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Dave Dressen of Kanaranzi, Minnesota is a humble man. He runs a small roofing and construction company, lives on a small farm and has a whole bunch of dirty, old cars around his property. “I’m in construction,” he says. “Everything I own is a little dirty and dusty. … Plus, I don’t like to be that showy.”
Unfortunately for Dave, and fortunately for us muscle car nuts, the dirty, old cars that he still drives around command a lot of attention. Anytime a muscle car nut sees a single example of Mopar muscle like a Charger R/T, Road Runner, Barracuda or hopped-up Dart, it’s a memorable day. But at Dan’s place, there’s all of the above and a whole lot more.
But what inspires one person to collect so many cars? Dave just likes Mopars, that’s all. He’s really not that interested in selling any of his prized Mopars, unless it’s to trade for something else in the Mopar realm. Most people are content with one old car hogging up garage space, not to mention routine maintenance. But not Dave, he gives a good home to as many Mopar muscle cars as possible.
When Dave was a youngster, his older brother returned home from Vietnam after a stint in the army with a pocket full of money; he bought a brand new 1969 Dodge Coronet R/T complete with the awesome 440 magnum engine that produced 375 horsepower and 480 tire-melting lb-ft of torque. And life’s never been the same since.
“It was the power,” Dave says about what made him crazy for Mopar muscle cars. “I remember having my head held against the seat when he stomped on the gas. And I love the big blocks. They have a sound all their own.”
Dave never set out to have such a large collection of cars. It just “kind of” happened by accident. The current collection started a little over a decade ago when he was finally able to purchase a very cool 1970 Dodge Charger R/T.
The Charger R/T had been sitting since 1976 in an old quonset hut at a nearby abandoned farm and was somewhat of an area legend; every car nut knew it was there. Since it was in an abandoned, old and dilapidated farm building, whoever wanted could go on in and take a look at a fine example of muscle car history. Although the car was just sitting, the owner wouldn’t sell his Charger and planned someday to fix it up. The Charger’s owner was always turning down requests to sell the car. Dave was only one of many people that wanted to buy the car. But the owner wouldn’t budge.
So how did Dave wind up with the killer Burnt Orange Charger R/T?
“Persistence,” He says. “I would call the guy every year or so and ask him if he wanted to sell it.”
One year, the old quonset’s roof was finally going out. Dave convinced the car’s owner that if the roof wasn’t fixed he might lose not only the building, but also the car parked inside. Luckily, Dave is in the roofing and construction business, so he was able to work out a deal not only to save the old building, but also to take possession of the 1970 Dodge Charger R/T.
Although the Charger had been sitting since ’76, it was still in pretty good shape. Since the car was a common attraction for area muscle car fans, it was surprisingly intact when Dave pulled it out for a restoration. Only the Hurst pistol grip shifter had fallen prey to someone with sticky fingers. The car’s body was still nice. And that was a nice surprise since it sat somewhat neglected for all those years in a quonset with a dirt floor. Only a new paint job and some very minor bodywork were required to bring the Charger’s great looks back.
There was only one problem — lack of a motor. Since the rest of the car was intact, Dave thought it would be great to find the original 440 Magnum. So he asked the old owner what he did with it after it blew up. The old owner remembered selling it to an auto mechanic who worked at a Ford garage in Sibley, Iowa. Dave was able to track the guy down to start what could turn into a long search for a missing motor. But the search for the old motor was short and simple. The old, blown-up 440 was still sitting in the mechanic’s backyard shed still waiting for a rebuild. Dave was able to buy the original motor back with little trouble — talk about good luck. There was only one problem. The shed had a bad roof (once again) and was in a rough, rusty condition.
“When I took the heads into the machine shop, they asked me ‘what lake did you pull these out of’?” says Dave.
But with some work, the original 440 was rebuilt and found its way back into the Charger. Now Dave had his dream car: an original R/T Dodge complete with big block power and a four speed, just like his brother’s car.
For some strange reason, this old Charger R/T has some magical powers. Since Dave gave it new life and a great home, it acted as a magnet for attracting other Mopars. Thanks to the attention the old Charger draws, many people stop and talk to Dave about all things muscle car related whenever he takes it out for a cruise. Often, the topic switches to where other old Mopar muscle cars are that are for sale.
“I don’t go out looking for cars anymore,” says Dave. “They just seem to find me.”
And many Mopars — Road Runners, Chargers, Darts, a Sport Furry, Barracudas and Satellites — have found their way to Dave’s place.
Dave’s Charger even drew its original owners all the way from southeastern Iowa over to have a look at their old car. The older couple took their honeymoon in the Charger many years ago. He says they were surprised to see the old car again. Since Dave is a super nice guy, he gave the old couple a great gift. They had a chance to relive some old memories in the Charger.
“I let them take it out for a cruise,” he says. “After they were gone over a half hour I began to get a little nervous. But they came back. It was a great experience.”
One of Dave’s most eye-catching cars is a 1970 Road Runner. It’s Hemi orange and has the air grabber hood. Like his Charger R/T, Dave was able to bring the car back to a number matching ride with little trouble.
“I saw the car sitting in a farm yard just south of Redwood Falls,” he says. “I left a note on the car with my information.”
