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1969 DODGE DAYTONA 
HEMI

MCG 2013

THE ULTIMATE HEMI DAYTONA by, Totally Auto

Among the winged car community, there are very few secrets left to be undiscovered. Through the years, most of the higher profile Daytonas and Superbirds have taken on lives of their own, with stories about their pasts being swapped around like old high school football tales. One of the Hemi Daytonas well-known to the early wing car fanatics in the early 1980's was a silver metal flake creation that was tongue-in-cheek nicknamed “the J.C. Whitney Daytona.” The name wasn’t meant to be flattering, as J.C. Whitney is hardly known as a bastion of high quality products, but rather, it alluded to the car’s over-the-top looks and all the aftermarket parts that had been added. Our story this month has a little bit of everything, but for anybody who remembers the rather colorful Daytona, we think you’ll agree, nobody’s gonna’ pick on this car again any time soon. 
  As unreal as it may seem today, there was a time when 1969 Hemi Charger Daytonas were nothing more than old cars. Out of the 503 Charger Daytonas built, 70 of them came with the Hemi engine, which is an extremely high percentage in relation to the total number of cars built. Of those seventy, forty-eight were automatics and the rest were four-speeds. With radical looks and low production figures, the cars were destined to become highly sought after, but this particular Charger Daytona was sold new in 1970 to a guy who apparently kept it through 1978. Toward the end of those years, he became bored with his orange Hemi car and decided to enter the “street freak” and custom show van world. When the car started making the rounds at car shows and early Mopar club events in the late 1970s, it was a serious attention getter. There was bass boat silver metal flake paint with wild stripes, a sunroof had been installed over the front buckets, huge mag wheels and fat tires resided all around, and the entire engine bay was chromed all over the place. Just about everything but the heads and engine block was either chrome plated or polished to a mirror-like finish. The interior had been customized, the exhaust was loud, the rear end was jacked up a mile in the air. In other words, it was typical of what you would’ve expected at a World of Wheels car show back then. And so, according to the records still with the Daytona, it traded hands in 1979 for $5,000 in its show car guise. After making a few more appearances during the next few years, the Charger kinda’ disappeared, but it was more correctly in camouflage because the wild paint was done away with and the sunroof was filled in. Wearing more sheepish clothing, the car traded hands a few more times, then, about ten years ago, someone finally recognized it was time to take positive action with the rarity. 
  A group of three collectors/ investors bought the Daytona with the idea of restoring it back to stock condition and selling it for a tidy profit. Since one of the guys (Roger Gibson) owned a restoration/repair shop, that seemed like a good idea, and the Daytona went in for a complete rebuild. Years passed, then, reportedly, two of the partners received a bill from the resto guy for something like $30,000. This ended the three-way partnership and threw the entire endeavor into chaos. The Daytona was completely torn apart by this time, nobody was sure who really owned it, and nobody could agree on what to do with it. The future for the rare winged Dodge was anything but bright. In the midst of this bedlam, John Kett stepped in and got all the parties together long enough to agree on a price and end the whole problem. John bought the dormant project and called Dave Ferro over at Totally Auto to pick the carcass up, haul it to their shop in Pennsylvania, and perform a pristine ground-up restoration. Dave headed west with his trailer, and with no small amount of dismay, he loaded up an “extremely disassembled” Charger Daytona. The only positive things to take note of at that time were that the original Hemi and transmission had stayed with the car and the panels looked rust-free, but loads of parts were missing and he had the feeling the gray primer could be hiding a lot of evils. 
