Home » With A War In His Country This Enthusiast Did What Any Of Us Would Do And Built His Dream Car

With A War In His Country This Enthusiast Did What Any Of Us Would Do And Built His Dream Car

Ukraine Chally Ts
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Daydreaming is common among car enthusiasts. For all that we do with our vehicles, we’re always thinking far ahead. When we get the time, when we get the money, we’ll go ahead and get that dream car and turn it into the ride we’ve always wanted to build. The problem is that if you dream too long, you’ll watch years go by before you ever turn a wrench. Sometimes, it takes extraordinary circumstances to snap you out of it and remind you that life is for living today.

Enter Yevhen. He’s a gearhead through and through, and he’s spent the better part of this year putting together a Dodge Challenger with a slick retro vibe. It’s been more challenging for him than you might expect. He’s been building the car as his country struggles against foreign invaders inside its own borders.

Vidframe Min Top
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“War time is not a good time to buy cars,” Yevhen tells me from his home in Ukraine. “On the other hand, you have to do something not to lose the sense of life.”

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A mechanic by trade, Yevhen runs his own shop. “Besides my family, cars are the sense of my life,” he says. ” I service, maintain, repair and wrap cars. I paint them, I write about them, I build them, I raced them and hold the events, I talk about them with my friends and… I love them.” It was that passion that led him to the Challenger. “When I saw this barge with a manual transmission and a Hemi, I couldn’t resist,” he tells me. “War makes our decisions faster, cause you clearly understand that you may not have another chance to make your dream come true.” It’s a dramatic statement, but not an untrue one. “Daily rocket attacks make you realize that every day can be your last day,” he explains.

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His car didn’t come to him brand new. Instead, the 2016 model was auctioned and sold into Ukraine a while ago. “Odesa is a former ‘JDM Culture’ city that transformed to a Copart/IAAI city without any culture this time, unfortunately,” he explains. Yes, that’s right—big US auction companies do business shipping American cars to the continent on the regular.
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Given the completeness of the transformation, you might be surprised to learn how long he’s had the car. “I bought it 6 months ago,” he says, but he’s still demure on his progress. “It’s hard to do everything here now… missile attacks, air alerts, permanent shutdowns, import was literally stopped for a period of time, lack of money, lack of time, lack of mood…” He notes the build is unfinished, though my experience says he’s a quick worker. In the days since I first made contact, he’d already made further upgrades to the vehicle including a new rear wing.
Fundamentally, building a car in Ukraine isn’t like building one in California. “Each part ordered from US is shipped within a month, but sometimes it takes twice as long,” he says.
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Drive around the US, and you’ll see tacky modern muscle cars everywhere you go. Anyone can go to Autozone and buy a bunch of fake chrome trim and badges and ruin a modern Challenger, Camaro, or Mustang. But somehow, Yevhen managed to make his retro tribute work, and work well. You might expect that he’d spent years working on American muscle, growing familiar with the aesthetic and values. And yet!

“I’ve never seen any American classic in person,” he says. “But being a journalist also with a couple of my own historical blogs and groups, I know something about cars.” He paid fine attention to detail on his build, which helped him achieve a factory-like appearance. “I try to represent as many features of a 1971 R/T on my modern boat, while avoiding breaking the borders of common sense,” he explains. If a badge or a detail wasn’t on the real thing, he won’t slap it on his car. “My car should become a tribute to the OG Challenger, and [become] kind of a blast from the past for me personally,” he says.

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Perhaps the classiest mod is in the interior. Yevhen had a gorgeous woodgrain finish applied to all the dash pieces. It’s a beautiful throwback to the 1970s, the era of veneer. He achieved this by having the parts hydrodipped. It’s a process where the plastic pieces are lowered into a liquid bath with woodgrain-patterned pigment floating on top. In this case, the dark woodgrain effect pairs perfectly with the rest of the black interior. It’s custom, and it looks good, which is more than we can say of most modified interiors we see.

