Sold for $308,000 at 2012 RM Sothebys
1971 Dodge 'Mr. Norm' Hemi Challenger R/T
The Chrysler Challenger always seemed to be one pony car that always seemed to arrive to the stable late. However, upon its arrival, many would take notice.
The late 1950s saw a period of waywardness from America's car companies. While the 1950s had seen sporty models, like the Thunderbird, come and go, there really wasn't a class of car to fit the attitude beginning to surface throughout the country. However, with Ford's Mustang and GM's Camaro, the wild heartbeat of America was allowed to roam free. Chrysler, however, was missing out on the act.
Dodge introduced its Charger, but it fit into a category between the pony cars and the more luxurious models like the Ford Thunderbird. Mated with the 7.0-liter 426 cu.in. Hemi engine, the Charger would be popular and innovative, but it still would not directly do battle with the Mustang and the Camaro, and even then, the Charger would blossom rather late.
Though slow to enter the more specialized pony car market, Chrysler recognized the need to lay claim to a little niche of the market. The problem was that the Mustang and the Camaro had been around for a while and people were familiar with what they had to offer. Therefore, Chrysler, in order to enter the competitive market, had to offer a car like no other.
Chrysler needed an angle to attract attention when it entered the pony car category. About the only angle left the company could use would be in the power department. Envisioning a clean design with a robust appeal, Bill Brownlie would set to work designing a car capable of hosting a litany of engine possibilities. What Brownlie would end up fashioning would be a car capable of hosting every single one of Chrysler's engines because of the car's front sub-frame.
Following the two-door styling of Mercury's Cougar, the Challenger, as it would become known, would benefit from the Charger and Coronet having a larger front sub-frame to help hold all of the possible engine sizes.
The Challenger would draw something else from the Charger as well. There had been a concept of the Charger on the drawing board that would never see the light of day. However, the front grille of the Charger concept would end up providing the perfect starting point for the subtle, vigorous lines of the new Challenger.
Combining clean and stout looks with the ability to house a whole array of engines, Chrysler was finally ready to make its presence known in the pony car market. While the car would attract a good deal of attention on its own, its 7.0-liter and 7.2-liter 426 and 440 cu.in. variants would make the biggest noise, quite literally.
Having experience with the larger Charger, Chrysler fully intended to take the fight to the Mercury Cougar, which was slightly larger and more luxurious than the Mustang. When the car debuted in 1970, the Challenger would come available in four hardtop models: Challenger Six, Challenger V8, Challenger T/A and Challenger R/T. A convertible version of the R/T would be available as well, but just between 1970 and 1971.
Sales for the Challenger would do quite well in its first year with nearly 77,000 units being produced for the 1970 model year alone. However, sales would drop significantly over the next couple of years and production would cease altogether in 1974. After starting out strong in its first year of existence, production would slow to the point that only 165,437 would be sold by the end of its production run of about five years.
While the success of the Challenger would be debatable, one variant of the car that would not be debated for its performance and place amongst the pony cars would be the R/T Challenger.
Standing for 'Road/Track', the R/T model variant would be the performance model of the Challenger. The R/T would come with a 383 cu.in. 6.2-liter V-8 that was rated at 335 bhp. However, the R/T would also come with the option of the 375 bhp 440 cu in. 7.2-liter Magnum, the 390 bhp 440 cu in Six-Pack, or, the 425 bhp 426 cu in 7.0-liter Hemi engines. Therefore, while the Cougar, Mustang and Camaro may have been around a while longer with some of the same features as the Challenger, Chrysler's late-comer to the corral would certainly make some noise. When mated with the 4-speed manual transmission, the R/T model could also make some serious tracks all the way up to 150 mph.
The T/A Challenger, which stood for 'Trans Am' would see some racing with such drivers as Sam Posey and Ronnie Bucknum driving for Dan Gurney. And while the car would earn a number of top finishes it was clear the car needed to be developed as it had a bad understeer and other drawbacks. However, on the drag strip, the Challenger would find itself right at home.
The R/T version would go on to find success not on the track as much as in entertainment. Specially built models would be built for the TV program 'Mod Squad'. The R/T would also be the car of choice for Kowalski in the movie 'Vantage Point'. The Challenger would also find itself useful for other special promotions on TV.
While its demise may have been eagerly longed for, the Challenger would become something of a legend in its own right. Of course, most of the car's legend would be authored by the memories of the incredible sound of the 440 Six-Pack or the 426 Hemi.
Those at this year's RM Auction in Arizona would have the good fortune of being able to reminisce as a very special Challenger R/T would be up for auction. Not only would this be a Challenger R/T, but its lineage would make it something wholly more.
The chassis number available at this year's auction would roll off the assembly line in 1971 and would already be something special. However, its history was about to get even more intriguing.
Being just one of 71 Hemi Challenger R/Ts produced during 1971, chassis JS23R1B108804 would already make for a collector's dream. It came with the 'Super Track Pack' and the 'Shaker' hood options. However, after production it would be shipped to 'Mr. Norm's' Grand-Spaulding Dodge located in Chicago, Illinois.
Norm Krause would become famous as one of the earliest high-performance new car dealers and for having one of the first high-performance parts departments as part of the dealership. Krause's associate, Gary Dyer, had developed some of the quickest 'funny cars' and would help the dealership gain notoriety for taking Chrysler muscle cars and turning them into something beyond belief. This is what would happen to this Hemi Challenger R/T.
Charles Starr would become the car's first owner and he would trade in a car in order to have upgrades done to it, which included Stage III dyno-tuning, exhaust headers, lightweight fiberglass lift-off hood and other finishing touches. This would turn the car into an absolute performer. Late in 1971, Starr would sell the car to a friend who would take the car and coat it in WD-40, and then, put it in storage for the next 35 years.
