As improbable as it seems, one man—nearly by himself—is transforming a wrecked 2006 Dodge Charger SRT8 into a 1969 Dodge Daytona clone in his home garage. Typically, mixing and matching such dissimilar vehicle platforms results in a hideously proportioned vehicle that shares little of the original car’s beauty or the newer car’s functionality. This example, however, is drop-dead gorgeous, and it isn’t even finished yet.
If there is one guy who is uniquely qualified to pull off such a stunt, it’s Steve Mirabelli. A Mopar fanatic since he was a kid, Mirabelli has been one of NASCAR’s top Cup car fabricators for the past couple of decades. His work for Hendrick Motorsports as a car builder has given him the engineering knowledge, fabrication skills, and patience (hello, Talladega?) to conceive and follow through with such a project.
When finished, the Daytona clone—a near dead ringer for the original street-going version of the high-speed winged warrior—will retain all of the ’06 SRT8’s powertrain, suspension, electronics, suspension, brakes, instrument panel, and much of the interior. On the outside, all the original ’69 Daytona’s lines are preserved, thanks to a 1968 Dodge Charger donor car that gave its skin to the cause. Mirabelli has been very careful to retain all the late-model’s safety and emissions equipment, and the car will be registered and titled as a 2006 model. We want to be a fly on the wall when he walks up to that DMV counter!
We’re over-simplifying things here, but to reach his goal, Mirabelli basically removed all the sheetmetal from the 2006 SRT8, right down to gray metal. The ’68 Charger body was then braced internally and externally to preserve its shape, its floor and stiffening structure was cut away, then it was placed on top of the waiting LX platform. That’s when about a million problems cropped up that would’ve stopped lesser car guys in their tracks! To see some of the crazy fabrication Steve had to do to get this far, click here.
The overall look of the car is stunning, and Mirabelli has kept us up to date with his progress over the past couple of months. In recent weeks, Steve has begun painting the door jambs, trunk lid, hood, and other small body parts, then moved on to the final color coat and clearcoat. In that time, he’s worked out many of the small refinements that will set this car off from others, such as the fender-top air duct grille close-outs. In the attached photo gallery, you’ll see how Mirabelli used a scrap late-model grille piece to make a rubber mold, then used DIY resin formula and a custom-formed mold to cast what appears to be an all-new OE-style injection-molded grille for the air scoop. It’s a brilliant example of home-brewed ingenuity that anybody can duplicate.
Speaking of the many small engineering refinements in Mirabelli’s Daytona clone, you may also want to refer to this large photo gallery of fabrication details leading up to the final body prep work and paint application. Of particular note is the video showing Mirabelli driving the half-finished car around the yard to make sure all engine, trans, and electronic components work. Those photos were posted back in February, and as you can see in our newest group of images, Steve has progressed a long way.
Mirabelli does have a few remaining obstacles to climb before coming into the home stretch with his Daytona. He still has to do the final wet sanding and buffing, then there’s putting all the pieces back on, like the wing, nose, doors, and rearview mirrors. He doesn’t know what problems he’ll encounter during reassembly, and then there is that pile of mangled Sprint Cup cars wrecked in Talladega that he has to fix in time for Daytona. With any luck, we hope Dale Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Kasey Kahne can keep their Chevys in one piece long enough for Steve to finish what we care about most!