Externally, he’s given the Challenger a set of American Racing VN501 wheels, wrapped in Petlas Explero rubber. For the proper vintage look, he shaved the sidewalls and threw on ’71-style tire lettering which looks the business. A set of Eibach Pro-Kit lowering springs helps set the stance. Exhaust-wise, he switched the factory X-pipe for an H-pipe setup, threw on Flowmaster mufflers, and deleted the resonators for a throatier tone. There’s also a lovely Hellcat-style air catcher up front for a properly mean look.

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The rest of it comes down to decals, badging, and detail pieces. It might sound trivial, but getting all this right is why the car looks so well put together. He’s got the ’71 style emblems in the appropriate spots on the body, a chrome fuel door, and Pentastar badges on the fenders. He’s also got amber fog light covers that he modified from Harley Davidson turn signals, headlight bezels, and a high-quality R/T vinyl on the side of the body. Other nice touches include the hood pins, the imitation vinyl top, and the Go-Wing on the rear trunk lid.

Throw a couple of these pieces on wrong, and it’d look like a mess. It doesn’t take much chrome trim or vinyl to turn a stock car into a laughing stock. But Yevhen did the job right, and the results speak for themselves.

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His story is perhaps a lesson for any car fan that is feeling disconnected from their passion. Obviously, feeding and clothing yourself comes first in life, as does shelter and all the rest. Nevertheless, sometimes you have go after something if it’s important to you. None of us know how much time we have left, and we most often regret the things we didn’t do.

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Yevhen saw his opportunity and went for it. He’s built himself an American beast on his own terms. The car is a credit to him and his craft, and it stands as a shining example for us all.

Bottom line? Don’t wait to start living. Get after it now.

Image credits: Yevhen Kovalchuk

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PlatinumZJ
PlatinumZJ
1 month ago

Whoa…the care that has gone into this build would be impressive anywhere, but knowing the circumstances makes it especially awesome. I really love the wood veneer effect on the interior trim! Outstanding work, Yevhen!

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  PlatinumZJ

Thanks a lot!

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago

I service, maintain, repair and wrap cars. I paint them, I write about them, I build them, 

I think y’all know what to do here…

Thatmiataguy
Thatmiataguy
1 month ago

Wow, was not expecting that this morning.

Having grown up in Ukraine and seeing what the war has done, I find this absolutely incredible. He’s done so much in the midst of such difficult circumstances. Heck, this build would have been difficult to pull off pre-2014.

Yevhen, congratulations on making this happen. Stay safe brother.

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  Thatmiataguy

There’s nothing major actually, except some hard mindbreaking and a bit of elbow grease. But thank you for your appreciation!

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  Thatmiataguy

Thank you for your support! It matters.

bmw325_num99
bmw325_num99
1 month ago

You did a VERY good job on this car. Well done!

BOSdriver
BOSdriver
1 month ago

For what he was going after, job well done. Honestly, if he takes it much further it would ruin it. The original muscle cars were simple, this looks like a lightly modified muscle car, job well done for his intended purpose.

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  BOSdriver

I find 71 model a bit overdone in comparison to sleek 70, if you ask me. But I’ve chosen this route and will follow it. So, not much further, but a couple of exterior mods are to be done.

Mike B
Mike B
1 month ago

This looks fantastic! Very well done, I like the thoughtful touches and the woodgrain looks way better than I’d have thought.

I hope the owner remains safe and un-conscripted.

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike B

Thank you! Everything comes to an end sooner or later.

Mike B
Mike B
1 month ago

Great to see you here, stay safe brother!

Mike TowpathTraveler
Mike TowpathTraveler
1 month ago

Never underestimate the passion of a true car nut. Yevhen has created the retro Challenger that Stellantis missed with it’s last call series; just your ordinary vinyl-topped RT Challenger with all of the correct details, like it’s 1970 all over again. And to accomplish all of this while that awful war rages in his homeland? Never underestimate the heart inside a Ukrainian.

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago

Only those who are on a battlefield now, are worth all honor and gratitude. I just try to keep my heart beating and get the most from the moment.

