1970 was the first year for the Dodge Challenger, Dodge’s response (along with the redesigned Plymouth Barracuda which was on a 2″ shorter wheelbase) to Ford’s Mustang and Cougar and GM’s Camaro and Firebird. Challenger’s body echoed the corporate family “Coke-bottle” shape, a lithe and purposeful look, distinctive from the competition. The chassis was a typical pony car with drum brakes, independent front suspension and a solid axle on leaf springs at the rear. The performance R/T package included a Rallye instrument cluster, performance suspension, heavy-duty brakes and exterior identification. Engines ranged from the week-kneed 198-ci/101-hp slant-six to Chrysler’s tire-smoking legendary Street Hemi.
Chrysler’s hemispherical combustion chamber V8 debuted in 1951 and powered Chryslers, DeSotos and Dodges until 1959 when it was replaced by wedge-head engines. But the best was yet to come. In early 1963 Chrysler engineers put a Hemi head on a modified raised-block 426 wedge to create a competitive NASCAR engine, the 426 Hemi. It was shaped by all the experience gained in years of competition and, best of all for Mopar enthusiasts, in order to be eligible for NASCAR competition, it had to be available in a regular production street configuration. The Street Hemi incorporated many of the race version’s performance components, including the crankshaft, connecting rods and cross-bolted main bearing caps. The milder grind camshaft used hydraulic lifters and lower rate springs in an attempt to limit rpm and keep to the 425-horsepower limit imposed by management. With dual Carter AFB carburetors, it was the most awesome engine of a period when awesome engines were the rule. History has passed judgment on the Street Hemi, and it is now the most sought after and valuable powerplant of the Muscle Car era.
The 1970 Challenger R/T Hemi-powered two-door hardtop pictured here is one of only 418 produced in 1970-71. In addition to the standard R/T equipment, it has a four-speed transmission, 11″ clutch, 15″ x 7″ Rallye wheels and a bumblebee stripe.
In storage since 1991, its repaint has not stood up well, but the Challenger R/T shows less than 5,600 miles on its 150-mph speedometer. With its massive Street Hemi engine and manual transmission, this Challenger R/T is one of the rarest and most coveted examples of the Muscle Car era, a purchase that should reward its new owner with awe-inspiring acceleration and enduring value.