Charger lights spark for collector

·4 min read

Working on his 1973 Dodge Charger SE sparked a passion in Rick Lee for anything automotive.

He inherited the ride from his father, Don, and his collection of rides has slowly but steadily increased at his home in Holland since that time.

Don found and bought the car on eBay in 2004.

The only catch was it was located in California.

Lee said they had just got him a computer, and his dad casually dropped by Lee’s job one day to announce he had purchased the Charger online.

“My wheels starting turning a bit wondering, ‘what did he buy?’” Lee said with a laugh. “He had never been on a computer before ... and all of the sudden he comes to the job site saying he bought a car.”

Don purchased the car unseen after speaking with the seller. It was shipped across the United States to Minot, N.D., where Lee and his dad picked it up to bring it across the Canadian border.

The Dodge was in rough shape when it arrived — the California heat had decimated its vinyl roof and interior, Lee said, and the engine had completely seized.

His father saw a diamond in the rough, though, and was motivated to restore the car to its former glory. Lee said Don’s love for the car was largely driven by the fond memories of a similar vehicle he used to own.

Together, they brought it back to their shop, stripped the Dodge down to its bare bones and got to work bringing it back to life.

Don died in 2007. At the time, the father-son duo had completed about half of the work needed for the car.

“It became my project and I started working on it,” Lee said.

However, continuing his father’s legacy proved challenging because he did not always know where pieces for the vehicle were stored.

“[Don] had sent all of the chrome pieces to Winnipeg to be re-chromed, and it was about a year afterwards that I started working on the car again when I realized I was missing a lot of pieces, and I had no idea where they were,” Lee said with a chuckle. “With a little bit of investigating and phone calling, I tracked [the chrome] down to Winnipeg. I don’t know who was more relieved — me or the guy who re-chromed everything.”

Lee said he can still remember staring at the table in the shop with parts of the vehicle, sorted in separate labelled bags, knowing he had to somehow assemble the pieces of the puzzle.

“I was wondering if I was ever going to get that car back together, but with the internet and the guys in the car club it all came together,” Lee said.

The Dodge has now been fully restored to its original specs; the only modification to the vehicle has been the installation of a Holly Sniper EFI fuel injection system. Lee said the switch was essential as the carburetor in the vehicle was shot and he wanted a system that complemented the rebuilt 400 engine.

The vinyl roof and interior have also been completely rebuilt.

“It was a fun project, so I sort of started a collection. I’ve got a few other vehicles now,” Lee said.

He recently completed work on a 1966 International that was a grain truck in a former life. Lee said it was a barn find that he turned into an old-style ag delivery truck. It was the perfect opportunity, he added, because his farm is home to 7,000 egg-laying hens.

Lee completed all the bodywork on the vehicle and painted the truck himself.

He also recently purchased a 1928 Ford Model A in the fall that he found online in Brandon. The Model A is his winter project, he said, and arrived at his home in relatively good shape; the interior has been restored and the engine is running.

His goal is to keep the classic look of the Ford, including the engine and mechanics of the car.

The Charger, Model A and International join a fleet of rigs at Lee’s farm including a Lincoln stretch limo, two 1947 John Deere tractors and a fire truck.

“It’s just a matter of stripping it down and repainting it and fixing it up a little bit. It’s running in decent shape,” Lee said. “I enjoy it.”

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp

Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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