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These models of a custom ’73 Challenger are almost as rare as the car

Published in blog.hemmings.com

If you’ve read our story about the one-off 1973 Dodge Challenger presented to the winner of The Colonial, a Charles-Schwab-sponsored PGA Tour event held in Texas, you already know about how the car was miraculously put together in less than four months. It’s quite the feat, but perhaps more improbable is how the car’s eventual owner predicted it would be his. Steve Strope of Pure Vision explains:

“When Schwab announced this car as a prize and released the artwork in mid-April,” Steve recalled, “golf pro Kevin Na’s caddy, Kenny Harms, went on his Instagram saying that Kevin would win the tournament and give him that car.” Many took it to be wishful thinking, and perhaps it was. But Kenny was serious. Steve continued: “At the Schwab Challenge, the Challenger appeared on a pedestal at the 18th hole. As I was getting the car in position on the display a month later, [Kevin] introduced himself to me and told me that he was going to own that car.” And other than registering Kevin’s slightly startling forthrightness about it all, Steve thought nothing more of it.

And then something remarkable happened. In a finish that you wouldn’t have believed if Hollywood had scripted it, Kevin Na won the Charles Schwab Challenge—his third career tournament win; the first thing Kevin did, in front of the world and all of those cameras, was point at the car and tell Kenny, “That’s your car, baby!” The feel-good story went everywhere from expected media outlets (Golf Channel, SportsCenter) to a wider audience (New York Post, The Dallas Morning News). Invariably they referred to the Challenger as “restored,” which strictly speaking isn’t correct — it’s a custom, or a restomod, but it’s nowhere near restored in the back-to-factory sense of the word. (If anything, it’s better than new; check the new issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines for a technical rundown of the alterations made to make this Challenger a proper 21st century GT car.

Strope estimates the build cost roughly a quarter-million dollars in parts and labor. “Little did I know,” Kevin joked (probably) in the post-game media scrum, “how much that car was worth.” Somehow we suspect the $1.314 million in prize money will console him.

The consolation prize

While there was only one winner of the event (and car), every golfer at the event received a 1/64 scale incentive and reminder of just what they were playing for.
“When we were doing the pitch to build this car,” explained real-car builder Steve Strope of Pure Vision, “I invited representatives from both Charles Schwab and Episode Four (Schwab’s marketing team) execs to come to the shop. I wanted them to meet the guys who would be building the car, I had artwork made, and I had a presentation for them. I gave them the pitch–color samples sprayed on a piece of aluminum, leather samples, artwork, all of it.
“Also for the presentation, I took a diecast Dodge Challenger, painted it like I wanted to paint the real Challenger, and put it in a wooden display box–it was a thank-you for considering us.” Now, this played into something that Steve did for a living, back in his salad days before Pure Vision was established in the late 1990s in Southern California: he painted prototype Hot Wheels cars for longtime Mattel freelancer Bruce Schultz, at his off-site facility in the San Fernando Valley. For Steve, drilling apart a Hot Wheels car and repainting it to resemble the car in his pitch was no big deal, and not a million miles apart from what he now did for a living.
1973 Dodge Challnger Restomod Strope Pure Vision Design Schwab Strope Dodge Challenger hood decals Strope Pure vision schwab challenger SEMA 2019 Strope Pure Vision 1973 Challenger Side view SEMA 2019
“At dinner, the Episode Four team asked me what it would cost to make 150 of them.” Gulp. This would be done more or less concurrently with the all-hands-on-deck build of the actual prize–the real ’73 Challenger. “So we had to find 150 Hot Wheels Dodge Challengers, take them apart, prep them, paint them, change the axles for better-looking wheels … the hours to do this alone were unreal. I mean, we’re efficient. [Steve and one of his workers at Pure Vision] used to do it for a living. It’s still psychotic.” Hot Wheels enthusiast/pedants in the group will please note this is considered a Code 3, a nice way of saying a custom piece that has strayed far from its Malaysian factory origins. Some may even notice that it’s not the right year Challenger, and that the hood and spoiler aren’t true to the 1/1-scale build. To which we say: there are no currently commercially available 1/64 scale ’73 Challengers to shop for and customize (the ancient Matchbox version is pretty dire), so a Hot Wheels ’70-1 Challenger with a Shaker would have to do as a starting point. “We even made a special presentation window box for them,” Steve continued. “They were given to the PGA pros; they were waiting for the players on a table when they walked in the door to check in. A few other corporate people got them too. Just total class.”
“And no, there weren’t any extras.”