The Hemi Conversion

If you're reading this, then you might be a purist who will look at this conversion and think: "Why?" and I can definitely understand that. She was a 100% #'s matching, show condition vehicle prior to this conversion, so why would anyone do this to a vehicle like that? Speed. I have and will always, build my cars for me. I have never cared about resale value or what others think and besides, this has actually increased the value, the insurance company agrees! 

Having had her in stock form for over 8 years and after driving "The Batram"  (V10 505ci 500hp Viper machine), opening up the 440ci just didn't do it for me anymore. While it was fun to drive her like that, it was missing that power on tap that The Batram gave me. I always had a massive grin while driving the Batram and upon parking it in the garage from the rush of the power and the aggressive nature... that's what I wanted from Lucy, again.

I must admit, when I started to undo the first few bolts in the engine bay, I did think to myself; "such a shame doing this to such an immaculate engine bay" but I knew the outcome would be well worth it. The 440s 375hp, heavy big block RB weight, "crammed" looking A/C engine bay and boring cam got to me. It was nice and fun while it lasted but not fast enough for me and it was time to spice her up!! 

I have the #'s matching 440ci in my climate controlled workshop and would NEVER sell it (or trans). Not for me or for anyone else's sake but for LUCY's sake; that's her soul. I've seen it before where one of the previous owners of a #'s matching car sells the #'s block for bugger all, not knowing what he's doing to the poor car and regretting it later on. Once it's gone, it's gone. I sure as hell don't want to be "that guy" hahaha! 

The car will be able to be returned back to stock IF wanted but lets be real here, that will NEVER happen! Going from the 700hp Hemi to the stock 440ci would be like going from a V10 to a bicycle. This conversion finally gave her the Vanishing Point style grunt her exterior image has always had. Looks AND power = win, win!! To be fair to any 440 owners, they can produce HEAPS of power and will haul ass, no doubt about it, just mine was built to be stock with a very mild and lazy cam. For most normal people, 375hp is ample for cruiser. I did contemplate building the 440 up to around 550hp but I didn't want to risk damaging the #'s block plus it'd still be heavy up front. With the 660hp+ Hemi just sitting there, it made perfect sense. 

With 2 'Cuda projects falling through, the 540 Hemi had no home and had always sat in the garage in front of Lucy. Working on The Batram in the garage listening to some AC/DC, having a swig of a beer it hit me.....there was the Hemi, there was Lucy. The juices started flowing and it was almost like Lucy had spoken to me saying: "What else do you want me to do to get you to click you dumb bastard!! Put the Hemi in!". 

With the new found idea, motivation and drive, I did some research and brainstorming to see what was required, what and how I would attack it and what kind of costs would be involved. It wasn't too bad. I had 80%+ of the items. The Hemi was complete and ready from sump to air cleaner, I had the tti headers, Dana 60, stiffening kit, XV 3-Link suspension etc so had all the expensive parts there, just needed to install them. 

This build was based on how I would build my own Vanishing Point vehicle. My own interpretation of a true getaway, highway stomping, blacktop terrorising, machine! Stock looking exterior but hidden power, suspension and other goodies. I have always loved stock appearing Classic Mopars, you can't beat them! Big chrome wheels, two tone paint jobs, fibreglass interior, lots of chrome use, custom this and custom that, like ALL fads, these come and go but factory appearing will ALWAYS be timeless, no matter what year it is. 

I removed most of the engine bay items, then it went to my mate Will's shop with the heavy machinery where he continued to strip and remove the engine. Next it was off to the body and chassis shop to install the 3-link suspension, front inner fender support bars, subframe connectors and weld up all the holes in the engine bay. After this, the 540 Hemi was trial fitted then off to the paint shop to spray the engine bay bright white again.

Sadly... the last stage took several years, 11-12 years to be precise! "Play money" was tight thanks to a shift from Wellington to the Bay of Plenty with a new property and starting a new business from scratch so this put the project on hold. After successfully building my business, determination and hard work, I placed myself in a comfortable position financially to complete this project.

I booked the Challenger into a well known Matamata "shop", which was the worst car shop and experience I have ever had. Extremely poor service, work, rude and just down right appalling all round. I couldn't pull the car out of that shit hole fast enough!! Thankfully, I found a real hot rod shop in Katikati called "Henry's Rodshop" which took me in with welcoming arms. Down to earth real hot rodders with the best shop facilities I have ever seen. They also have an extensive range of various hot rods, bikes, custom cars and builds in progress at any one time. Extremely high quality work too, what a refreshing change from the last shop! 

Henry's got to work and together with my vision and ideas and their builders and workshop, the Hemi Challenger came to life, literally. Such an awesome but long journey! Despite how long it took, the ups and downs, I am proud of myself for the determination and drive to stick at it. Every time I start this beast, trust me... the 11-12 years was fully worth it haha!! If you are sitting on a project, do whatever you can to get it done, even if it's small steps each day or week, progress is progress and life doesn't get longer! 

Anyhow, check the photos below from start to finish of the entire Hemi conversion!

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The crate Hemi eyeing up it's soon to be accommodation.

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The crate Hemi eyeing up it's soon to be accommodation.