1973 Dodge Dart Sport

Restore a Classic Car

Ron always had a passion for cars. It started in his childhood when he would work in the garage alongside his dad in 1964. His dad was a mechanic and he would have Ron help with body and mechanical work on the vehicles that came in. “It was fun,” says Ron, “I liked taping, sanding and doing body work on the cars. I now like it even more because I’m older and have more experience. I can buy my own cars and fix them; I get something out of it now”. He says, “in those years, I was learning about the Mopar cars like Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler; and I loved them. I found they were easy to work on. My dad would work on all models but I always loved the Dodge cars”.

His First Car

When he turned seventeen, Ron asked his dad for a car of his own. It was the 1970s and muscle cars were all the rage. Ron’s friends were starting to get their hands on the latest models of Chevy, Ford, Dodge and Plymouth and he wanted one too. “I remember going to the dealership on a Thursday with my dad.

I had picked out the car I wanted: a 1972 Dodge Demon.

They had one there that was all souped-up with the racing stripes and the scoops on the hood. But my dad didn’t trust me with a Demon. He told me they were too fast. Everybody else, all my friends, had Dusters with a 318 4 gear and I wanted a 340 4 gear and my dad said ‘no way!’. He told me I could only get a Demon if it was automatic”.

So Ron and his Dad went back that Saturday to look at another dealership. They had the Demon he was looking for in an automatic. Ron says “it was very plain jane but it was a 340 so I thought ‘right on'”.  They got the keys to test drive it. Ron drove the car first and thought it was great. Then his dad asked if he could drive it so they switched sides. Ron says, “he got it on the road and floored it. Well, the car went side to side all over the road! He then turned to me and said ‘you are not getting this car!’, so I didn’t get my Demon”. Instead, Ron’s dad cosigned for a Plymouth Duster. His dad thought it would be safer to drive. Ron recalls, “we bought it for $1900 brand new. That was pretty expensive back then. I was making $25 a week and my car payments were about $50 a month”.

Ron's first car, a 1972 Plymouth Duster
Ron’s first car, a 1972 Plymouth Duster

Health Concerns

As he grew older, Ron began his career as a professional roofer. He did commercial roofing for some of the bigger companies in town. He also held onto his passion for cars but found that the long days and travelling didn’t allow him much free time. After 30 years as a roofer, Ron retired eight years ago due to health reasons. He was suffering from severe back pain. He says, “I had to change something or else my back would have been finished. Roofing is a lot of hard work, it’s hard on your body. With the backhoes, shovels, hammers and everything else, it’s tough”.

After leaving work, Ron found himself trying to fill his time. He needed something else to focus on to keep his mind and spirits up. He did some work around the house like cleaning the yard, cutting the grass, plowing snow from driveways and meeting friends for coffee and lunch. But he always had a special place for his cars. That’s when he decided get back into restoration.

Making It Happen

“I bought a blue 1970 Dodge Super Bee, 440 six-pack, 4 gear”, he says. “I restored that when I first bought it. The transmission was gone and the motor was knocking so I had to rebuild the motor,  transmission and rear end on it”. He jokes, “my wife, Monique, didn’t like that because I had to spend more money”.

Next up was Ron’s orange 1973 Dodge Dart Sport. He describes, “I painted the hood on it, installed a new motor, new transmission, added scoops, wings, a new interior and new rugs. I also had to buy new seat covers and new tires. Monique does sewing in her spare time so she really helped with some of the interior work”.

Ron in his garage holding photos of his cars
Ron in his garage holding photos of his cars

As for his latest purchase, Ron didn’t tell Monique this time! Let’s just say she had to warm up to it… He laughs, “I bought a ’72 Demon, finally!” It was the exact same model and build he wanted when he was seventeen. As for restorations, he says, “it is about 50% done. I have a few things left to do on it: fix the interior, change the seat covers, paint it, body work’s almost done, take the motor out to clean it, paint the engine bay, sand the trunk lid and cover all the rust spots. It still has the original baby blue paint with a few scratches on it and a few rust spots”. When he bought the car from someone locally, it only had 31,000 miles on it and four registered owners. He says the previous owner had it for about 16 years and didn’t do any restoration work on it. He also remembers seeing it years ago with the owner prior. He says it had been sitting in a tent in their backyard for 10 years.

1972 Dodge Demon ready for paint
1972 Dodge Demon ready for paint
1972 Dodge Demon
1972 Dodge Demon

Despite the surprise, Monique is now happy that Ron made his purchase. She knows that his hobby keeps him busy and how much he really loves to work on his cars. She says, “he’s now deciding between a white stripe or a black stripe for the Demon”. Ron adds, “It has a white interior so we’re debating on whether to change that too. Monique wanted a black interior and I wanted a white interior”. Monique uses her sewing machine to help with repairs such as fixing seat belts or hemming seams, however they advise it is usually cheaper to buy those parts.