In 2006, the car would emerge from storage for the first time and it would be noted as having been well-preserved despite some minor cosmetic issues that were cleaned up. After a basic tuning, the car would roar back to life and would even make an appearance at the Barrington Concours d'Elegance in Illinois.
Featuring some wonderful paperwork and historical documentation from Chrysler and Grand-Spaulding, the car comes to auction with only about 5,400 miles and was expected to earn between $300,000 and $475,000. A truly wicked muscle car, this model represents beautifully Chrysler's method of using its engine power to create an a large charge in the pony car race and doing it in style.Sources:
'Feature Lots: Lot No. 243: 1971 Dodge 'Mr. Norm' Hemi Challenger R/T', (http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ12&CarID=r208&fc=0). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ12&CarID=r208&fc=0. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
'Muscle Cars: Classic Muscle Cars: 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Six Pack', (http://musclecars.howstuffworks.com/classic-muscle-cars/1970-dodge-challenger-r-t-440-six-pack.htm). HowStuffWorks: We Love to Wonder. http://musclecars.howstuffworks.com/classic-muscle-cars/1970-dodge-challenger-r-t-440-six-pack.htm. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Dodge Charger (B-body)', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 19 December 2011, 04:08 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dodge_Charger_(B-body)&oldid=466634180 accessed 4 January 2012
Wikipedia contributors, 'Dodge Challenger', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 December 2011, 04:02 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dodge_Challenger&oldid=467857878 accessed 4 January 2012By Jeremy McMullen
In 1968 Dodge began creating prototypes for the Challenger. Designs had been created since 1965 and by the middle of 1969 Dodge was producing the Challenger, complete with nine engines to select. The base engine was the slant six with the top of the line engine being the 426 Hemi. Along with the engine choices, there were various body-styles, optional equipment, and interior/exterior colors. Dodge offered both a hardtop and convertible version. The platform had been borrowed from the Plymouth Barracuda and then stretched by a couple of inches to provide the passengers with extra interior room.
Dodge offered an SE package which included luxurious items, configuration, and amenities. The R/T, representing Road/Track, was the performance package. It came equipped with dual hood scoops, a heavy duty suspension and the 383 cubic-inch engine producing 335 horsepower. Other engines offered were the 440, 340 and 426 cubic-inch engines. The base engine was the 225 cubic-inch slant six that produced 145 horsepower. Power steering and disc brakes were offered as optional equipment.
During the introductory year in 1970, 53,337 examples were created with the base engine. A little over 13,800 units were created in the R/T configuration in both coupe and convertible form. Nearly 3,700 examples were built with the SE configuration.
The Dodge Challenger T/A series, meaning Trans AM, was Dodge's attempt to build a street worthy version of its race car. It was only offered in 1970 because the racing version did not perform well on the track and Dodge left the Trans Am racing at the end of the season. The street version was fitted with a 340 Six Pack created by the addition of an Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold and three two-barrel carburetors. The result was 350 horsepower. Disc brakes were standard as was a heavy duty Ralley suspension with wide tires in the rear and thinner tires in the front. Dodge offered a TorqueFlite automatic or a Hurst four-speed transmission. 2,142 examples of the T/A series were created. The quarter-mile was accomplished in just fourteen-and-a-half seconds and zero-to-sixty was around six seconds.
For 1971 Dodge discontinued the T/A package and the R/T was no longer offered in convertible form. A new grille was the most distinguishable change when compared with the 1970 Challenger.
Government safety and emission regulations, and increasing insurance premiums meant the horsepower rating and size for all manufacturers was on the decline. To comply with the new requirements, many of the engines were detuned. This was true for Dodge as well. The 383 cubic-inch engine was now producing 300 horsepower, a loss of 30 horsepower over the prior year. The 440 Six Pack was detuned by five horsepower. The base 440 was no longer offered. The good new was that the Hemi was still available and kept its 425 horsepower rating.
Sales for 1971 were devastating. There were just over 25,000 units of the six-cylinder Challenger sold in 1971. A sharp decline in interest for the vehicle in only its second years sent the dealers trying to unload their inventory. Fifty vehicles were offered as 'official pace cars' for the Indianapolis 500 race. These specialty series were painted in Hemi orange and had white interiors. All were convertibles.
The front of the Challenger was reworked for 1972 including the addition of a new grille. Dodge dropped the R/T package and the convertible option. A Rallye edition was added in place of the R/T. It was outfitted with a 318 cubic-inch 150 horsepower. This would be the only year the Rallye option would be offered. The horsepower rating was now measured in net SAE which meant all horsepower figures were decreased dramatically. Dodge did not offer the Hemi or the 440 for 1972. This left the 340 with a horsepower rating of 240. The zero-to-sixty run could be accomplished in 8.5 seconds and the quarter-mile took sixteen seconds. Sales were slow with less than 25,000 units being produced.
The big news for 1973 was the introduction of the 360 cubic-inch eight-cylinder engine which appeared mid-way through the year. It produced 245 horsepower but it also increased the overall weight of the vehicle. Sales continued to be slow but they did increase over the prior year. For 1974 D0dge decided to cancel the Challenger series. Motivated by only 16,400 units sold, the decision was easy but sad, with only five years of production under its belt. Two engines were offered, the 318 cubic-inch and the 360 cubic-inch. Horsepower ranged from 150 though 245.
The Challenger had been introduced at the close of the muscle car era. It faced stiff competition from the pony cars, and the high-performance, economical, and light-weight machines. By offering both a luxury component and a performance package, the Challenger was a versatile machine. Its stylish designs and large Hemi engines are legendary.
By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2009