|Vehicle:||1970 Dodge Challenger T/A|
|Number Produced:||2,399 (989 4-speeds, 1,410 auto)|
|Original List Price:||$4,801|
|SCM Valuation:||Median to date, $68,100; high sale, $199,800|
|Tune Up Cost:||$350|
|Chassis Number Location:||Tag on driver’s side dashpad, door decal, partial stamp on radiator cradle and cowl|
|Engine Number Location:||Partial VIN on oil-pan rail, casting 3577130TA (for all Challenger T/As)|
|Alternatives:||1970 Ford Boss 302, 1970 Pontiac Trans Am, 1969 Camaro Z/28|
This car, Lot 827, sold for $93,500, including buyer’s premium, at Barrett-Jackson’s auction in Scottsdale, AZ, on January 26–31, 2016.
The Challenger was a brand-new model for Dodge in 1970. In order to compete in the Trans-Am series, Dodge created a T/A model that was very similar to the Plymouth AAR ’Cuda. The T/A used a different fiberglass hood and decals, but mechanically, it was a duplicate to the ’Cuda.
The actual race cars were late to the party, lacking a whole season of development compared with the Boss 302, Camaro Z/28 and AMC Javelin. It showed in the results, with Ford taking home the series championship that year.
Building the small-block terror
Chrysler released a bulletin to dealers on February 20, 1970, to inform them of the new A53 T/A package for the Challenger hard top. The package included all the basics you needed to be the ultimate small-block terror of your neighborhood: The special T/A 340 engine came complete with triple Holley carbs and intake manifold, special Westlake-modified cylinder heads, and a modified valve train and special stress-relieved engine block with its own casting number.
The engine also had adjustable pushrods and rocker arms with cast-iron pre-set adjusting screws like the ones used in the 426 Hemi. The block also had extra metal in the main bearing area for use of four-bolt mains. When all was said and done, the engine carried a 275-horse rating — although in reality the output was much higher.
Buyers chose either a 727 TorqueFlite automatic or the 4-speed close-ratio A-833 transmission complete with Hurst pistol-grip shifter. Out back, power was sent through an 8¾-inch rear packing 3.55 gears as standard equipment. A low-restriction dual exhaust system was designed with reverse looping megaphone tips that splayed out just before the rear tires. Cool standard-issue items were power disc brakes and Rallye suspension, which included front and rear sway bars and heavy-duty shocks. Dealers found out in March how much all this fun cost: $4,800 to $5,000, depending on transmission choice.
If you wanted extras, you could order backlight louvers, dual body-color sport mirrors, Rallye dash, quick-ratio power steering, Rallye road wheels, radio, chin whisker front spoiler, and for the serious road racer, the dealer bulletin made mention of four-wheel disc brakes to be installed at the dealership.
Fast, but not perfect
When it came to competition, the T/A needed some rear suspension work. Sam Posey’s description of racing at St. Jovite pretty much nailed the highs and lows of driving the race-version Challenger T/A: It was very powerful on the straights in spite of excess weight, but threw away the hard-won gains of speed in hairpins and expanding radius corners that peppered the track at Mont Tremblant. Posey finished in 3rd place that season. Dodge exited Trans-Am racing after that, and the Challenger T/A became a one-year wonder.
Dodge sold 2,399 cars, and most of them were automatics. The entire program was fast paced, from announcement in February to the last day of production in mid-April. By the time car magazines hit the stands, they were reviewing a car that had already terminated production and was sitting on dealer lots. It should have been an ideal publicity push. Sales were good but not stellar due to stiff prices and intense rivalry.
Out the door, the T/A was a very good street car capable of 14-second quarter-mile times, and its suspension additions did help handling somewhat. But it had understeer issues at high speeds, and that didn’t help its road-racer image.
The Challenger T/A, along with the Boss 302, Z/28, and AAR ’Cuda, was often heralded as an excellent performance-car buy. They were touted as future “investment” cars as early as 1978, but it took the mid-1980s muscle car revival by baby boomers to buff the T/A’s merits to a high sheen.
A usable muscle car on the up
Challenger T/As are fast, yet docile enough to drive in traffic and use around town. Until two years ago, they were also relatively affordable thanks to a soft market. This changed after 2014, with record-breaking sales generated from the partial dispersal of the Wellborn Collection of Mopars, much like what happened to Pontiacs when collector Milton Robson parted ways with some of his cars in 2010.
Both of those collection sales produced startling record prices for certain models, which created a buzz and temporary lift in private-sale prices. For a while, triple-black 1969 GTO convertibles were all the rage. The difference here is the record prices achieved with Wellborn Mopars are perceived by some to be an indicator of a reviving muscle car market.
Pricing activity on Challenger T/As supports the comeback theory. In 2014, it was possible to get an average T/A for $50k and a primo car for $70k. Median price, based out of all the auction sales that year, was $64,400. A year later, the median price rose by $10k.
Today, the price for a typical T/A car is around $70k, with excellent examples bringing nearly $95k. You can still bag a nice driver T/A for a price in the mid-$60k range, but it will be bare-bones or in need of restoration before time at any serious car shows. If you want the hot options such as quick-ratio power steering, backlight louvers, Rallye wheels, elastomeric bumpers and Rallye dash, you’re well past $120,000.
Looking at the big picture, Challenger T/As are still a bargain compared to a factory dual-quad Z/28 or Cross Boss 302. You can’t get either of those for the price paid for our subject car.
Finished in desirable Top Banana yellow, this car also has Rallye wheels, body-color mirrors, radio, and the scarce 4-speed transmission as extras. The new owner has a relatively early-build numbers-matching example with documentation and a full restoration. All things considered, this was bought at market price, and I’d consider it a good deal at that.
(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.