Fun with Frua

1970 Dodge Challenger Frua Coupe

1970 Dodge Challenger Frua Coupe (rear)

“Signore” Pietro Frua, one hell of a talented man. In his early 20’s he was already a big shot at the legendary Pininfarina design firm. Later, he walked out of the company to do his own thing and ended up creating some of the most memorable, most amazing and most desirable one off cars ever made. These were of course not cheap; in the early 70’s, a Frua special was in the $100.000+ range…adjust that for inflation and you get a mini heart attack.

So let’s say you’re an important, loaded fellow and you need a new ride. Something unique because mass production is for poor people. Something Italian, sexy, but with some muscle as well…what do you do? You call Mr. Frua and wonderful automotive magic happens. Dr. Alfred Shäfer, director of the Schweizer Bankgesellschaft (Swiss banks union) did just this in 1970. Shäfer was friends with Walter Haefner, Swiss entrepreneur (today one of the oldest billionaires in the world), founder of AMAG (Automobil Motoren-AG) and Chrysler importer in the Confoederatio Helvetica; together, they came up with the idea of turning a regular Dodge Challenger into something absolutely extraordinary and Frua made it happen. The R/T SE 383 Challenger was given a sleek Italian body and an assortment of parts from European cars in order to be reborn as the timeless masterpiece it became, a Mopar in a tuxedo.

Without a doubt one of the most beautiful cars ever made, the Frua Challenger has (thankfully) made it to the present in great condition; the car was actually almost left unfinished because it nearly “killed” its creators, Shäfer and Haefner; the two were returning from a meeting with Frua in Turin when their plane experienced problems and was forced to make an emergency belly landing. The Challenger exchanged hands in 1977, ending up with Nicolas Leutwiler Zumikon, another Swiss national. Despite being only 7 years old, Zumikon ordered a full restoration of the car; he also had the interiors replaced (cream white leather), the radiator grill chromed (it was black), the bumper overriders removed and the wheels changed for wire ones. I cannot complain of a single one of these changes, especially the chrome grill and wire wheels; they make a world of difference.

I’d love to see this beauty in person and hopefully someday I will; of course it will get embarrassing because I’ll drool all over it, but I can live with that.

Consulted sources:

 Images used: (slightly edited) (slightly edited)

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