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Fortunately for this particular car, a father and son duo of avid Mopar fanatics, Ed Skanes and his son Bryan, tracked down the remnants of what they were pretty sure, was one of the original Autodynamics Trans-Am Challengers. The Skane’s had a pretty good idea of what they had discovered; this father and son had a reputation around their home town of Lexington, Kentucky as the unofficial, expert authorities, on anything Mopar. It was not unusual to see a dozen or more Chrysler products on the Skane’s property, all in different stages of restoration.
The elder Mr. Skanes had spent many hours following a people trail, if you will, to locate this particular race car. Knowing these race cars had no identifying serial numbers, this sometimes, exhausting research was a necessary evil. Mr. Skanes lost track of how many phone calls were made chasing leads on the whereabouts of the car, hundreds of letters, and the examination of countless old photographs was also part of the identifying process. In the end, Mr. Skanes’ vast knowledge of these factory-backed race cars would be the determining factor in properly identifying what was described by son Bryan as, “a rusting chunk of metal” when his father finally located, and confirmed it was the car he was searching for.
A large part of the knowledge Mr. Skanes had acquired on these cars, came as a direct result of his restoration of two other vintage Trans-Am cars, the #48 Hot Wheels Barracuda, and the sister car, to this particular car, the #77 Autodynamics Dodge Challenger. This experience with these cars, gave Mr. Skanes a working knowledge of just how these cars were designed and put together, and played a large part in properly identifying the #76 car. The cars were originally developed and constructed in the shop of Dan Gurney’s All American Racers, and a number of small details in the chassis are very unique to all three cars. These details, although not totally revealed for this article, have to do with the positioning and angles of the bars in the cage, and what is referred to as a “very different cross bracing” under the dash area of the car, and these details are as identifying as any serial number could be.
After returning home with the car, Skanes put the car on the side of his shop and covered it with a tarp. “We really weren’t sure just what we were going to do with it.” Bryan Skanes stated. “The car was really rough; Dad and I talked about how maybe we made a mistake with this one.” The car sat for a number of years untouched, and when the elder Mr. Skanes retired after a long career with Tenneco, he found he had more time on his hands than he knew what to do with, so, after a lengthily discussions with his son Bryan, the decision was made to start working on the Challenger.
Mr. Skanes had something special in mind for this project. He didn’t want to just restore the car, he wanted to resurrect the car, return it to its former glory. He wanted more than a car someone could go vintage racing with, he envisioned a prize winning show car, a car capable of winning best of show at any Concours d’Elegance it entered, a car that would properly represent the history, and the era, relevant to the glory days of Trans-Am racing.
Over the years and during the restoration of the Gurney Barracuda, and the #77 challenger, Skanes had amassed enough original parts to complete the build on this latest project. All of these original parts were painstakingly refurbished before being used in the build, however, the original, 45-year-old rubber fuel lines, were all upgraded to modern braided lines, this of course, was done for obvious safety reasons. Everything else on this car is the original parts that were used on this car when it was transferred from the All American Racers shop, to the shops of Autodynamics in 1970. Brakes, bushings, torsion bars, shocks, even the shift knob, all original.