Curbside Classic: 1970 Dodge Challenger – Vanishing Paint

(first posted 8/18/2011)    I suspect it takes a special sort of person to drive a ratty Dodge Challenger. I’d imagine the owner is a gruff, no nonsense sort of guy. You know the sort of fellow who has no time for petty concerns like detailing, paint, or even washing his favorite ride. The passenger side mirror askew? Screw it! I’m the driver and don’t need any stinking passenger side mirror. In fact, I have no need for the word askew, unless it’s the rear end of the Challenger peeling out in a cloud of smoke. And yes, Vanishing Point was the most formative cultural event of my youth.

Sadly, I never got to meet the owner of this gnarly Challenger. The plates indicate he is from Saskatchewan, which is known in automotive circles for its cheap auto insurance and lack of safety inspections. From the non-car perspective, Saskatchewan is most known for being endlessly flat and boring. The sort of place best gotten through as fast as possible. Which might explain the Challenger’s original mission.

If you are in Alberta you probably have heard a few jokes like “last one to leave Saskatchewan should turn out the lights” and such. But that isn’t being fair to the place, as only a small portion is flat and boring. For the car buff, Saskatchewan is full of old cars both on the road and in rural vintage-filled junkyards.

Sadly, I don’t think I have any photos of any of it as the one time recently I drove through Saskatchewan I was driving a recently acquired four hundred dollar Mazda B2000. Just to up the ante there was a white-out snow storm and temperatures of -40C (the conversion is an easy one as that is also -40F). It and I did manage to make it home in one piece, thankfully,  but there were more than a few white knuckle moments.

Our example here sports the butt in the air, raised rear suspension and a set of slot mag wheel as was the fashion in the seventies. The slot wheels are a timeless design that looks good on anything from a ’32 Ford hot rod to a Datsun 510, but the jacked up rear end on a muscle car has thankfully (mostly) faded for the scene. The dual exhaust pipes promise a V8 under the hood, but it could be anything from a mild 318 to a big 440. I think we can pretty safely rule out this being a Hemi car.

The aftermarket tach, shifter, hood pins and odd mail-box inspired hood scoop duct would lead me to believe the owner drives it like it was meant to be driven. The lack of bumper guards indicates it is a pre-1973 example. If I am correct on my grill id, this is a 1970 which makes it one of the most desirable years.

Definitely more than a few rough patches on this one with cracking paint, rust, pitted chrome, etc. With the exception of a few exposed wires the interior looks remarkably well preserved. No tears or stains on the white vinyl seats and all door panels accounted for. The steering wheel amazingly looks blemish free and perhaps even more impressive is the dash with only has a few cracks in it. I wouldn’t doubt that an old stock dash stored in a climate controlled warehouse could have a few cracks in it. I don’t know if it was a generally cheapening of materials or some other reason but it is very rare to see any car of this era with a flawless, original dash.

For those who criticize the current Challenger for being too big, you have to understand it is only being true to its roots. The success of the upmarket Mercury Cougar prompted Dodge to make the Challenger big with more than a dash of luxury (at least by Pony car standards of the day). The Challenger‘s wheelbase is two inches longer than its stable mate the Plymouth Barracuda. Contemporary reviews weren’t exactly glowing and sales no were near the GM and Ford pony cars. Of course the Challenger’s timing wasn’t ideal either with rising insurance rates and stricter emission regulations which eventually moved the market to a personal luxury Monte Carlo style car. Interestingly the Challenger demands some of the strongest values, with the rare Hemi and 440cid variants grabbing most of the attention.

The red Daytona next to it makes an interesting contrast. After the demise of the long forgotten Sapporo sourced Challenger, the Daytona was left as Dodge’s sporty coupe in the late Eighties and early Nineties. With this scene happening in Canada, that isn’t even a Dodge Daytona but a Chrysler Daytona, with Chrysler going through an odd period of emphasizing the Dodge name on the minivan and truck line and Chrysler on the car line. But with front wheel drive and those aftermarket heart seat covers I can surmise my theoretical Challenger owner would want nothing to do with the Daytona.

I suspect the Challenger isn’t long for this world in its current condition. More than likely it will soon be restored to perfection and perhaps even in Plum Crazy purple to join rows of other perfect E-bodies at the local car show. Or as a Vanishing Point clone. But I did enjoy seeing it in this fantastic Seventies time capsule condition, and letting my imagination run a bit wild.

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