  Once the Charger was at Totally Auto’s shop, the first course of business was to place the body on a jig and see what was under the old gray primer. The previous shop had reportedly stripped the car to its bare metal, but under the primer, sure enough, there were several old paint jobs, including scattered remnants of its metal flake show car paint. A curious thing about the Daytona was that the previous shop had also installed a new headliner in the bare shell even though there was no interior present and the bodywork obviously wasn’t finished. When Dave and the guys tore out the headliner, they discovered why it had been installed. The old sunroof hole had been covered with a nasty looking piece of sheet metal, tacked into place and then it had been smoothed over with tons of body filler putty. The roof was a mess and the headliner was attempting to hide the carnage. The decision was made right away to replace the roof with a solid piece, but this led to a very curious discovery indeed. Before they removed the original roof, Dave noticed it didn’t have the typical “Charger” emblems on the C-pillars. At first, he thought they had simply been removed and the holes were filled. Looking at the skin from the back, however, there were no mounting holes. To double check things, all the paint was removed down to the bare steel outside, and sure enough, the roof never had holes poked in it for the normal emblems. The odd roof was photo documented, then, since it was butchered, it was cut off and cast away. Later a new owner ironically decided the emblems belonged and had them installed, go-figure.
  With a rust-free replacement roof welded on, the Daytona’s restoration progressed steadily from there. The rest of the body revealed no surprises and the bare skin proved to be remarkably well preserved. That in itself bore testimony to the fact that, as a show car, it had been yanked off the road very early in life and stored indoors. John Kett and Dave Ferro spent months on the phone running down parts for the Daytona, managing to find a number of suspiciously correct date coded parts for the car not far from where it had been disassembled. Regardless of whether they originally came off this particular car or not, they were acquired, cleaned, refinished, and installed as the car gradually went back together. As you can see, the car that formerly looked like something the band KISS would have been embarrassed to stand near looks a whole lot different today. One of the toughest jobs in the whole restoration? According to Dave, it was killing all the chrome plating that still clung to everything in the engine bay. The Daytona latch tray was heavily encrusted in chrome, among other parts, and getting rid of all the shiny stuff so it could be properly refinished was seriously time consuming. 
  As you can see, the Daytona is a whole lot better now than Dodge ever dreamed of building something like this. Admittedly over restored, this is part of John Kett’s philosophy and a serious tribute to Totally Auto’s talent. John wants his cars restored “like it was being built for the president of Dodge when it was new, and everybody on the line knew that all along the way.” That being the case, the Daytona is finished top and bottom to absolute perfection. Everything is powder coated or painted, right down to every last nut and bolt, both seen and unseen. The paint is perhaps the most mirror-perfect V2 Hemi Orange paint we’ve ever seen, with a full two gallons of clear atop the orange. Dave tells us there’s six weeks of wet sanding and buffing invested in the paint to give it the permanently wet six-miles-deep look. 
  On the technical end of the restoration, Ray Barton rebuilt the numbers matching Hemi to stone stock ‘69 specs, the TorqueFlite was reworked to stock specs, and the 3.54 Dana 60 is better than new inside and out. All the belts and hoses are date coded correct, the 15" steel wheels are also correct date coded jobs, and all the paint dabs and grease pencil marks are there. You might call this a reference restoration were it not for the fact, once again, that Dodge never made these cars look so good when they were new. And, of course, since this one left the factory without the C-pillar “Charger” emblems, it was restored back without them - a source of some controversy today among the wing car crowd, but hey, the photo evidence backs it up that in this particular case, this is correct. Completed shortly before Carlisle 2007, at the time of our photo shoot, the zeroed out odometer showed only three miles, all of which were put on the car by Ferro testing it out near Totally Auto’s shop. What can we say, some cars were just destined never to be driven! 
  Perhaps the biggest testimony to the excellence of the Daytona today rests in the fact that it traded hands not long before Barrett-Jackson in January 2008. With everyone whining and complaining that the muscle car market was falling on its ear and high-end car prices were dead, the glowing orange Daytona was sold on the internet for $425,000, which may well be a record for a Hemi Charger Daytona. This all proves that if you have a high quality car that has all the paperwork and an interesting provenance, the market can still be quite strong. The new owner, Joseph Carroll of Best of Show Automotive currently has the orange Daytona on a turn table in their showroom, so even though it’s lost its bass boat metal flake paint, it’s still just as much of a show poodle today as it was back in 1978. There’s a big difference though, these days it’s a pedigreed pure bred, absolutely beautifully done by Totally Auto and not a mutt wearing a diamond stud collar! X

 

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