by Gene Yetter
Here's a car that deserves a lot of respect for its cool look into the face of death — that is, the classic ghostly skull icon that is ever popular with bikers, legendary pirates, punk rockers and not a few custom car and hot rod enthusiasts. It's a 2005 Dodge Magnum owned by Jim and Fran Russell of Daytona Beach, Florida. Besides some impressive performance modifications, the up-to-date Dodge musclecar is all over decorated with airbrushed skulls on a backdrop of flames and pinstripping and other images of the famous glaring face stripped of skin and flesh.
If you think this "death's head" image is a little extreme, keep in mind that it's tradition goes way back, even on antique buttons. None other than George Washington, our first President, wore such buttons on his breeches.
The Russell's Magnum put in an appearance at a local car show in Frontenac, Florida, Sept. 13, 2008, wining "Best Custom Car of Show." It appeared alongside about a dozen customized vehicles representing the Florida chapter of the National LX Club; the Florida chapter has 300 members and will have its annual show in Perry, Florida, in August. Nationwide, the LX clubs have around 2,300 members.
The black and orange Magnum retro wagon at the Frontenac show has 3600 miles on the odometer: not a lot of miles, but owner Russell does claim to use it around town. He purchased it from the Atlantic Dodge dealership in St. Augustine when it first came available in 2005 and he's reporting a good relationship with the Dodge dealer to date.
The exquisitely detailed exterior paint job applied over factory black was done by Chad Chambers, an airbrush artist based in Daytona Beach. The skull theme is carried out throughout the car's interior on floor mats and cargo compartment carpet. In the engine compartment, it appears on many surfaces such as battery cover and electronic components, and is even etched into after-market glass components of the cooling system.
The car's powertrain modifications include a performance cam and B&B stainless steel exhaust system. Wheels are mounted with Foose rims. Seats are partially reupholstered with black ostrich skin.
The Frontenac show, for all manufacturer's models, benefited a local charity, HorseSisters & Associates, Inc.'s Common Sense Ranch, an organization that trains and maintains horses for equine-assisted therapy.
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