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
1 month ago

A kick-ass, well-executed, retro-Challenger build done in a warzone? Now there’s an unexpected dose of motivation this morning!

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago

If one told me 3 years ago that I would get this car in this very shape, I’d laugh with sadness. If one told me that after massive russian invasion, I’ll tell him he was crazy. But a bunch of unexpected events have occured, and finally it is what it is, not matter if it’s right or wrong. I’m happy with appreciation, it mentally helps to keep up.

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
1 month ago

That’s great to hear you’re maintaining a healthy mental state! I have no frame of reference to the reality of the hell you’re having to go through over there, but keep doing what you’re doing – from this vantagepoint it seems to be working remarkably well.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
1 month ago

This looks absolutely amazing. The attention to detail makes this one of the best retro builds I’ve seen.

JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
1 month ago

“The Challenger, with its coupe body style and 354 cubic-inch V8”
The numbers are transposed, it’s a 345 as shown in an image of the emblem on the hood.

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago

Had a 70’s Challenger and he has completely captured the vibe. Kudos to him! Ukrainians are as a group a hard working, creative people who have had to live through centuries of adversity and opression. I have had the pleasure of growing up with, working with and helping to settle those fleeing the war.

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  James Carson

Oh, it really motivates!

Cameron Showers
Cameron Showers
1 month ago

Now this is a retro throwback I’d actually buy, because it’s so easy to mess this kind of build up but it’s so meticulously thought out but not over the top

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago

There was some stuff that I tried in the process and finally got rid of. Not to make it overdone, while it still looks so in someone’s eye.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago

This guy is magic. That car is really excellent looking, and probably the best recreation I have ever seen. Just a fantastic rendering done here. (wouldn’t change a thing)

I hope he and his family are able to stay safe. War sucks. But am actually amazed that the country has been this resilient against the Russian turds. Fuck off Putin…

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Thank you for your appreciation! It matters much!

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago

Stay safe my friend! God bless.

James Colangelo
James Colangelo
1 month ago

This car looks incredible. The details are perfect. I normally don’t go for this type of car but man this is cool. The vinyl roof is SO COOL!! Well done. The wood trim on the interior is a fantastic touch, and I think if Stellantis were to build a “retro” package for this car, this is exactly what the factory would have turned out.

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago

Stellantis does what people want. They need money, while carpeople mostly die for carbon fiber nowadays.

World24
World24
1 month ago

I never understood the 5.7’s with 6 speeds. It was by far the hardest stick I’ve ever had to try and drive…..
But anyways, that’s definitely badass!

Kurt Kimmerly
Kurt Kimmerly
1 month ago
Reply to  World24

I test drove one and thought it was pretty good from a clutch/shifter/driver ergonomics perspective, but alas- despite a platform lineage dating back to a Mercedes sedan and a 116-inch (caprice/model S tesla sized) wheelbase, the rear seat is essentially unusable.

Unusable rear seat is a non-starter with 3 elementary age kids in the house.

World24
World24
1 month ago
Reply to  Kurt Kimmerly

First time I got into one, after already have driven plenty of stick shift 4-cylinder cars and Wranglers, I stalled a customer’s R/T 3 times in front of them. He wasn’t even mad, thankfully.
Tried another one and still couldn’t move it, so I’m very anti-stick shift 5.7 Challenger.

Joe L
Joe L
1 month ago
Reply to  World24

The twin plate clutch, shared with the Viper, takes some getting used to. It’s still my only manual I occasionally stall. But the shifter is fine and there’s an aftermarket solution that replaces the shifter and linkages and transforms the shift feel.

World24
World24
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe L

I doubt I’ll be given another chance to drive an R/T again, but I’m sure the 392 and Hellcat are far easier to drive as a stick because they make more torque down low. I have no qualms about how the TR6060 drives.

Last edited 1 month ago by World24
Joe L
Joe L
1 month ago
Reply to  World24

Yeah, peak torque is good but it is just a touch low right off idle. The only time I stall it is backing out of a tight parking space, when I really don’t want to give it much throttle.

