Back in January, we first told you about Steve Mirabelli’s crazy project: Take the body of a thrashed 1968 Dodge Charger and set it on top of a totaled-out 2006 Dodge Charger SRT8. [hotrod.com] Add a ’69 Daytona nose and wing, convert the rear glass to a flush Charger 500 backlight, and you’re done. Sounds simple, right?
It sure got the public’s attention, because such a “simple” task like mating a classic body style with the chassis and powertrain of a modern performer opened a lot of minds. Why in the heck couldn’t you have the best of both worlds? The drop-dead gorgeous lines of Dodge’s most recognized car ever—the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona—with the power, safety, and fuel economy of a late-model 6.1L Hemi Charger SRT8? The problem everyone realizes at first, however, is that the track, wheelbase, and cowl height of these cars is different and needs to be reconciled very carefully, and not just from a visual/design standpoint, but from a structural one too.
Fortunately, Mirabelli has a mad set of skills, as he’s a NASCAR race car fabricator for Hendrick Motorsports in the Charlotte, NC area. For decades, Mirabelli has been creating and repairing some of the world’s fastest machinery, so while the modernized Daytona project isn’t exactly a cakewalk for him, it’s the closest thing to a cakewalk. As you peruse the photo galleries from our original story, and the update we brought you in February [hotrod.com] and the most recent one in May [hotrod.com], you begin to see the sheer complexity of melding the shape of the Daytona with the mechanicals of the SRT8. Operations like fabbing the HVAC ductwork, cowl area, hideaway headlights, trunk, fuel filler, fender vents, and interior leave one speechless, except for maybe expletives like, “dayum!”
The photos we bring you here are a quick refresh of where this project started, some late-stage fabrication, a trip through the paint shop, final assembly hiccups, and the photos from the finished car in Steve’s backyard.
But one big problem remains: what exactly “is” it? We know what it is, but the NC Department of Motor Vehicles may have the last laugh. As we cars guys have come to discover in varying degrees is that on most days, our government hates us. Why we can’t just behave, pay our money, and drive the same cookie-cutter Toyota Camry? On better days, state governments merely tolerate us as a source of revenue and jobs. So while most of us would’ve taken the easy road of dropping a late-model engine and trans in an old body, Steve melded the two to the point that NCDOT wants to call it a 2006 model-year car. Going the high road and building the safer, more fuel-efficient car has bought Steve a whole closet full of hurt, proving that once again no good deed goes unpunished. Will Steve get North Carolina’s blessing to drive it on the road, or is he banished to doing Dukes Of Hazzard donuts in his backyard the rest of his days?
We’ll let you know in the final installment! Stay tuned!