Murray W 1970 Dodge Charger R/T 2dr Hardtop Coupe

The Cancer Car

My first car was a 1969 Charger. It was gold, with a black vinyl roof, 383 4 bbl column shift auto and an open 2.76 rear end. Not exactly a muscle car, but for a 17 year old it was probably as powerful a car as I should have been driving. I rebuilt the motor in shop class, and drove it until the end of summer of my high school grad year. I sold the car to a friend and bought a '70 Challenger R/T. I kept the Challenger for quite a few years, swapping the 383 for a 440 and restored it to a factory look. By the time my two sons were in grade school, the Challenger wasn't getting much use and I sold it, using the money to purchase a sailboat. I always have regretted selling that car.

By the time I hit my mid-forties, I really had the bug again. I had decided to buy another Charger. I wanted one that was in reasonable shape, but restorable. This was during the fall of 2006.

One Fall morning while I was shaving, I noticed a lump on my Adam's apple. I thought it was odd, and went to the doctor a few days later. He didn't waste much time sending me to a specialist who diagnosed it as thyroid cancer. Within a few weeks I had surgery. It turned out I had two types of cancer but the surgeon said he was pretty sure he got it all. I had to take some time off from my business and became more determined than ever to find a restorable Charger. My future was a little iffy at that point but I soldiered on and eventually found a 1970 Charger R/T located in eastern Alberta. Before I could get too serious about the car I had to undergo a bout of radiation therapy to kill off any stray cancer cells or tumors that may have spread elsewhere. After that, I had a whole body scan, and to my great relief I was pronounced cancer free.

As soon as possible I flew to Alberta and checked out the Charger. It was somewhat rough, but mostly there. A numbers matching '70 R/T. I bought it on the spot and had it trucked home to Vancouver Island.

To get the car transferred into my name, I had to make it road worthy enough to pass a safety inspection. This took a bit of work but it did pass first try. The inspector told me it barely passed and he made me promise to drive it straight home and start tearing it down.

Then the real work began. I photographed every inch of the car and then began stripping it down, boxing and bagging parts to be restored for the rebuild. Once it was completely apart, I had it sandblasted inside and out, and began replacing metal. I hired a terrific body man who only works on restorations and turned him loose. All of the sheet metal from the quarter panels back had to be replaced, as well as the trunk floor, trunk lid, and rear deck in-fill panel. All this was accomplished in my garage at home. When the car was ready, it was trucked down to the body shop for primer and paint. I took my rotisserie down to the shop and we mounted the car on it, to be able to paint the underside properly. It took a couple of weeks for painting, and then the car was trucked back to my place for re-assembly.

I had sent out the motor for machining and balancing. It was bored .030 over and got new pistons and cam. The heads were redone. The 727 transmission was sent out for rebuild. Every assembly in the car was restored or replaced with reproduction pieces. By the winter of 2011 I was spending 20 to 30 hours a week working on the Charger, as well as working full time at my business. The re-assembly was moving along and the car was taking shape. While home from university on Christmas break, my sons helped me install the engine/transmission/front end assy on my 53rd birthday. The Charger was now sitting on all four wheels for the first time since 2007. I kept at it, installing restored parts at every opportunity.

By the spring of 2012, the Charger was mostly together, and I started it for the first time in June 2012. I drove it for the summer and each summer since. Every time I drive it, I feel like I am 17 again, at least for a few moments anyway.

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