Making It Work

With all this physical work, Ron found he was able to manage his back pain and work in the garage at his own pace. Monique says, “sometimes he has to pause from working on his cars because he’s sore, but then he goes back at it”. Ron agrees. He says, “I don’t take one week to do it. I take three, four, five, or even six months sometimes”.

Ron's garage
Ron’s garage

When thinking about all that he has learned over the years, Ron says that restoring cars has always come naturally to him. He recalls, “I watched my dad, watched other people, watched shows on T.V. It just clicked in me. I would see something and then think to myself, ‘that’s easy to do’. It’s like when you bake a cake with all your ingredients that you have to put in. It amazes me that my wife can do that. I don’t have that kind of talent. So for me, this kind of thing sticks in my brain. Cooking and baking doesn’t stick in my brain”.

Sharing His Passion

In the summer, Ron and Monique spend most of their Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings at cruise nights. These are gatherings of car enthusiasts who enjoy meeting people and showing off their cars. “We meet all kinds of people from all over,” he says, “even from other countries, with the same interests. We show our cars off like ‘this is what I have’ and ‘check out mine’…”. Ron’s friends each have muscle cars of their own including a ’69 GT Dart, ’64 Ford Falcon, ’64 Plymouth Polara, ’69 Plymouth GTX and a ’71 Plymouth Road Runner.

1973 Dodge Dart Sport after restoration (left) and when he first purchased it (right)
1973 Dodge Dart Sport after restoration (left) and when he first purchased it (right)

When not at cruise nights, the couple like to go on drives with their friends. Monique says, “we all take off from home and drive through the small towns. We see all the older people, the farmers, in their yards and they all wave to us. The cars are so bright they’re hard to miss. You’ll see fluorescent green, orange, yellow, red”. Ron adds, “they’re not like today’s car colours which are white, grey and black; nothing that catches your eye. Sometimes we’ll pull over and people will check out the cars and ask what year they are”.

“When we cruise, I like to shut off the radio and listen to the noise of the engine. The rumble. I feel like it’s part of who I am. I really enjoy it”.

Ron's model cars
Ron’s model cars
A collection of mini cars and trucks on Ron's bar
A collection of mini cars and trucks on Ron’s bar

Pedal to the Metal

In addition to showing off his cars, Ron also works to make them functional. He says that some people restore classic cars to just show them off and not necessarily drive them. He believes in restoring his cars to a good condition but also making their engines more powerful. “If I do something to the car,” he says, “I want to see how much faster it can go, so I load it up into the trailer and then we travel to the racetracks. They have radar and timers so they can let me know if I’ve gained some speed or not”.

Ron's 1973 Dodge Dart Sport in a burnout
Ron’s 1973 Dodge Dart Sport in a burnout

Ron’s Advice

Ron’s advice for someone interested in restoring a classic car for the first time is to be sure you know what’s involved in fixing that car. He says that you don’t have to spend a lot of money but that all depends on what kind of car it is and what shape it is in. If you take some time to learn how to do some of the restorations yourself he says that will save you a lot of money. This means he doesn’t recommend starting with a car that is too rotted out and needs a lot of work. Instead he says to start with a car that may only need a few new parts or maybe a little bit of body work to get it going. He says, “sometimes you get cars where you need to change the trunk pans or rear quarters or doors or fenders. That’s restorative work where if the fender is all banged up you have to cut it out. Motors are the same thing. If it’s knocking you have to take the motor out, take it all apart, rebuild it and restore it. The transmission and the rear end, exhaust, shocks, front end work, all that kind of stuff is restoring. It just takes time and money to do it. Sometimes you’ll have friends that can help you but sometimes you don’t and you have to figure it out yourself. Sometimes I even have to send parts away”.

Mopar engine
Mopar engine

Despite the amount of work and expertise required, Ron says, “if you like restoring cars, get into it. You know it’s going to cost money but if you can do it, do it. Some people figure they can do it and then they get the car and realize they can’t, so they have to hire somebody to do it and this costs more. I had a friend who needed some help painting his car. It was already on a rotisserie. But he wanted to do some extra work and didn’t have the time. In the end he brought it somewhere else to get done and it cost him $40,000. But his car is beautiful, they did a really nice job”. Ron says, “for me, I wouldn’t spend that kind of money because I know I can do the work. If I have to take it to somebody else it’s not worth it for to me”.

1973 Dodge Dart Sport wheel
1973 Dodge Dart Sport wheel

From Goals to Achievements

“I use my hobby as a pastime,” says Ron. “When I do a little job and the finished product is there I like that I did it myself”. Monique agrees that Ron has a true attraction to his cars and that it is good for him as a hobby.

“He goes in the garage and finds peace. It’s like he’s in his awe. I’ll go in and check on him every once in a while and he’s so excited to show me something new. He says ‘come see what I did this time'”.

Ron hopes to continue restoring his new Dodge Demon and knows that he will always work on his cars for as long as he can.

Get in Touch

Are you interested in restoring a classic car? Do you know someone who shares the same passion as Ron? Write your feedback in the comments section below.