheet metal work, a completely rebuilt drivetrain was installed, followed by the installation of an entirely new interior and all new glass. The body was given a top-drawer paint job, and all new exterior trim was put in place.

"There wasn't a bolt or nut left" from the original body, Grandpa said.

Drew says the car remains about 90 percent stock. Some engine parts were upgraded, and an AM-FM radio with a CD player was installed on the dashboard. Drew was a freshman at Fort Zumwalt South High School when he got the car, and he was driving it his senior year.

It's now back in their garage on Ardennais Road in the Dovers Crossing subdivision so they can do some detail work in preparation for Saturday's St. Charles Collector Car Auction at the St. Charles Convention Center. About 150 collector cars will be available at the auction, which will run from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The price is $40,000 for the 1970 Challenger, which looks brand new.

Drew's not exactly happy about selling it, but his dad said it's an economic necessity. Plus, it's sort of a family business. "I bought a Mustang for $2,100 and sold it for $16,000," Grandpa said.

Not that it's exactly an easy way to make a buck, however. Five years worth of blood, sweat and tears, plus a ton of money, were poured into Drew's dream car.

His 19th birthday will be Sunday and he's now a freshman at St. Charles Community College. How does he feel about selling his classic muscle car?

"Not all that great," he said.

Source: St.Louis Post-Dispatch
By John Sonderegger

712 Posts
That's really great. I came across a similar story a few days ago about an Indiana National Guardsman in Iraq who got his 67 Barracuda restored for him while he was away, here's the story:

An Indiana National Guard soldier who spent a year in Iraq returned home to a big surprise: In his absence, his friends had transformed his rusted 1967 Plymouth Barracuda into a deep blue, chrome-trimmed car lover's dream.

Spc. Bob Metcalf, who had stored the rusted, hoodless, fenderless Barracuda in his brother's garage, left for Iraq last year. He had planned to someday fix up the old muscle car.

Friends of the 39-year-old reservist kept their restoration work secret until Friday night. That's when Metcalf wandered into South Bend's Joyce Center to see the Cavalcade of Wheels auto show with his pals.

Metcalf, who returned recently from Iraq, was incredulous when his friends told him that the gleaming deep blue car with red and white stripes sitting under a spotlight was his old car sporting a new look.

"I don't believe it. This is incredible," he said, looking around at the crowd of volunteers and cameras that greeted him at his new ride.
Sean Burns, a friend of the Army National Guard soldier, turned over the keys to him.

"Why don't you go start it up?" he told Metcalf.

The hot-rodded Chrysler 318 V-8 under the hood awoke from its slumber with Metcalf's first turn of the key, settling into a loping rumble.

Metcalf's friends and family had waited a long time to see him sitting in his polished car. Dozens of volunteers had endured six months of busted knuckles, grease and sweat to finish a project they called "one soldier's dream."

Metcalf, a veteran of more than 20 years in the service, had shipped out to Mosul, Iraq, last year for what was originally supposed to be two years in Iraq, but was later cut to one.

After he left, Burns and several of Metcalf's other friends pitched in with work, parts, and cash to make the Barracuda restoration project a reality. They toiled until the early morning hours behind the roll-up steel door in a Mishawaka workshop, fueling up with caffeine and pizza as they worked their magic on every nut and bolt of the old car.

"Everyone I talked to thought it was a great idea," Burns said. "I can't believe what kind of support we found."

Metcalf, who plans to retire from the reserves later this year, has already figured out what he's going to do with his new toy, which remained on display Saturday at the Joyce Center.

"I'm probably going to cruise (U.S.) 20," he said with a smile. "And at some point, I'm going to have to take her out and see what she'll do."

70 Posts
The car I learned to drive in was a 67 barracuda convertible, It has been in my mothers name since day one. My father decided to restore the car and has been buying parts for it over a series of decades now but has never worked on it. The restoration is prolly gonna be left to me sometime in the future so wish me luck. It has a lot of similaritys of what will be needed to do the job up in the 440 challenger r/t restoration above. The baby was burgundy with a white top and white interior and factory air had a 273 V8
which has so much ridge ring in the cylinder walls it would have to be punched and even then might leave the walls to weak. Will prolly put a low compression 340 in it that we have and maybe hunt around for a 273 if we ever decide to make it completely original in terms of engine. I would like to upgrade the automatic to a 727 torqueflight over that 904 that was in it and switch the rearend to a 8 3/4 prolly and find a sway bar k frame for her. So I will have my hand s full whenever I decide to launch into this project thats for sure!!!!
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