Classic Car Restoration Feature: A ’69 Daytona rises out of the rust


Sam Ballard’s 1969 Dodge Daytona as it looked emerging from more than three decades of hibernation in November 2011. Photos courtesy Sam Ballard and Holgar Kurschner, unless otherwise noted.

Sam Ballard held onto this scruffy 1969 Dodge Daytona for more than 30 years before he could see his way clear to restoring it, but never gave up hope that the winged warrior would soar again.

Sam and Restorer Holgar Kurschner performed a monumental amount of metal work to the car, replacing virtually every panel. The Daytona body was then chemical stripped and sent to an E-coat facility for full-body electrophoretic painting.

Four coats of base and three coats of clear were applied to match the Daytona’s original Bright Green Metallic paint. The car rolls on reproduction 15-inch wheels shod with Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R radial tires.

Sam bought the car from a friend in the 1980s for the equivalent of about $3,500 in cash and car parts. He started working on it but quickly realized that it was way more of a project than he was capable of tackling alone.

The replacement 440 engine that powers the car gets a break in on the test stand before it was painted.

In the engine compartment, the 440 shines under a few coats of custom-blended acrylic enamel.

The Daytona — a complete, almost entirely original car (the block appears to have been replaced with a service part) — then sat wherever Sam could stash it until he built a house in the 1990s, after which the car went into his garage. Later, through mutual friends, the late Brett and Penny Riethmiller, Sam was introduced to Holgar Kurschner of Supercar Restorations in Wellsville, New York.

In the studio for its closeup, the Daytona’s restoration looked fresh though it was finished in 2014 and Sam has driven the car 10,000-11,000 miles. He’s also run mid 13s with it on the track. Photo by Dino Petrocelli.

Sam Ballard, the car’s owner (left), and restorer Holgar Kurschner took a break from cleaning the car to let Dino Petrocelli take their photo.

A few years after they met, Sam and Holgar struck a deal to restore the Daytona, and the project kicked off in November 2011. A key part of the arrangement was that Sam would work on the car as well, to help offset the cost of labor.  Both Sam and Holgar have day jobs — Sam for the New York State Department of Transportation, Holgar for Allegany County — but they made remarkably good progress in their off hours, stripping the Daytona to the bones then rebuilding it with replacement sheetmetal. Because the Daytona’s 440 and Torqueflite were original to the car both were set aside for posterity because Sam had no intention of leaving the Dodge parked for another 30 years once it was finished. A replacement engine and transmission were built and installed, though the factory Dana 60 axle remains — albeit with more road-friendly 3.54:1 gears in place of the original 4.10s.

The interior sports new upholstery and a refurbished original instrument panel. Aftermarket gauges were mounted under the dash for an added measure of confidence. Photo by Dino Petrocelli.

Photo by Dino Petrocelli.

Since the car was completed in June 2014, Sam has drag raced it and driven it more than 10,000 miles. When we first laid eyes on the Daytona it was parked among the field at Hemmings Muscle Machines Musclepalooza XXV at Lebanon Valley Dragway in New Lebanon, New York. Editor-in-Chief Terry McGean arranged recently to roll the Daytona into the studio at Dino Petrocelli Photography in Latham, New York. Dino spent most of the day shooting the car for the June issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines, where it will be featured as a Restoration Profile running in two installments.

Photo courtesy Sam Ballard and Dino Petrocelli.

For the full story, check out the June and July editions of Muscle Machines, which go on sale April 24 and May 29.

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