CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The men allocution of Plum Crazy Purple, Vitamin C Orange and Sassy Grass Green.
These are the colors of their childhood.
These are the colors of archetypal cars that accompany aback memories of a simpler time so connected ago, aback America had aloof three TV networks and active to the grocery abundance with mom or dad acquainted like a reward.
It is why a abstruse 48-year-old artisan who works a day job from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Fiat Chrysler in Warren, Mich., is advised a top beef car apology able in North America.
Dave Dudek does best of the assignment in an bare barn in Clinton Township, accepting confused from Warren afterwards addition bought the architecture and evicted everyone. His babyish clandestine business is articulate alone and he turns abroad added projects than he accepts. His audience over the aftermost decade accept been mostly men.
“The funny affair is, the Chrysler was the poor man’s beef car. In the beneficiary market, they rule,” Dudek said. “This is the aboriginal car they took their wife out on a date with — and brought their babyish home with.”
Dudek, a accomplished baron who lives in St. Clair Shores, has repaired lift trucks and carts in the Fiat Chrysler Stamping Plant branch for 23 years. As the son of a hot-tar roofer and homemaker, he fell in adulation with beef cars aback his dad brought home a dejected 1969 Barracuda convertible.
“Dad was into cars a little bit but I fell in adulation with that car. I was, like, 14,” said Dudek, who grew up in Taylor and Sterling Heights. “If he was accepting a gallon of milk or a loaf of aliment for mom, I was activity no amount what.”
He is animate on 11 cars from audience who animate in Miami, New York and abreast Alberta, Canada. Transforming them is his hobby. A distinct car can booty up to a year. And award aboriginal genitalia is like a civic scavenger coursing of junkyards.
“I put in a couple-three hours a day on these cars,” Dudek said. “I am authoritative abiding every bolt is the exact bolt the car larboard the branch with. Anniversary one has an insignia. Who fabricated the bolt for Chrysler or GM or wherever? If they’re declared to be argent zinc, it’s argent zinc. I’m consistently active into asleep ends. I’ve got six bolts I charge and I accept four bolts and I charge to acquisition a junkyard in Arizona or Minnesota to see if they accept two bolts for me. It’s aloof a connected challenge.”
‘Poor man’s muscle’
Peter Swainson, 61, of Red Deer, Alberta, in western Canada has formed with Dudek for added than a decade. He has a accumulating of three dozen-plus archetypal beef cars housed on his farm.
“These cars represent our youth. For guys my age, it’s about the memories,” Swainson said. “Guys admired to cruise in the air-conditioned cars that fabricated babble and had some speed. It was an agitative time with agrarian colors and individuality. Now all these cars today actuality congenital attending alike. They’re all gray, atramentous or white.”
Looking back, he acclaimed that the Plymouth Road Runner was declared to be “a poor man’s beef car” and the aggregation apparent a alcove with guys who capital aerial achievement on a bound budget. These cars, Swainson said, allowable respect.
He declared how Dudek goes above abating cars to their aboriginal action by rebuilding aggregate to aerate performance.
“He’s application added adapted material. I attending at my motors and they attending absolutely banal — the appearance, color, engine. All the apparatus attached, all original. But the centralized motor is adapted with pistons, rods, crankshaft and camshaft. Added avant-garde abstracts accord aiguille performance,” Swainson said.
Watching the action can be awesome.
“You absolutely detach the car. Every nut and bolt is removed,” Swainson said. “We put what’s actual of the anatomy on a big huge rotisserie, like a buzz or craven or turkey,” said Swainson, who owns Southside Dodge in the arena of Alberta. “My ancestor started our dealership in 1971. And I bought it from him. From the time I was 10 years old, I was basics about Chrysler products.”
Swainson sometimes contest his cars. He additionally aloof brand to drive boring by himself.
“It’s a acceptable brainy break, aloof relaxing,” he said. “Today’s cars are so accessible and simple to handle. But this is 50-year-old technology. You feel the car a lot more, you feel you’re allotment of the car. The bifold bankrupt thunders and it gets your affection pumping aback you footfall on the gas and apprehend the clear complete of the motor. Guys adulation that.”
The clandestine car apology business happened by blow for Dudek.
About 15 years ago, he took his repainted 1968 GTS Dodge Dart to a car appearance in Columbus, Ohio. Addition larboard a agenda on his windshield allurement to do a annual photo shoot. Dudek knew his accompany were about and anticipation the agenda was a prank. But it was legit.
Since then, he has formed on hundreds of cars — from absolute apology to appropriate analysis including agent modification. So he does accurate apology and additionally agent modification, authoritative the cars added reliable than they were originally. These are alleged resto-mods.
His accepted projects accommodate two ’70 ’Cuda convertibles, a ’71 ’Cuda convertible, a ’71 Hemi Charger R/T, a ’71 Charger R/T, a ’71 Charger R/T with a attenuate sunroof, a ’68 Charger R/T, a ’69 Hemi Road Runner, a ’71 Hemi GTX, a ’69 Dodge Daytona and a ’69 Plymouth Belvedere.
“The Belvedere was a low-end Chrysler artefact but I’m putting one of the Hellcat engines in it,” Dudek said. “The ’71 Charger, he wants to adore the car with avant-garde technology. I took an agent out of a Hellcat and put it in the old beef car. You cannot bout the believability of the new cars.”
Car sells for $450,000
A man from Rochester, New York, paid $450,000 for a attenuate 1970 Plymouth ’Cuda convertible in Sassy Grass Blooming and asked Dudek to breach it to pieces and put it aback together.
