Piloting muscle cars isn't for the faint of heart. In the 1960s and early '70s, many new owners quickly realized after leaving the dealership that their new V-8 bruiser was a bit too much for them to handle.
That's how Glen Hane was able to scoop up his 1971 Dodge Challenger just two years after it was initially sold. He came across the droptop as a young 18-year-old college student while passing through some side streets in Melrose Park.
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"The previous owners were a young married couple. The wife was too afraid to drive the car and knew she had to get something more comfortable," the Des Plaines resident said. The car is equipped with a limited slip differential, so in the rain the car can loose traction, corkscrew and hit the curb. "She was glad to see it go but the husband was a little more hesitant."
The unruly nature of the Mopar suited young Hane just fine. He used the bristling vehicle to commute for the rest of his college education and even made the Challenger more potent.
"I modified it quite a bit, adding things like a different carburetor, exhaust headers and intake manifold," Hane said. "Truth be told, I'd beat on it a little, although I did make sure to save all the original parts."
The Mopar's high-performance ways paid off, once helping him escape a harrowing brush with a natural disaster. "I was on a country road cruising to Quincy, and confronted a tornado cutting across the fields. Without taking the time to put the top up, I whipped around, floored it and headed the other direction. The last time I looked down at the speedometer I saw just shy of 100 miles per hour. It was a scary but fun experience."
Hane's high-speed shenanigans were cut short when the Challenger was rolled into storage in 1977. "Just starting a career. I didn't have time or money to properly take care of it," he said. "Even in concrete storage the vehicle started to rust up a bit."
Instead of starting the massive undertaking and not being able to finish it, Hane waited until a proper restoration could be conducted. After spending years collecting new "old stock" parts to use, the time arrived in 1993 for work to begin. The car spent two and half years on a rotisserie while every nut and bolt was removed. As rust had taken hold, the lower portions of the rear quarter panels along with the trunk floor needed replacement.
"I purchased both fenders during the '70s. I could already tell they would need replacement," Hane said.
Six years were necessary for the Challenger to be completed. When it emerged, the convertible was showroom fresh. Hane retained the somewhat tame factory Light Gunmetal paint color.
"It's a rare color with most experts agreeing there are only 22 vehicles in this paint. Most people who bought these wanted the high-impact colors Dodge offered during the decade like purple, yellow or green."
Under the twin scoops on the hood, a 340-cubic-inch V-8 resides mated to a four-speed transmission, all of which is a numbers-matching drivetrain. Drum brakes bring the muscle car to a halt. A few options can be found on the interior such as the power convertible top, AM radio and Rally Gauge instrument cluster.
"The most satisfaction is knowing the work I put into it paid off in delivering a very reliable, fun to drive and good handling car," he said.
Despite the decades, Hane is still hooked on the driving experience. "Just as back then, there's nothing I enjoy better than to put the top down and take off down the road. Although now I carefully check the radar map before any long trips."