With every barn I get invited to scope out, every garage I’m invited into, every story of “you gotta go check out what this guy has” that I hear, I always pray for a scene like this. You’ve seen the good stuff, the pretty, the clean, the polished and obviously loved. You’ve seen the in-progress projects. You have BS’d for a good minute when your impromptu tour guide stops, gets pensive for a minute, then indicates that there is a hidden stop on this tour and you are privileged enough to get a chance to see it. You leave the comfort of the shop, walk into the woods, into a building that most would consider a write-off, on the verge of collapse. It takes a couple of minutes and at least five attempts to find the right key that unlocks the door, but when it finally opens, with a bit of dust and some leaves blowing out of the way, you see the shape. You see the paint, the likes of which haven’t been seen since who knows when. You see a dream machine, the kind of car you scoured the internet for pictures of, the kind of car you would expect to see on a rotating platform at some big-name auto show. And here it is, tucked away in the woods, with only the odd insect keeping it company on a regular basis.
The story on this car is loose, so bear with me if fact doesn’t line up with research, but the name that lines up with this car is Wes Jerde, who passed on recently. Jerde was a Kansas City builder and machinist who knew his way around an engine. Reportedly, he ran the shop that Dick Harrell had previously been based out of and the Challenger was a Hemi-powered beast good for a low-to-mid 9-second quarter. Then, around 1979, the car was retired, put away and kept out of sight until a couple of months ago, when it was put up for sale.
What’s real and what’s myth? That’s something for a buyer to research and figure out. What we’re concerned with is a snapshot back in time. The paint, the Super Tricks, that funky offset-intake hood scoop…all of that deserves to be brought back to life. Get a Hemi together, get a four-speed in that beast and get it back on a starting line. Money no object? In this case, burn it like old leaves. This Challenger needs to live as a proper representation of what it was back then.
(Thanks to Junkyard Digs for the tip!)