Sam Ballard held onto this scruffy 1969 Dodge Daytona for more than 30 years before he could see his way clear to restoring it, but never gave up hope that the winged warrior would soar again.
Sam bought the car from a friend in the 1980s for the equivalent of about $3,500 in cash and car parts. He started working on it but quickly realized that it was way more of a project than he was capable of tackling alone.
The Daytona — a complete, almost entirely original car (the block appears to have been replaced with a service part) — then sat wherever Sam could stash it until he built a house in the 1990s, after which the car went into his garage. Later, through mutual friends, the late Brett and Penny Riethmiller, Sam was introduced to Holgar Kurschner of Supercar Restorations in Wellsville, New York.
A few years after they met, Sam and Holgar struck a deal to restore the Daytona, and the project kicked off in November 2011. A key part of the arrangement was that Sam would work on the car as well, to help offset the cost of labor. Both Sam and Holgar have day jobs — Sam for the New York State Department of Transportation, Holgar for Allegany County — but they made remarkably good progress in their off hours, stripping the Daytona to the bones then rebuilding it with replacement sheetmetal. Because the Daytona’s 440 and Torqueflite were original to the car both were set aside for posterity because Sam had no intention of leaving the Dodge parked for another 30 years once it was finished. A replacement engine and transmission were built and installed, though the factory Dana 60 axle remains — albeit with more road-friendly 3.54:1 gears in place of the original 4.10s.
Since the car was completed in June 2014, Sam has drag raced it and driven it more than 10,000 miles. When we first laid eyes on the Daytona it was parked among the field at Hemmings Muscle Machines Musclepalooza XXV at Lebanon Valley Dragway in New Lebanon, New York. Editor-in-Chief Terry McGean arranged recently to roll the Daytona into the studio at Dino Petrocelli Photography in Latham, New York. Dino spent most of the day shooting the car for the June issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines, where it will be featured as a Restoration Profile running in two installments.
For the full story, check out the June and July editions of Muscle Machines, which go on sale April 24 and May 29.