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A Restored Dream
Written By: Emily Pogue, Photography By: Derek Hieb
At least once in our lives, we find something that we just can’t live without; something that drives us crazy to see and not have in our possession. To a then 16-year-old Jeff Schievelbein, a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T was just that thing. Each day he would drive past the car, longing to be the owner of the curvy bronze coupe. And each day, his father would tell him that it was too much money to buy. That changed just a year later when in 1981, Jeff got the keys to his dream car.
For years, this car was not only his transportation, but also Jeff’s fun. Jeff smiles as he recalls drag racing “just a bit” in his younger days. Despite that, there weren’t too many miles put on the car before he married and had children. The two-door fastback coupe was not the type of vehicle that would be safe and roomy enough for a growing family, so Jeff put it in the garage and participated in the family way for the next couple of decades.
But just as it happened in ‘81, Jeff again felt the pull to get the car out and on the road. In January of 2016, he decided that the time was right, and began to make plans to restore his sporty coupe to the original condition and specifications as best as he possibly could. In order to make it all happen, he enlisted the help of Terry Dammer, owner of Attention to Detail. And over the next three years, there was certainly attention given to every detail.
Because it had sat unused for a few decades, the restoration process would take more than elbow grease.
“I finally had the time to do it. And the money,” jokes Jeff.
Wanting to make sure that everything was rebuilt with standard parts, Terry set to finding the necessary pieces and colors to restore the beautiful second-generation two-door fastback coupe. Under the hood is a pristine 440 V8 Magnum engine, just as it had when it was rolled out in the fall of ‘67.
Restoring the functionality and sleek look of the dual exhaust and dual circular design tail lights maintained the integrity of the original look. The ‘68 Charger didn’t use as much chrome as other cars of this time, which saved a bit of effort in the restoration. A gorgeous bronze was painted on the exterior to match the original color and crisp black “Bumble Bee” stripes wrap around the rear deck and quarter panels. A cool black vinyl top mirrored the original. The duo worked hard to make sure that all the smallest parts were as intricately thought out as the more visible ones. For instance, for the front grill, Terry meticulously repaired the tiny grates by hand and took care to repaint it with both black and silver to stay true to the original.
“It took some time, but it was the right way to do it,” explains Terry.
The interior received a reconstruction as well. In order to rebuild the dashboard, Terry built a stand to hold it and got to work. He replaced the wood paneling in the dash and center console. Though they were able to salvage the frame of the seats, new padding and upholstery was required to make them both stylish and comfortable. A black vinyl with steel grey pleats pays homage to the old standard. Even the steering wheel received a bit of extra love.
The deadline to get the car finished was early February so it could be entered into Winterfest of Wheels 2019. There, the beautifully restored ‘68 Charger was awarded one of three People’s Choice Awards. And both owner and restorer couldn’t be happier.
“It took three years this January to get it done; well mostly done,” laughs Jeff.
This model car also holds a special place in movie history. Most car enthusiasts remember the 10-minute chase scene from Bullitt; Steve McQueen’s character in a dark green ‘68 Mustang in a dangerous chase with the hitman in a black ‘68 Dodge Charger R/T.
While it doesn’t seem that Jeff has any plans to defeat evil henchman in it, he does have plans to enjoy the car by putting a few miles on it driving his family around and maybe even entering it in some more car shows. Either way, this sports car is a testament to how a restoration can be done with a little hard work and a lot of attention to detail.