“The accomplished car needs to appear afar and anniversary detail needs to be redone,” Dudek said. “It may be account $700,000 aback we’re done with it.”
That aforementioned guy paid $2.1 amateur and $3.3 amateur for two added ’Cuda convertibles.
Record $3.78 amateur sale
The accepted almanac for an American beef car to advertise at accessible bargain is $3.78 amateur for the 1971 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda convertible that awash in 2014 by Mecum Auctions, acclaimed Jonathan Klinger, carnality admiral of Hagerty, ambassador of the Traverse City-based Hagerty Price Adviser and the better insurer of archetypal cars in the world.
The 1968 Ford Mustang apprenticed by amateur Steve McQueen in “Bullitt” awash at bargain on Friday for $3.74 million, including the buyer’s premium. Bargain attendees wondered if a acclaimed Hollywood car ability degrade the ’Cuda.
“When you say the best big-ticket beef cars anytime sold, it is about article with a Hemi — Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth. There seems to be a acute faculty of Detroit pride. … The hot rod ability was built-in in Southern California. American beef cars were built-in in Detroit in response. They had all these adolescent servicemen advancing aback from Apple War II in aerial adrenaline action modes. Automakers capital to capitalize on that enthusiasm. That led to the beef car wars.”
‘Crazy custom builds’
Klinger, an able on archetypal cars, had never heard of Dudek until the Free Press inquired. Afterwards a bit of absolute research, Klinger alleged aback and said, “He does abundant work. It is somewhat different to do absolute Concours D’Elegance-level, nut-and-bolt-100%-authentic apology and crazy custom builds.”
Collectors appear to Dudek because he has created hundreds of spreadsheets illustrating what the cars acclimated to attending like. It is his own advertence guide. He absolutely restores Chrysler beef cars and has done agent assignment on the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac GTO and Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.
“I’ve done a lot of record-breaking cars,” Dudek said. “One awash for $305,000, a blooming 1970 Coronet RT Hemi. … It was aloof absorption to detail, every nut and bolt from basal of the annoy to the top of the roof. Every fastener, alike beneath the dashboard things you don’t see. The acrylic color, everything. Aloof absolutely as it larboard the factory.”
Incredibly, he does period-correct beef car apology with cars that accept building affection and can run a quarter-mile in 10 aberrant flat.
140 mph in 9.9 seconds
Two decades ago, Dudek co-founded a antagonism alignment alleged F.A.S.T., which stands for “Factory Appearing Banal Tire.”
Muscle car owners from beyond the U.S. and Canada appear calm about six times a year and annoyance chase about the states, including New York, Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey and Georgia. The chase at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Mich., can allure up to 100 racers.
“Many of the antagonism cars are cutting aboriginal window stickers and attending like they collection off the exhibit floor,” said Dudek, who contest his 1969 Hemi-powered Plymouth Road Runner.
He wowed assemblage by clocking in 9.902 aberrant at 140.31 mph at the Maryland International Raceway.
Re-live our fathers’ stories
Donny Brass, 54, of St. Clair Shores, Mich., is a arch acquiescence ambassador for a mortgage aggregation who knows Dudek through antagonism Brass’ 1966 Corvette.
“My dad bought the car in ’68. It got affectionate of old assuming the car and accomplishing cruise things so I absitively to try … racing,” Brass said. “I accept a 2006 Corvette Z06 that is faster but not as abundant fun. Archetypal cars accept a homesickness and romance. It’s a way to bethink belief our fathers’ told.”
He continued, “People acquaint you these are cars too admired to do annihilation with. My dad was one of those too-valuable guys aback it came to that car. But I anticipate he’d be appreciative now. Winning contest isn’t the point. You’re animated ear to ear whether you’ve won or lost.”
He has run the division mile chase in 12.34 aberrant at 110 mph.
Looking back, Brass said, “I can bethink benumbed abaft the seats breadth there is no bench aback I was a little guy. They would constrict me and my sister abaft the seats in the accumulator area.”
‘Fast as heck’
Mark Trostle, arch of Mopar and Ram Design at Fiat Chrysler, doesn’t apperceive Dudek or his assignment but said, “The activity for today’s beef cars is fueled by the iconic cars from the 1960s and ’70s. … I anticipate it’s abundant that there are bodies in the industry committed to befitting the body of that era alive.”
Dudek’s amusement is absolutely absolute of his employer.
“I like animate on stuff,” he said. I’m now seven years abroad from retirement with a pension. I’m not activity to blend that up. I’m a blight survivor, six years now cancer-free of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. You don’t apperceive how connected you’re activity to live. I like these cars. Animate for Chrysler is acceptable money to pay the abode acquittal and accustomed life. If I appetite to booty my ancestors on vacation or chase my own cars, I’ll charge added money. I’ve got two boys. I like authoritative appearance cars run fast as heck. I’ve got a little alcove here.”
His wife, Kelly, 49, a plastics aggregation administrator, met her bedmate while canoeing with her girlfriends on Gratiot Avenue in Roseville, Mich.
“He was out canoeing with his accompany in his ’88 Mustang GT convertible attractive for a race,” she said. “His affection for cars was aberrant and affected at the time. Over the advance of 30 years, it has never gone away.”
She went on, “This has rubbed off on me and our two children. Three years ago, I purchased a 2016 Dodge Challenger Hellcat and he prodded me to run it bottomward the annoyance strip. I did and adulation it.” She ran a 10.71 at 128 mph.
©2020 Detroit Free Press
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