Rare RAG

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - CLASSIC CRUISING -

PLYMOUTH in­tro­duced the A-body Valiant-based Bar­racuda in 1964 and it went head-to-head in sales with the Ford Mus­tang. Be­cause of the lack of room in the en­gine com­part­ment, the car was lim­ited to small-block V-8 en­gines, while the com­pe­ti­tion went with big-block V-8s. Other than a few 383 cu­bic-inch pow­ered cars or spe­cially pre­pared 440 mod­els avail­able in 1969, in­ter­est from per­for­mance buy­ers be­gan to wane. In 1967 Chrysler had slated a new E-body Bar­racuda for release in 1970. The E-body se­ries shares the same front sub-frame mem­ber with the B-body Coronet and Satel­lite mod­els, al­low­ing am­ple room for the in­stal­la­tion of ev­ery en­gine Chrysler pro­duced.

This also gave Dodge the op­por­tu­nity to share de­vel­op­ment costs and pro­duce a sim­i­lar model on the same plat­form, giv­ing them a vi­able pony car to com­pete with the pop­u­lar Chevro­let Ca­maro and Ford Mus­tang. En­ter the new Dodge Chal­lenger. Avail­able in both hard­top and con­vert­ible, with an en­gine and per­for­mance-op­tions list longer than your arm, this new kid on the block could raise eye­brows and pulses just sit­ting on the show­room floor. Its low-pro­file stance, and full-width, deeply re­cessed grill set back be­hind the dual head­lamps, gave an im­me­di­ate vis­ual that screamed mus­cle car. Work­ing back, the raised rear fender line and full-width rear lights split by a large re­verse lamp with the DODGE name in chrome block let­ters, made it eas­ily dis­tin­guish­able from other mod­els.

De­vel­oped si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the Bar­racuda and Chal­lenger bear a strong fam­ily re­sem­blance, yet are two very dif­fer­ent au­to­mo­biles. The Bar­racuda wheel­base is 108-inches, equalling the Ca­maro and Mus­tang, while the Chal­lenger rides on a larger 110-inch wheel­base, just slightly smaller than the 111.1-inch found on the Mer­cury Cougar. An­other fact: there isn’t a body panel that’s in­ter­change­able be­tween the Chal­lenger or Bar­racuda, not even the roof.

For Mike Huen of Win­nipeg, he re­mem­bers his first 1970 Chal­lenger con­vert­ible as a great car. “I had it for years and wasn’t plan­ning on sell­ing it, but four years ago, a fel­low walked into my shop and asked if it was for sale,” says Huen. “I quoted him a price I thought no­body would ever pay and he agreed to it, so I sold him the car.”

Huen and his wife Barb have owned Mike’s Gen­eral Store on St. Anne’s Road for the past 36 years and drive their vin­tage ve­hi­cles in the sum­mer, so it isn’t odd to see one parked out­side of their an­tiques and col­lectibles shop. Huen al­ways looked back at the sale of the Chal­lenger as a good news, bad news af­fair, and when faced with the op­por­tu­nity to re­place the car this year, he gladly made the pur­chase.

Pur­chased lo­cally in Au­gust, this 1970 Chal­lenger con­vert­ible had only been driven 1,200 miles since it was fully re­stored 15 years ago. Fin­ished in Hemi or­ange with a black top and jewel-black vinyl in­te­rior up­hol­stery, it stood out from the crowd. An op­tion, the high-im­pact colour orig­i­nally added an ad­di­tional $14.70 to the in­voice price.

Ad­di­tional op­tional equip­ment in­cluded cen­tre con­sole, with Slap-Stik floor shift for the TorqueFlite au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, power steer­ing, power front disc brakes, power top, tinted glass, slot­ted Ral­lye wheels, deluxe push-but­ton AM ra­dio, Ral­lye in­stru­ment clus­ter with 8,000 r.p.m. tachome­ter, colour-keyed Ral­lye mir­ror, power bulge hood with hood pins and matte black fin­ish, rear-deck spoiler, Ral­lye wheels, side stripe and 3.55:1 rear axle ra­tio.

UN­DER the hood, the Chal­lenger could be had with ev­ery­thing from the slant six-cylin­der en­gine to the mighty Street Hemi V-8. In this case, power comes from an op­tional 340 cu­bic-inch V-8. Equipped with a four-bar­rel car­bu­re­tor and dual ex­hausts, the en­gine churns out a re­spectable 275 horse­power at 5,600 r.p.m. Nicely loaded as most con­vert­ibles were in the day, the Chal­lenger is a great sum­mer ride. In fact, if you ask any­one who owns one, th­ese small­block pow­ered cars, ride, han­dle and stop much bet­ter than their big-block pow­ered coun­ter­parts.

Huen says, “Other than a leak­ing valve cover gas­ket and a loose muf­fler clamp, the car is as solid as any Chal­lenger con­vert­ible, with its in­her­ent share of shakes and rat­tles.”

With only 3,173 Chal­lenger con­vert­ibles pro­duced and an ad­di­tional 1,070 Chal­lenger R/T con­vert­ible mod­els see­ing ve­hi­cle show­rooms, th­ese cars are rare and very sought af­ter by col­lec­tors and en­thu­si­asts.

For the Huens, the Chal­lenger com­pletes the fam­ily, but as Mike says, “We never really own th­ese pieces of history, we are just care­tak­ers as they change own­ers or are handed down to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

Dodge man­u­fac­tured the Chal­lenger un­til 1974, but the big-block V-8 and R/T mod­els would dis­ap­pear from the op­tion list af­ter 1971, due to es­ca­lat­ing in­sur­ance rates and the ris­ing cost of fuel. Definitely a late-comer to the mus­cle car wars, the early Chal­lengers made their mark and we can ex­pect them to be revered and ap­pre­ci­ated for many years ahead.

Op­tional high­lights in­clude a Slap-Stik floor shift, wood­cov­ered steer­ing wheel, deluxe push-but­ton AM ra­dio and a 340 cu­bic-inch V-8 en­gine (be­low), that puts out 275 horse­power.

LARRY D’ARGIS

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