Challenger SRT® Hellcat Redeye Owner Brings Home Dad’s 1970 Dodge Challenger

Many muscle car lovers were raised by parents who were also muscle car lovers and in those households, there was usually a specific car that played a key role in the development of that passion. Unfortunately, in most cases, that special muscle car is sold and never seen again, although we have all seen the posts online where someone is searching for a car that their parents had owned decades earlier. Sadly, many of those searches for muscle cars sold 20+ years ago lead nowhere and many gearheads are left wondering what happened to the car that led to their love of the automotive world.

For Stephanie Winisko, that car was her dad’s 1970 Dodge Challenger. She was around 9 years old when he bought the car and she spent 7 years watching her dad race it, in addition to using it as a daily driver. That 1970 Challenger led to her interest in drag racing and in the modern Dodge Challenger, leading her to own several over the years – first an R/T, then an SRT® Hellcat and now an SRT Hellcat Redeye in which she has run a best elapsed time of 10.38 at 131 miles per hour. The 1970 Challenger was sold in 2006 to someone who lived a few miles from her mom’s house after Stephanie had moved out of the area, and once the car was sold, she didn’t expect to see it again. Today, her dad’s 1970 Challenger lives in the garage right next to her 2020 Challenger, and while the classic looks a bit different than when her dad owned it, it is still powered by the same 440+6 engine that he used for racing more than 20 years ago.

Stephanie explained that her dad bought the 1970 Dodge Challenger in 1988 with the plans of building a racecar for Stephanie’s mother. However, shortly after her dad finished the build, her parents were divorced and her dad came out of the divorce proceedings with the car.

It was originally powered by a slant six with a three-speed on the floor, but her dad found a Challenger in a local junkyard with a 440 big block and a 727 automatic transmission. He would later build a stronger 440 with a “six pack” intake and carb setup, and at Beaver Springs Dragway, he ran in the high 12s in the quarter-mile with an 8¾ rear differential and 3.55 gears. That same drivetrain is in the car today.

However, it was not just a racecar, as Stephanie explains that he would take her to school in this classic Challenger, in addition to running normal errands like grocery shopping. She also points out that the car was used to haul parts for his job as a mechanic, including at least one situation where he picked up a transmission for another car and hauled it to the shop in the trunk.

Her dad was a Mopar® guy, and in addition to the Dodge Challenger, she also recalls two 1970 Plymouth Road Runners and a 1971 ’Cuda in the past. She also points out that the car was not as nice as it is today when her dad was racing it.

“My dad wasn’t about making it pretty on the outside, it was more about making it go fast,” said Stephanie. “The first paint job back in 1989 was actually done in my parent’s driveway. From this experience at 8 years old, I had already learned what bondo was and how much I hated wet sanding a car by hand.”

As mentioned above, Stephanie’s dad raced and drove this 1970 Dodge Challenger from the late 1980s through 2006, when it was sold so that he could use the proceeds to open up his own shop.

“After purchasing the car in 2006 from my dad, the car sat in the previous owner’s garage until 2015. He repainted it, replaced the carpet, recovered the seats, and added the spoiler and stripes. Mechanically, the car is almost identical to when my dad owned it.”

Where Stephanie’s story varies from most – where someone ends up owning a parent’s old muscle car – is in how she came to own it. She wasn’t actively hunting for the car when the opportunity to purchase it came about.

“I knew where the car went to when it was sold – it was a few miles from my mom’s house. Every time I went to visit her, I’d look at that house and see if I could see it outside but never did. My mom sadly passed away a few years ago but I still would go up and check on her house. One day, we went up and Jon, my husband, saw the people were home and their garage door was open. I didn’t want to stop and bother them, but thankfully Jon persisted.

“He went in and asked if someone there bought my dad’s car and Jim said he did. Jon then asked if they still had it and much to our surprise he said they still did. At this point. I was hiding in my car because my anxiety is through the roof that we just stopped here! Jon comes out to get me and we head to a garage out back and Jim opens the door and bam – there it is! Looking better than ever. I was obviously speechless because I didn’t know if the car would still be there or if it was in a scrap pile somewhere, yet here it was in front of me in better condition than I had ever seen it in before.

“Somehow within 20 minutes of talking to Jim, I blurted out asking would he ever sell it and amazingly he said yes! It seemed like we met at the perfect time because Jim and his wife wanted to retire soon and selling this car would help with that endeavor.”

Since buying her dad’s old 1970 Dodge Challenger, she and Jon have taken the classic and her Redeye to various car shows where they displayed the two together. Of course, I had to ask if she planned to race her dad’s Challenger, seeing as how he built it to race.

“No not yet – it’s been sitting for several years and for the most part, the car is going to be relegated to cruise night/car shows. We wanted to take it easy on it and get more driving miles in before it goes to the track,” said Stephanie. “We definitely have plans to take it to Beaver Springs where my dad raced it back in the day. I have very few pics of the car from back then, but one of them is the car in the burnout box at Beaver Springs. I’d love to recreate that pic as well as a pic of the ’70 and the Redeye at the line together.

“We are also looking forward to taking it to South Mountain Raceway near our home for some passes. We are so lucky to have such awesome tracks near us with amazing owners like Mike McCracken at Beaver Springs and Mike Natoli who owns South Mountain (both of them are some of the nicest, hardworking, down to earth people you could ever meet). Their staff is beyond great as well.”

Stephanie wanted to finish with a special thanks to the family who sold her the car, along with providing a humorous bit of information about her life.

“I would also like to thank Jim and Lynn Fohringer for taking such great care of the car after buying it from my dad as well as providing us the opportunity of being able to buy it and bring it back into the family. It obviously doesn’t bring my parents back, but it definitely brings back great memories every time I hear that engine come to life! That’s still my dad’s same motor and the same shifter my mom picked out. It’s the little things like that that bring a smile to my face. Also want to thank my husband, Jon, for helping me through this whole process. If it wasn’t for him stopping and asking about the car that day, none of this would have ever happened.

“Random fun fact: I actually met my husband for the first time while drag racing at Beaver Springs in 2008. It was definitely his 2005 SXT Neon (that we still own) that did it for me. Haha! So I have Dodge/Mopar to thank for a husband, great childhood memories and all the cool rides I’ve owned as an adult!”

1 Comment


Excellent! Wonderful story of family love, history and appreciation. Same with my folks - starting with a '68 Plymouth Fury III. We’re still deep in Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep cars/SUVs. Enjoy those Challengers!