Chal­lenger re­mains firm favourite with mus­cle car fans

Hannah El­liott on why own­ers of a 1970s Dodge Chal­lenger are slow to part with their prized pos­ses­sion

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - USED CARS -

The Fate of the Fu­ri­ous has just set a global box of­fice record for the big­gest open­ing of all time.

Credit Vin Diesel and Char­l­ize Theron, of course.

But the cars in the film de­serve glory, too.

Es­pe­cially that 840-horse­power Dodge Chal­lenger SRT De­mon.

It’s the lat­est, fire-breath­ing in­stall­ment in Dodge’s 47-year-old Chal­lenger line, an im­pres­sive per­former with a zero-to-60 mph sprint time of 2.3 sec­onds.

But the Chal­lengers from the 1970s have more style. In fact, the 1970- 74 Dodge Chal­lengers are more pop­u­lar, as mea­sured by searches and queries on Hagerty.com, than any other clas­sic mus­cle cars to date.

This story is about the Chal­lengers that Dodge made from 1970 to 1974— they’re the coolest and most valu­able. But there was a “Chal­lenger” be­fore that, called the Dodge Sil­ver Chal­lenger, made in 1958.

That one lasted for a lit­tle more than a year, and it was largely a “spring special” meant to boost sales on a dif­fer­ent line, said Brandt Rosen­busch, the man­ager of his­tor­i­cal ser­vices for FCA North Amer­ica.

Then, as Ford and Gen­eral Mo­tors ex­pe­ri­enced wild suc­cess with the Mus­tang and Ca­maro, re­spec­tively, Dodge de­vel­oped the Chal­lenger that we know to­day. It came in six en­gine vari­ants — from an in­li­ne­six to a huge Hemi — and sold 83,000 units in the first year, at a start­ing price of $ 2,953 for the hard­top to $3,500 for the R/T con­vert­ible. (This was com­pa­ra­ble to the prices of other mus­cle cars dur­ing the era.)

Peo­ple loved them be­cause they had the same Amer­i­can-strong en­gines of the Dodge Charger and the Dodge Coronet but were 500 pounds lighter. That equalled speed, which meant drag- rac­ing dom­i­nance.

“It was very much a per­for­mance ve­hi­cle,” Rosen­busch said.

The two-door coupe came in hard­top and con­vert­ible forms; a Special Edi­tion sports hard­top and per­for­mance-tuned “R/T” pack­age were also avail­able, among other vari­ants.

Stan­dard for the early R/ Ts was the 383 Mag­num V8 en­gine, at 335 hp, with tun­ing op­tions that reached 425 hp. The most cov­eted Chal­lenger ver­sion was the 1970 Hemi R/T con­vert­ible. Only nine of those were built.

Since then, Chal­lengers have ap­peared in pop cul­ture ( Gone in 60 Sec­onds; Cur­ren$y mu­sic videos) and on rac­ing podi­ums alike. Baby boomers are the big­gest fans (52% of queries on Hagerty come from this group), though the cars con­tinue to com­mand in­ter­est across all gen­er­a­tions. This is es­pe­cially no­table as Gen­er­a­tion Xers and mil­len­ni­als con­tinue their gen­er­alised ob­ses­sion with “mod­ern clas­sics” — cars from the 1980s and 1990s. It proves that Chal­lengers have the rise-above x-fac­tor only the truest clas­sics pos­sess.

They also make very good in­vest­ments, on a par with other mus­cle cars of the era — in­clud­ing Mus­tangs and Ca­maros.

In the past five years, the me­dian value of all Chal­lengers from the 1970-74 era has risen 28%, ac­cord­ing to Hagerty data.

Of course, there are crazy out­liers. The av­er­age value of the rare 1970 Chal­lenger R/ T Hemi Con­vert­ible is $ 931,000, and the av­er­age value of a 1970 Chal­lenger T/A Hard­top is $93,800. But stan­dard ex­am­ples will gain a few per­cent­age points of value each year, Klinger said, with a cou­ple of the more pow­er­ful vari­ants see­ing big­ger jumps.

One note: The Chal­lengers from 1970-71 are con­sid­er­ably more de­sir­able than the oth­ers, thanks to a re­design in 1972 and then­new emis­sion re­stric­tions that af­fected en­gine per­for­mance.

The world- record price paid for any 1970- 74 Dodge Chal­lenger was for a 1970 Dodge Chal­lenger R/T Hemi Con­vert­ible that fetched $1,815,000 at a Me­cum auc­tion in in 2016. (The model was one of nine in the world.)

Prices vary be­cause the cars them­selves vary. The pres­ence of a “shaker” hood (the air in­take mounted di­rectly over the car’s en­gine) can in­crease the price of a car 20%, a four-speed trans­mis­sion will raise it 15%. The ex­te­rior colour of the paint can make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in value and sal- abil­ity, too.

“The good thing about those from an en­thu­si­ast stand­point is that you can buy a car and have some fun, and you won’t lose any­thing,” Klinger said. “What you gain in value off­sets what it costs to own it.”

In gen­eral, look for ver­sions that have low miles, good main­te­nance and re­pair doc­u­men­ta­tion, and match­ing VIN numbers. Most cru­cially, go against your nat­u­ral in­stinct. In this case, as op­posed to, say, with hu­mans, the con­di­tion of the body is more im­por­tant than what’s in­side.

Don’t get too caught up in the Fast and Fu­ri­ous hype, though.

Yes, the new film will spur ex­cite­ment about the orig­i­nal Chal­lengers — much as Gone in 60 Sec­onds did for the Eleanor Mus­tang. That hap­pens any time a movie like this comes out, but it passes.

But ask any­one who has been around col­lectable and high- value cars for long, and they’ll tell you to for­get buy­ing an empty in­vest­ment. Buy some­thing that makes you happy.

“The Chal­lengers are in­ex­pen­sive fun,” ex­plained Klinger. “You should al­ways just buy what you want to drive.”

Pic­ture: Denis Mini­hane

At Co­gan’s Toy­ota, Car­ri­ga­line, are (from left) Steven O’Sul­li­van, sales ex­ec­u­tive; Brendan Maloney, sales ex­ec­u­tive; Ken O’Neill, sales di­rec­tor; Rob Co­gan, manag­ing di­rec­tor, and Shane Spil­lane, sales ex­ec­u­tive.

Photo: Si­mon Clay/Na­tional Mo­tor Mu­seum/Her­itage Images/Getty

The stylish 1970 Dodge Chal­lenger XV001 vin­tage mus­cle car.

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