Pat Kaniuga’s 1969 Dodge Charger “Dayclona”
Call it a replica, call it a clone or call it crazy.
But after seven years of parts collecting and 18 months of hard work, my 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona clone was finally completed in July of 2005.
The “Dayclona” seemed to be a hit. No one turned up their noses at a “fake” car and many in attendance couldn’t tell the difference.
The roots of this project run deep – probably back to the AFX race set I had as a kid with the classic blue #7 race car Daytona. I’ve always wanted to own a real Daytona but until the lottery comes through it’s a long shot. I was fortunate to acquire an original 53,000 miles B5 blue six-pack Superbird back in 1999. But I wanted an example of its Dodge counterpart. So, I thought, let’s build a clone – a car I can drive, have fun in, and not worry about wrecking a high dollar rare piece of automotive history. And let’s do it on a budget. But, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I owe huge thank-yous to the incredible friends I have who shared my vision and helped make this dream a reality:
Third time’s a charm
Besides the seven years of parts chasing that started with the purchase of two rust free `70 Charger fenders in 1997, it took three cars to finally build this one. No, it wasn’t that big of a piece of junk. Let me explain.
I wanted a rust-free body to build this project. The first version came in the form of a ’70 Plum Crazy 383 Magnum non-R/T Charger. I purchased this all-original rotisserie- restored car from someone who ran out of steam during the restoration and parked it, unassembled, in the corner of his garage for five years. That was in winter 2001.
But it was just too darn nice to convert – a high optioned car and numbers matching. Luckily a friend of mine was only too glad to take it off my hands.
Version two in May 2002– a gorgeous `69 Charger from rural Manitoba, stored for most of the past 20 years. Very original again, and another 383 magnum, non-R/T car – R4 red with a black interior. This time, it was a four-speed with lots of rare options such as rocker mouldings, passenger side mirror, cloth seat inserts and four-speed console.
The perfect car to clone, right? Maybe… until my Mopar buddies started rolling around to check it out and they all insist, “You can’t butcher this thing. They’re only original once.” That one too ended up selling.
And I didn’t want an orange one anyway. With such a high percentage of Daytonas built being either red or orange. I wanted something unique – Q5 Bright Turquoise metallic. Only three originals came in that colour; two of which still exist.
Back to square one.
Long story short: a guy selling a tired 440-4-speed Charger that had been sitting on a trailer on the outskirts of Winnipeg got back to me – months after I originally looked at it. At that time he was asking far too much money for the car which was going to be a General Lee clone one day as evidenced by the painted confederate flag on the faded orange roof.
But because he had to get rid of it. He came down substantially on his initial price, but was still asking too much considering the condition of the car. But, knowing the vehicle needed no metal panel replacement, and came with new legendary seats helped the decision – and I was sure I could sell the rust-free front clip and 15-inch rally wheels to bring down my out of pocket expenses.
By this time I already had the fiberglass pieces needed to build a clone. The parts are from a fiberglass company near Toronto – Show Cars. I stumbled upon their website, and what a bonus that I could buy this stuff in Canada and ship it here via Greyhound bus! (getting parts shipped to Canada from the U.S. costs big dollars to get across the border – thank you UPS!)
The big pieces like the wing, z-brackets and nose cone were very decent reproductions. Some of the smaller pieces were very poor quality and required some re-working such as the fender scoops. The A-pillar mouldings were a joke. – but the total cost of the kit (which covered about 80 per cent of the special parts needed) was half of what it would have been from the U.S.
The finishing touches
The paint and final finishing was handled by my friend Ralph Sommerfeld of Auto Resurrection, including the tricky job of completing the rear-window plug and shortened deck lid.
Keeping the budget in mind, a metal window plug and repo Daytona glass were cost prohibitive. As was used on the “Joe Dirt” car, I found an early 70’s Vega hatchback. The contours are almost identical, and the price was a whopping $40 at a wrecker, plus two Saturday mornings of cutting, shaping and welding with my friend, Charger specialist and fellow Manitoba Mopar Association member Brian Gushuliak.
This slick trick was covered in the May 2001 issue of Mopar Collector’s Guide and a feature on the Joe Dirt Daytona. A call to Patrick McKinney, who built the movie car, yielded more details on how to accomplish the feat and a faxed tracing of the altered trunk hinges. With template in hand, I went out to a wrecker and found a pair of hinges that were similar – from a 1995 Lincoln Town car.
I also found ebay to be a huge resource for parts – the white repo Daytona stripe was picked up for one-third of the cost of a new one. I also found the front turn signals (`69 Valiant of course), and the very rare, very expensive stainless steel A-pillar mouldings – I had to sell some NOS parts on ebay myself to cover those guys.
Assembly took hundreds of hours – as someone who built loads of model cars as a kid, this was very similar, only full size. Lots of cutting, sanding and shaping parts; even building a special jig for a nose cone.
Finally, it was complete and although the car has only been out a few times, I think it should be a hoot to drive.
Since It’s completion I’ve had inquiries from all over North America from people building similar projects. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
-Written and all photographs by Pat Kaniuga. Thanks Pat!!!