Soon the car’s owner was in contact and Dave worked up a deal for the car. Luckily for Dave he had an old Jeep and a tractor the Road Runner’s owner was interested in. The owner was driving it down to Dave’s place when he called saying I needed to bring a car trailer to Windom to pick the Road Runner up — the old motor was toast. Fortunately, the potentially disastrous deal turned out to have silver lining.
“The car’s owner told me that he had the original motor and that he would throw that in since the motor that was in it blew up,” Dave says. “I didn’t even know he had it. So I ended up getting that with the car too.”
After a rebuild on the original 383, the Road Runner had its original power plant back and is now a numbers matching original Mopar.
Lately, Dave has been turning his attention away from the ’68 through ’70 Mopars. He now has a ’62 Dart that is a little funnier looking than the Road Runners, Chargers and Super Bees.
“It looks like a plucked chicken,” he says about the Dart. “My kids think I’m crazy for trading off some of the cool stuff (’68-’70 models) for these ugly older ones. But I like them.”
He has another slightly older example of Mopar history — a 1963 Sport Fury that’s just back from the body shop. The car is not quite put back together but sports a shiny, new black paint job. Dave remarks on how this car has the best body and paint job of any in his collection. But instead of shelling out mega bucks for the bodywork, all it cost him was some of his “trading stock.” A gigantic 1948 Trailways Greyhound bus used to sit in his yard. Now, the bus is in the hands of the body shop that redid the ’63 Sport Fury.
Dave had an uncle who owned the bus out in Grant’s Pass, Oregon. When his uncle passed away he left Dave the old bus. But there was only one problem, how do you get a giant road beast like the 1958 Greyhound back to Minnesota? Easy, you drive it.
“We drove the old bus over the mountains,” says Dave. “We were told ‘don’t shut it off, because it might not start again’. We had to add some oil every few hours but we made it all the way back without shutting it down.”
You might think Dave would want to hold on to the bus since it provided such a memorable experience — the trip across half the US without turning it off. But hey, it’s not a Mopar. Plus, the ’63 Sport Fury takes up a lot less space on an already crowded farmyard.
Dave has high hopes for the ’63 Sport Fury. But even after the trip to the body shop, there’s still a lot of work to do. The car is lined with mountains of stainless steel trim that Dave is piecing back together.
“There’s a clip every eight to nine inches,” he says about putting all the “bling” back on to the Fury.
Even with the new “funny looking” Mopars in his collection, there are still plenty of the standard Mopar muscle car classics. An interesting car in Dave’s collection is a 1970 Barracuda that’s an oddity in the muscle car era — it was equipped with a 225 slant 6-cylinder engine. Since a ’70 Barracuda is supposed to be fast, Dave decided to have some fun with the car while still keeping the original motor. He refers to the little six-cylinder as “half-a-Hemi.” It has had headwork and has big valves, a hot camshaft, a high performance intake and headers and packs quite a wallop for missing a couple of cylinders. The high performance slant six now creates a unique roar when it comes to life.
“I had it built to run with a 350 Chevy,” he says.
And the Mopar craze continues. Dave says he currently has three cars in the body shop and one waiting for a motor. He’s the first one to admit that he’s somewhat obsessed with old Chrysler products.
Luckily, Dave has an understanding spouse in his wife Shelly. On one trip to Mopars in the Park in Shakopee, Minnesota, he promised his wife a nice dinner if he could go look at a 1959 Fury up in Anoka. The trip turned into more than just a look at the Fury. Dean soon found a new car for his collection. Unfortunately, the car lacked exhaust and had a rusted out gas tank, but it still ran.
“The car had a five gallon gas can for the gas tank,” says Dave. “It was leaking exhaust fumes into the car. I was getting loopy from breathing the fumes when I drove it.”
Since the car-buying trip went a little long, it was late before Dave and Shelly got to Northfield, Minnesota, where they planned to stay; Dave’s promise to Shelly of a nice dinner in trade for him going to look at the car were history: all the restaurants were closed. And matters were about to get worse.
“All the hotels were full,” he says. “So we wound up sleeping in our cars and eating cold pizza for dinner.”
In case you’re wondering, Dave’s marriage is still intact and he still has a large collection of old cars. So Shelly must be pretty forgiving. And the addiction, err, I mean hobby, is still growing. With so many old Mopars in his collection, is there anything else that Dave would love to have in his collection?
“I used to think I would want a winged car,” he says referring to an ultra-rare Dodge Daytona or Plymouth Superbird. “But where would I drive it? They’re a little too attention getting for me.”
Dave is adding another must for any serious Mopar fan to his collection. As this article was written, he was just getting ready to pick up a ’68 Charger R/T from a body shop in Sioux City. And to make the ultimate in Mopar Muscle cars, he also has a lead on an original 426 Hemi to put in the car.
“And if I can’t work out a deal on the Hemi, I still have the 440 to fall back on,” he says. And as any big block Mopar fan will tell you, that’s not a bad deal.
Since Dave’s hobby isn’t about showing off, he doesn’t go to too many car shows. He would rather just drive his cool cars around. And if you ever do find him at an area Mopar event, it probably won’t be on the show field.
“My kids love going to the car shows,” he says. “But I’m usually around the swap meet area. I’m always looking for parts.” Persistent, that’s Dave Dressen. TMM