When Chrysler introduced the Gen III Hemi® in 2003, who knew it would be such a hit? There have been millions of 5.7-, 6.1-, 6.4-, and supercharged 6.2-liter engines produced in the last nineteen years. Among those engine displacements, there were early and late version 5.7 Hemis, various Drag Pak engine options, Multi-Displacement Systems (MDS), Variable Valve Timing (VVT), and different block casting materials (aluminum or cast iron).
Today, plenty of engines are available in salvage yards along with Mopar and several aftermarket engine builders providing “crate motors” for the enthusiast who wants late-model Hemi power. In addition, in the last decade, aftermarket performance retailers have begun producing components to swap a Gen III Hemi into the popular a-, b-, and e-body Mopars. Howard Brook, of Chaffee, New York, is one of the Mopar devotees that took the plunge and mated a Gen III Hemi with a 1974 Challenger.
The tale of the Challenger started innocently with Brook’s wife wanting her dream car, a ’71 Satellite. One had been located on the internet, but the owner would not share photos of all four sides of the vehicle for some reason, and every time Brook would request photos of the fourth side, more pictures of the other three sides would show up in his email inbox. In the meantime, Brook’s childhood friend, Larry Weiner (Founder & CEO of GSS Supercars and President of Performance West Group, Inc.), informed Brook about a rust-free ’74 Challenger in New Mexico.
Brook was in the mood to build something, and the Challenger fit the bill. A deal was struck, and the Challenger was on its way to New York. As the saying goes, with the ink on the paperwork still wet, the photos of the fourth side of the Satellite finally arrived. Wanting to remain happily married, Brook purchased and ultimately transformed the Satellite into a Road Runner clone.
With the Satellite project finished, Brook moved to the 360 equipped ’74 Challenger Rallye. While the body was nearly rust-free, the Challenger looked like it had spent the last few decades as a backstop at a Little League baseball field. All the body panels had suffered at least one ding, dent, scrape, or scratch, but Brook envisioned the treasure hidden under those bruises. Since the value of a ’74 Challenger was much less than a ’70 or ’71, Brook decided a Pro Touring slant with a late-model drivetrain should be the direction to take the Challenger.
Knowing what he wanted, Brook picked up a factory-new replacement 392 Hemi (not a crate engine) from the local Dodge dealership and mated it to a Tremec Magnum 6-speed transmission. To control the Hemi’s fuel trim and ignition chores, Brook installed an Arrington engine management system, and Hotwire Auto constructed a custom engine harness. Providing fuel to the hungry Hemi was handled by an Aeromotive Phantom in-tank fuel pump. A pair of TTI headers, pipes, and tips, along with Dynomax Mufflers, passed the spent gasses from the engine to the rear valence panel. The engine bay was embossed with an “Angry Ram” under hood theme.
Getting the Challenger to handle like a late-model ride while planting the increased torque to the tarmac required a heavy-duty suspension upgrade. Brook installed a ’70-’74 e-body Reilly MotorSports (RMS) AlterKation Street/Handling System with late-model Hemi engine mount provisions. QA1 coil-over shocks coupled with an AGR Performance power rack-and-pinion provided additional clearance for the Hemi’s Bouchillion Performance oil pan.
At the rear of the Challenger, Brook continued with the RMS theme using a rear triangulated 4-bar coil-over suspension to locate the 4.56:1 geared 8 ¾’ rear end under the chassis. Lastly, to stiffen the chassis, Brook installed Mancini Racing frame connectors.
The increased output of the Hemi required additional braking power, so SSBC Tri-Power (assisted) disc brakes were installed on each corner of the Challenger. Classic Tube brake lines connected the SSBC master cylinder to the calipers. Brook chose American Racing Torq Thrust wheels (17-inch front and 18-inch rear) for the Challenger.
Before installation, the Torq Thrust wheels were media blasted and then painted argent silver to match the theme of the Challenger. Brook selected Nitto NT555 Extreme ZR racing tires with 245/45ZR17 on the front and 295/45/ZR18 on the rear.
The body techs at Aero Collision were put to the test with the immense task of straightening out the Challenger’s body. At first glance, the body panels and bumpers appear to have been merely restored, but a trained eye can find the subtle (and not so slight) modifications. The bumperettes were removed, and the bumpers were smoothed and tucked for a cleaner look.
Next, a pair of ’70 headlight bezels were installed on the front of the Challenger, which required extensive metal removal to fit the bezels and the hood lip chrome trim. Finally, getting air into the 392 required the Rallye’s non-functional hood scoops to be opened up to provide an air induction system to the Hemi’s airbox.
The most noticeable modification was the installation of a smaller ’70 SE Challenger window and fiberglass window plug fitted into the rear window opening. The assembly line workers rough-fit the window plugs and then bonded a vinyl top to cover the shoddy work.
Brook had the window plug secured in place, and after plenty of bodywork, the plug disappeared into the body, and a vinyl top was unnecessary. After the bodywork was completed, the Challenger was coated in several basecoat layers of “red wet lipstick” and then several additional layers of clear.
To finish the project, Brook recovered the stock seats with white covers from Legendary Auto Interiors. Legendary also provided the carpet, package tray, and headliner. The factory door panels and interior trim were cleaned and dyed white. A majority of the emblems on the door panels were removed, providing a more understated appearance.
Just Dashes finished the dash in a vibrant red finish. The factory black gauge faces were replaced with white faces made by Tachman. The wood grain on the instrument cluster and the center console was finished in a weathered gray color providing a unique guise.
Brook modified a ’68 Charger shifter boot, which he slipped over the Hurst pistol grip and fastened to the Challenger’s center console. Like SE Challengers, an overhead console was added to the interior. To add something different, Brook fitted speed (cruise) control on the Challenger.
He placed two small control switches just to the left of the steering column under the cluster. The final touch to the interior was the horn button, which continued the “Angry Ram” theme into the interior of the Challenger.
Since the completion of the Challenger, it has made the car show circuits, including being a feature vehicle in the tribute to Mr. Norm event at the 2021 Carlisle Chrysler Nationals. In addition, the Challenger sees occasional time on the street.
Brook admits the car has plenty of power, rides great, and handles nearly as well as a late-model Challenger but still has the muscle car era cool factor.
If you are ever at a car show and see Brook’s red ’74 Challenger, stop and take a closer look. The attention to detail is immediately seen, but the prudent melding of the ’70 and ’71 parts may not be noticeable at first.
However, once the earlier Challenger styling cues are recognized, it is impressive how well they blend into the ’74, and of course, when the hood rises, everybody will know that thing’s got a Hemi.