The Mango Mistress
Words and photos by Dan Rioz
A layer of fine dust encapsulates the dimly lit dwelling, while a faint musk aroma wafts through the air. The visual setting can only be described as a pairing between a hoarder and a small city worth of abandoned construction equipment. Piles of used tooling and materials form mountainous obstacles that lay before the onlooker. A clear path is undefinable upon the first inspection, yet a defined goal for the area has been in the back of Kyle Gutierrez's mind for quite a few years and it recently became a reality.
Amongst the overwhelming piles of construction materials is a tarnished gem, waiting to be polished back to its original state. Buried under piles of refuge laid a dream that never had the chance to be fulfilled. Mark Gutierrez, the father of Kyle, tragically passed away in 2015, far too early, and never had the opportunity to see his vision come to life.
Mark was the owner of a thriving construction company and over the many years of working and running crews, he amassed quite the collection of both tools and materials. During his tenure, he began to build and assemble his ultimate workshop, a two-story outbuilding that not only showcased his skills and talent but also became a home to one of his most prized possessions: a 1970 Challenger.
Last plated in 1989, the Challenger sadly sat upon blocks, dented, rusting, and waiting for the moment work and family life slowed down enough to come back to it. As time passed, the vision before Mark appeared to be further and further out of grasp. The Challenger required plenty of work, and it would take somebody extremely dedicated to a project of this stature to accomplish it.
After Mark's passing, Kyle, while in college, began to envision how he would transform the space his dad built into one that would harness his own dreams, as well as make his dad proud while doing so. The concept and planning of Cannon Street Ceramics became a reality, and now a new type of dust forms a layer on the environment, but only during Ceramic classes!
Kyle made the tough choice to let go of much of what his dad had amassed over the years. A multitude of tools and materials were used in trade with various contractors and professionals to rebuild the space into a vibrant and functioning Ceramic Studio and 2nd story Art Gallery. However, one of the last items to leave was Mark's 1970 Challenger and would be sold to help fund the studio.
I was honored to facilitate the sale between Kyle (Teacher and Ceramic Studio Owner), and the buyer, Kevin Eagle (PDR Aficionado and Resto Builder). I had faith that the transaction would be a smooth one and, alongside Kevin's track record of rebuilding cars, I knew this one would be special. While I was merely a pawn in the sale, it was Kevin who took this project to another level!
On October 28th, 2017, Kevin took ownership of the car and was immediately up and running. Little did I know, as a young man, Kevin had always dreamed of owning a 1970 Challenger T/A in Sublime Green and for this car to fall into his lap...it was kismet. He planned to knock out a quick Resto on this and turn it into the T/A clone he always desired. However, upon extensive research, with the help of Benoit Levigne (founder of the A66 Challenger Registry), careful consideration for the existing fender tag was accounted for and the rarity of the vehicle was revealed. With the information gathered, Mr. Levigne concluded that this car had a very high probability of being one of one, or at the very least, the last one on the road.
The Challenger rolled into Kevin's shop and was taken apart down to every last nut and bolt, while the frame was placed upon a rotisserie. Thanks to the factory undercoating, it was at this moment, the car revealed itself to be a bit of a Cream Puff! The initial areas of concern turned out to be much better than anticipated allowing for the build to progress at a quicker pace, or so we thought.
All surfaces were stripped of their finish, preparing them for their new coatings. However, during the media blasting stage, the hood and rear decklid took some damage and needed to be replaced. Along with that, it was discovered that the engine block would need some extensive repair to maintain the status of the matching numbers. This pushed the build back a touch, but Kevin powered on!
Methodically, Kevin tackled step after step. Ensuring the car's future, he coated the entire inside of the body, along with the frame and underside with POR15, (a sealer/rust inhibitor). He followed that with fresh DuPont/Axalta "Go-Mango" orange, paired with the "Alpine White" roof and Bumblebee Stripe. Along with the updated finish, Kevin rebuilt the entire suspension, every mechanical component, and updated the car with a full disc brake package, as well as FiTech Fuel Injection.
Knowing how much this car meant to Kyle's father, Kevin was gracious enough to send Kyle updated images of the entire process. Eight months later, once the project was complete, Kyle was invited to see it first hand.
With his Uncle Rick in tow, Kyle made his way to see the car first hand. Neither of them had seen the car in this condition, and, upon arrival, you could witness a wave of emotion come over them, much like a bittersweet sense of closure. While they piled into the car for their maiden voyage, Kevin mentioned to Kyle that during the rebuilding process, he came across a small pile of change that belonged to his father. He offered it to Kyle as a keepsake, and while thankful, Kyle declined gracefully, so Kevin took it a step further. Pulling open the ashtray, Kevin places the change inside, he looks over at Kyle and says, "Now your dad will always be riding in the car."
A father's dream, given up to fulfill a son's, all while simultaneously making another dream come true in the process. "The Mango Mistress" has arrived!
Kyle Gutierrez @tictacsumac91
Kevin Eagle: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jedidiah Gardner for photo editing assistance