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  World24

The shifts are really tricky. And the 3.92 rear end on manual Challenger makes gears feel very short. And they are. This is my first car I always hit redline while taking off. But when you get use to it, it gives fun. All my previous V8s paired with auto, and I promised myself not to buy another 2 pedal again. HEMI with Tremec is a pure fun, and it has stock LSD, that’s also a mighty argument. Just needs a short shifter and a pistol grip to complete the scenery.

The Clutch Rider
The Clutch Rider
1 month ago
Reply to  World24

not enough torque?

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago

410 lbft (555 Nm) is quite enough for daily traffic jams I stay in.

World24
World24
1 month ago

At 4,400rpm. Not at or just off idle.

Last edited 1 month ago by World24
Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  World24

Well, but it is not zero from the start )))

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago

I can relate to this all too well, without the massive downside of living in a war-torn place… At least he finished his.

Steve Balistreri
Steve Balistreri
1 month ago

That wood hydrodip really classed up the interior. As the article says there is a fine line when you do retro style on a modern car and he nailed it.

Joe L
Joe L
1 month ago

I’m definitely going to find a place to plastidip my trim. This looks fantastic.

DadBod
DadBod
1 month ago

Awesome story. I love this site.
This guy has a gift for language, “old Jag with all of its wood fragrance and leather softness”, “roaring cheapy iron bucket”, I’d read his stuff

Also those tires look fuckin’ killer

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  DadBod

Thanks! ????

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 month ago
Reply to  DadBod

Especially on those rims. Perfect.

I would also read his stuff. How about it Hardigree? We’d like some Yevhen content please!

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

I can try to translate my historical graphomaniac masterpieces that I write in Ukrainian, but it might be a hard of a task due a pile of raw sarcasm.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 month ago

Sarcasm will make the translation more difficult, to be sure. But so worth it!

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

BTW my blog is about “geek automotive minutiae” and called AutoPSY. Seems like jesus throws me a spare 10mm socket.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
1 month ago
Reply to  DadBod

“leather softness”
Yeah, just like the Autopian Rich Corinthian Leather membership plan!
“Ricardo Montalbán described a car interior that featured thickly-cushioned, luxury seats upholstered in grades of fine, soft, or rich Corinthian leather”

Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
1 month ago

Since no question is dumb…

How exactly do you “shave” the sidewalls, and is there any benefit to it? So, basically, how and why?
Thx 🙂

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago

Just shave it with grinder gently and they did in 50s )))

Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
1 month ago

I get it now, ha. Friggin’ awesome cars, btw, Nice work!

LOGGATO
LOGGATO
1 month ago

I believe it means you “shave” down all the lettering so that it’s smooth. then he applied his own lettering.

Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
1 month ago
Reply to  LOGGATO

Hmm, I guess I was overthinking it a bit, lol. Still, that doesn’t mess with the structural integrity of the tire?

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 month ago

I don’t think the raised letters are structural. Maybe it depends on the font.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rad Barchetta
IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
1 month ago

It’s when you remove those little rubber hairs that new tires come with, so your tires no longer look like they forgot to set their alarm and had to rush to work unshaven.

There are no stupid questions. Stupid answers on the other hand…

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago

Carefully with razor blades or exacto knife.

BenCars
BenCars
1 month ago

More power to him. Life is short. Do what you enjoy.

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  BenCars

Thank you!

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
1 month ago

This thing is absolutely gorgeous

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago

It will be much better if it stays. And all of us…

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
1 month ago

Seeing those tires makes me realize Goodyear needs to make a street legal competitor to tires like the BFGoodrich Radial T/A, Cooper Cobra Radial GT, and other tires that commonly find their way on old muscle.

They’ve got their Billboards, which are cool as fuck, but unfortunately aren’t street legal. Give me that vintage Billboard look in sizes commonly run on old muscle, street legal, with a tiny bit more performance that what is offered out there by the competition.

Kurt Kimmerly
Kurt Kimmerly
1 month ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

I have the Coopers on my car and they’re junk. About 50% of them come out of the plant egg-shaped; tire dealers are indifferent about it because they’ve been dealing with it for so long.

