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72 Cuda Restomod

JKCuda

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I've put off creating this thread for a long time, but now that I'm towards the end I figured I'd put together some photos and a little narrative. Before I get started, big thanks to a lot of folks on this board for answering questions and providing me help along the way with the various issues and questions I've come across. I apologize for the length here, but I'm doing this as much for myself as I am to share with others.

This car was purchased for my wife by her father somewhere around 10 years ago. There's a backstory, but that's not important. The car was purchased at the Carlisle show, for what we thought at the time was a pretty fair price. It was a 318 shell, non-numbers matching, and was supposed to have a 340 in it. The numbers on the block weren't verified at the time, turned out to be a 318 as we would figure out some time later. The first year or two I did some basic upgrades. I completely rebuilt the suspension with the upgraded leafs that came on 340's and up, added QA1 upper and lower control arms in the front, new steering linkage, 4 wheel disc brakes, and new wheels/tires. Car ran ok, not great, but we could drive and enjoy it. We didn't have anywhere to store it in the winter, or inside period at our townhome, so the car ended up being garaged at her dad's and sat for a few years.

Fast forward to early spring 2022... We have moved into our new home and I finally had a garage to bring the car home to. My wife at the time had been battling breast cancer for about 4 years. It came back with a vengeance and spread, so I decided to do some more upgrades, dress it up a little, so we could get it out more and enjoy it together. Ordered a full TTI system, new valve covers and air cleaner, a bunch of other under hood stuff to replace the old greasy stuff and clean the car up a bit. Upon pulling the valve covers, I knew we had an issue. Sludge...sludge...and A LOT more sludge. I'm not sure how oil even flowed through these heads TBH. We ended up pulling the motor, at which point i cleaned the layers of burnt oil off the numbers and discovered our "340" was indeed a 318. Big disappointment. Long story short...a buddy hooked me up with an engine builder he knew who agreed to take on my job. We were going to build the 318 for a small super charger, just to be something fun and different, but in the end he convinced me to get a 360 long block and do a SCAT stoker setup. At the same time, it was pretty apparent that the car needed some body work. The rear quarters were rusted out underneath, someone had already overlayed some metal/mud. The engine bay was painted chevy black, and there was A LOT of rust encapsulator of some sorts sprayed over everything. We decided to do a little body work since the motor and everything would be out for a while, so the same friend who hooked me us up with our engine builder introduced me to a body guy who turned out to be a big Mopar guy. The car had been painted red, but the car was originally EV2 Hemi Orange, so we were going to correctly repaint it. I also planned to rebuild the 904 transmission and the rear end. At this point, I've basically commited to a full restoration. Around September of 2022 we finally started digging into replacing the stuff we identified as bad, and man did we find ROT like you wouldn't believe along the way. Our refresh had quickly turned into a frame up resto from the frame rails up in the front and rear. The cab area was in good shape minus the driver side floorpan, which we replaced with an AMD piece.

Over the course of the next year, my wife's condition began to deteriorate rapidly, so in about August of this year we switched the plan up a bit so I could get the car home to start building it while things like hoods and fenders could be finished up and prepped for paint (we already had everything aligned and such, just cosmetic work at this point). We brought the car home, sprayed the engine bay, door jambs, and trunk area in my garage with single stage, and I started reassembling the car. I replaced the factory wiring harness with an American Autowire setup to go with the new Dakota Digital cluster. I went with a Flaming River tilt column (I'm a pretty big guy so this is huge) and replaced the factory power steering with a Borgeson setup so I didn't have to mess with pitman arms and such, plus it gives me some more clearance under the hood and tightens up the steering. Other things include a Cold Case radiator setup with electric fans, upgraded alternator to go with the new wiring harness setup, Holley 750 double pumper, Mopar(Proform) HEI distributor with built in coil...there's a lot more but you get the point.

This week, after a lot of long days, nights, and weekends, I finally got the motor fired. I'm not gonna lie, it choked me up a little bit. I still have some wiring to do for the front and rear lights, but the dash and engine wiring is complete. I have an insane amount of pictures, so I'll try to just stick to relevant/large change pics. The rest of the panels should be coming back this weekend to bolt on the car and I hope to have it painted by the end of November. My wife's condition at this point is terminal, and she is struggling to get around. She wants to go for a ride in it and get ice cream, I pray that I can finish this thing up in time to make that happen for her and make some memories.

Again, sorry for the long read. I really wanted to document this along the way but it just didn't happen so here we are. Please feel free to ask any questions or point things out, good or bad! This was done in a basic shop and my house. This build is not intended to be period correct or a perfect show car. I just wanted something solid, good looking, quick, that would last so it can be passed on to our kids someday.

First pics from when we got the car, first upgrades, and pulling the motor.

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JKCuda

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Again...front end is WAY worse than we thought. Decided to strip it down to the frame rails like the rear. Firewall is coming out. Door skins have also been test fit. My youngest came with me on this one to check out mommy's car!

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JKCuda

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I wish I took more pictures...but I did this solo and was usually greasy. 904 has been rebuilt with A&A and Cope internals, should be good to go behind the stroker.

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JKCuda

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Rear end rebuild. Coated with POR-15. That stuff is awesome! Somehow I don't have a good picture of it complete, but you can see it in one of the transmission pictures above.

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JKCuda

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Rest of US Car Tool kit is installed. Body panels and car getting some primer. Yes...it's not a paint booth.

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JKCuda

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At this point...my wife's health is starting to take a turn for the worse. We pivot here and move the car back to my house. Lizard skin sound and thermal sprayed.

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JKCuda

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I build a redneck paint booth in my garage and we spray the engine bay, door jambs, and trunk with single stage so I can start assembling things.

The floor didn't fare so well, good thing it's just Rustoleum epoxy from Lowe's.

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JKCuda

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Mounted engine to new QA1 K-member and mated transmission. Lifted the car with my hoist and slid the motor under. I will never pull a motor from the top of this car again.

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JKCuda

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Last steps before firing the motor. Obviously not ready to drive at this point but I really wanted to get the engine fired since it had been sitting for about a year, just in case... My helpers doing what they do best...

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JKCuda

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It lives.... More to come as I go. Shaking a little because I didn't have a plug wire seated on the distributor. Smoothed out once I fixed it.

 
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Challenger RTA

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The more pictures the better. I think you made some good choices in the build. A plug wire loose and fired right up. I would say it is dialed in pretty good!
 
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