Mopar Performance Parts and the editors of Mopar Muscle, Mopar Action and Mopar Collector’s Guide have chosen the final four 2007 Top Eliminator award winners. Mopar, the Chrysler LLC’s original equipment (OE) parts manufacturer, developed the year-long program to recognize the most passionate and skilled Mopar enthusiasts and their restored or modified cars. The seven winners and their vehicles will attend this year’s Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas on Oct. 30 – Nov. 2, 2007.
“These four Top Eliminator award winners, as well as the three winners we chose at Chryslers at Carlisle, Mopars at the Strip and Detroit AutoRam a, did an outstanding job modifying or restoring their vehicles,” said David Hakim, Program Manager – Mopar Performance Parts, Chrysler LLC. Hakim added, "The work done by all seven Top Eliminator award winners attending this year’s SEMA Show shows the passion that represents our Mopar brand."
Mopar Performance Parts Winner
Mike Ege of Cornelius, N.C. restored a 1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 that he displayed at Mopar Nationals in Columbus, Ohio in August.
Ege purchased the car from his parents in 1974 on his 16th birthday – his parents had purchased it used in 1970. From 1974 to 1977, he was a regular Friday night cruiser on ‘E’ Street in San Bernardino, Calif. On Saturday nights, he would it drive to the Orange Show Speedway. The Dart became such a part of his life that he could never sell it. He and his wife even had their first date in it in 1982. After putting the Dart in storage in 1989, he began its restoration in 2003.
The term “the real McCoy” takes on a whole new meaning for Ege’s restoration. He calls the two-year project, “rotisserie restoration.” His goal was to turn back the clock to 1969. Every effort was made to restore the Dart to “OE/Factory” specifications – the way the dealer would have received the Dart after it rolled off the assembly line. He used very few reproduction parts on the Dart. If new-old-stock (NOS) parts weren’t available [factory parts built by the original manufacturer], then he used a high-quality reproduction part.
His attention to detail paid off. At the 2006 Mopar Nationals in Columbus, the vehicle won Best of Show – the first “A” body to realize that achievement. It also was awarded OE Gold certification – only the second “A” body vehicle to achieve that status.
The interior is stock and includes factory floor mats, plastic bags covering the seat belts and an engine-starting procedure tag hanging on the turn indicator lever. The engine and drive train were restored to OE specs as well. Even the odometer was reset to zero (before the restoration, the Dart had 117,000 miles). It’s painted R4/bright red.
A Mopar fan since 1966 when his father started racing Plymouth and Dodge cars, Ege estimates the restoration cost him over $100,000. But the praise he receives on the project is worth every penny.
Mopar Muscle Winner
Mark Halbach of Janesville, Iowa transformed a 1970 Plymouth HEMI® 340 ‘Cuda into a HEMICudzter. Halbach chose the car because he believes the “E” body has timeless Mopar body lines and was the pinnacle of American muscle cars. He also wanted to apply modern technology and ingenuity to a ‘70 ‘Cuda.
He purchased the car in 2000 and began the ‘Cuda-to-HEMICudzter transformation in 2002. His original minor modifications soon spiraled into a hardcore “restomod.” Every part of the car’s interior and exterior is new, fabricated, rebuilt or customized down to the polished stainless steel bolts. Halbach even smoothed and sprayed clear coat on the undercarriage of the car.
To increase the “wow” factor, he built a removable, rubber-sealed roadster hard top. Other restoration modifications include subframe connectors and four-link air-ride suspension in the back. He minitubbed the car and added air ride in the front to work in tandem with the torsion bar set up. He also made a floating roll bar for the back. The HEMICudzter is painted a custom PPG silver.
He originally dropped in a 5.7-liter HEMI engine to give it power. Then in the middle of the project, Mopar announced a 6.1-liter HEMI motor. He then upgraded to the 6.1 and mated it to a Tremec five-speed transmission for 430 hp. He also fitted it with a custom side exhaust. The rear axle is a Chrysler-built 8¾ in. with 3.91 gears.