It is reeaally hard to find GOOD 14″ or 15″ tires anymore.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
1 month ago
Reply to  Kurt Kimmerly

My brother went with Coopers on his C10 and has been pretty happy. I’m also considering Mastercraft Avenger (basically the same as the Coopers), Galaxy Radial GT, Hercules HP 4000, and a few others. They all seem about the same with no real difference.

You’d think Hoosier or someone would be expanding their 15″ offerings… I realize I want a weird size even within the 15″ range, but going to a more traditional size doesn’t exactly open many doors.

Goose
Goose
1 month ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

Spend big bucks, get the Avon CR6ZZ, but it’s probably not great to drive on the street. The only other real “performance” tire available in muscle car sizes end up being DOT drag tires, non-DOT tires, or “DOT” tires in name only but you’d probably be dumb to drive on the street.

MrLM002
MrLM002
1 month ago

I appreciate the woodgrain

Harvey Firebirdman
Harvey Firebirdman
1 month ago
Reply to  MrLM002

Would you say it is insane in the woodgrain? *Chuckles* I will see myself out with my punny pun, wait I am at work I cannot leave yet damn

Last edited 1 month ago by Harvey Firebirdman
Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago

I’m working on my steering wheel to match.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 month ago

Yevhen is clearly one of us. Send this man a complimentary membership.

Edit: In fact, if you do, I’ll upgrade mine to help offset the cost.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rad Barchetta
Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Thank you!

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago

That relatively short shifter looks great recessed in the wood grain console. I especially like the lack of a tower of rubber or leather rising from it

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

It needs a pistol grip badly, will get it in couple days. But I didn’t want to postpone the article due to shifter delay.

Harvey Firebirdman
Harvey Firebirdman
1 month ago

I think this looks tastefully done and I like it. Surprised Chrysler never did anything like this with the challenger. I am a fan of wood styling sucks cars have either gone away from it or have gone with faux wood that doesn’t even look like wood anymore.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 month ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

Your bitterness is appreciated and agreed with.

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

They just make marketing bs of iconic names. Just like Scat Pack that I’ve recently written about. But hopefully Mopar doesn’t torture its own heritage as others do.

As for special editions, they never did one with proper details, but still the bone stock base car (either prefacelift or the latest) is as close to its predecessor as it can be in our touchscreened and LED out world.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
1 month ago

I typically hate vinyl tops, but I think it looks great here too.

This is a fantastic execution. My only minor quibble is the wing; I don’t like it. But that’s just my personal taste.

Harvey Firebirdman
Harvey Firebirdman
1 month ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

Yeah I think if he would have went with a duck tail It would have looked a bit cleaner but the spoiler he has on there is correct looking if he is going for the 70s styling so I don’t mind it but I like duck tails more (actually have a ducktail on my 89 bird since the stock spoiler fell apart from dry rot). Also yeah I normally dislike vinyl tops but for some reason those late 60s and early 70s muscle cars with black vinyl tops I have always liked not your grandma’s 80s/90s buick/caddy with a vinyl haha

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 month ago

Well said. I agree with all of this.

Yevhen Kovalchuk
Yevhen Kovalchuk
1 month ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

The wing by Shinoda belongs here as an ivonic feature of 70s musclecars and ponycars, and 1971 R/T in particular. While ducktail is a feature of 1970 T/A and 72up. I’m precise about details and want it to be period correct (if it can be said about modern tribute I’m building)

World24
World24
1 month ago

I mean, outside of the Longhorn’s, Chrysler will always do faux wood… and they did do a modern Challenger with it: the 2023 Swinger. It’s pretty cool, imo.

Harvey Firebirdman
Harvey Firebirdman
1 month ago
Reply to  World24

Oh I understand most is faux wood as my 92 Cummins has the faux wood but they at least tried and make it look like a real wood pattern. Seem most cars like my fiances Tourx that has the faux wood trim it just looks like plastic with a vague wood pattern look and it is way to glossy.

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