"When I first saw Mark’s ‘HEMICudzter, I was immediately drawn to the fact that he had created a beautiful, modernized muscle car. The attention to detail and the overall package creates exactly the kind of "modernized classic Mopar" that any enthusiast can really enjoy," said Randy Bolig, editor of Mopar Muscle.
Mopar Collector’s Guide Winner
George Sergakis of Grand Island, NY restored a rare 1971 Plymouth ‘Cuda 440-6BBL. Arriving in America in 1973, the first car he bought was a used ‘71 ‘Cuda. Sergakis sold it in 1976 but never forgot it. He thought the “E” body was one of finest vehicles ever made.
One of only 108 produced with this engine/transmission combination, the vehicle had 54,000 miles on the odometer when he purchased it in 1992. When it was new, the car was ordered as a sleeper street fighter with the nickname "Thunder 71." It’s still known by that name in upstate New York. It took him nearly 3½ years to restore it to exact factory/assembly line specifications.
The tan and brown interior features bucket seats. It also has a Hurst pistol grip shifter with console, Rallye instrument cluster, a Rimblow steering wheel and five-speaker AM/FM multiplex stereo.
The exterior is black and features a Rallye hood and all available moldings.
The original 440 c.i.d engine with three 2BBL Holley carburetors churns out 385 hp and 490 lb.-ft. of torque. All internal components are Mopar Performance restoration parts. It has a manual four-speed A-833 transmission. The rear end came with an "A34" super track pack option, consisting of 4:10 gear ratio, 9.75-in. Dana 60 axle, sure grip, power disc brakes, maximum cooling and HEMI suspension.
“George, an immigrant to the U.S. from Crete, Greece, is one proud Mopar enthusiast. George sees his ’Cuda as his realization of achieving the American dream. Couple that with the significance of his car being the last ’71 Six Barrel ’Cuda built and you see why George is, hands down, my pick for Mopar Top Eliminator this year,” said Robert Wolf, editor of Mopar Collector’s Guide.
Mopar Action Winner
Robert Motz of Holland, Ohio restored a 1970 Dodge Challenger RT. Motz thought the ‘70 Dodge Challenger had the best styling of any muscle car on the road – back then and now. His son agreed and joined him in the restoration project. When he bought it, the car had no motor or transmission. It was not in very good shape.
Motz and his son first installed tubs for the rear wheels, a four-link system that he chromed, a fab nine rear end, strange axles and strange aluminum third member. He also installed a magnum force front-suspension system with Wilwood brakes on all four corners.
He then went to work on the body including new sheet metal, hood and bumpers. Using the vehicle’s body lines, he painted it a combination of candy apple red and black cherry. He painted “550 HEMI” in a variegated “old school” gold leaf on the side of the hood and on the body lines. He also used a “gold” line to break the black and red. Finally, he fitted the Challenger with a set of one-off Boyd Coddington 10-spoke wheels.
The motor is a Keith Black aluminum block with Mopar Performance aluminum heads, and a crane roller cam and valve train components. It has a 1250 dominator with a 500 hp NOS Proshot fogger – producing 810 hp. It has a Keisler five-speed transmission with a Lakewood bell housing and hydraulic clutch. It also features an aluminum drive shaft and custom-built air cleaner.
He first designed a black and red interior and later changed to leather and suede. He installed bucket seats, custom steering wheel and an air-ride suspension with custom chrome dual air tanks (placed between the tubs).
The restoration took nearly five years. He and his son have enjoyed attending Classic Mopar car shows around the country. According to Motz, “Everyone loves a Mopar.”
“Mopar Action recognizes the innovation and fine craftsmanship on the part of Bob Motz in creating this Challenger. He retained the spirit of Dodge ’s classic muscle car, while infusing it with contemporary technology. He managed to come up with a package that’s wild, yet still tasteful. Most important, Motz handled virtually every detail of the project himself, rather than farming out all to a shop. And that, we think, is the sign of a true Mopar enthusiast,” said Cliff Gromer, editor of Mopar Action.