You’ve heard it before: A vintage Mopar is discovered in a barn or garage after a long slumber, and then restored to factory-fresh condition.
In the case of Linda Clemens’ ’70 Dodge Challenger 340, there’s more to it—much more.
Back in 1970, Linda bought this car new. But, instead of buying one from the dealer’s inventory, she ordered it with her choice of options, including the code A66 Challenger 340 package. That combined the E55 275hp 340, heavy-duty suspension and brakes, 15-inch wheels and the Challenger R/T’s scooped hood, and was only available on the base Challenger hardtop and convertible.
Linda also spec’d an 833 four-speed, Rallye wheels, B5 Blue paint with a white vinyl top and interior, and -- about six weeks later -- she brought it home.
Eight years as a daily driver, followed by years of indoor and outdoor storage, left the C
It was the right time for the restoration, and he was the right person to do it.
A couple months later, she had an even more important delivery: The birth of her son Jim, who took his first ride in this car when he and his Mom went home from the hospital. “It was very nice,” Linda says of her E-Body Mopar. “It always had a good ride to it, but you could not just put your foot on the pedal too fast, because it was so light in the back end. And that was one of the reasons that it never got sold.”
The Challenger was Linda’s daily driver until a rusted-out exhaust system caused it to fail Pennsylvania’s vehicle inspection. It was then parked next to Linda’s home. “As I started having children, a couple of young fellows would stop in periodically wanting to purchase it, because it was sitting out in front of the house,” she recalls. “I never would sell it, because you can’t sell something like that to a young kid who has no experience behind the wheel.”
Eventually, the Challenger was moved to a family-owned barn, where it spent the next decade or so.
By that time, Linda was ready to entrust it to a restorer -- but only one: her son, Jim. “It was the right time for the restoration, and he was the right person to do it,” she says. That keeps it in the family, (and) keeps it special.” Jim adds, “When I started doing restorations, (this car) was the first project through the door. Mom said, ‘Use it whenever you need it. Stick in the corner -- whenever you need it, roll it out.’”
Time had taken its toll on the ’70. “It was pretty rough,” recalls Jim. “It was all original, but it was rough. It needed everything -- we put quarters on it, framerails, trunk floor, new front fenders -- the whole deal.”
It also needed help under the hood, which Dana Pennepacker provided by rebuilding the 340 -- while adding an Edelbrock intake/ carburetor combo -- and the 833.
The interior also needed attention, which Jim gave it, with Legendary’s reproduction seat kits and carpeting.
It took Jim four years to bring his Mom’s Challenger back to showroom-new condition. “I run a business, so it was kind of a ‘back-burner’ deal,” he says of how he found time to get it done.
It may have been a “back burner deal,” but the ’70 is now a great way to show off what Jim’s shop, RST Custom Auto (www.rstcustomauto.com), can do. “Right now, that’s our signature piece,” he says. “That car is absolutely gorgeous,” adds Linda. “The color combination is awesome -- the paint just sparkles in the sun.”
Linda continues: “To have it come around that a child that you brought home from the hospital in that car when it was new, turns around and actually did the restoration on it, it just blows my mind to think about it sometimes, but it is neat.”
Do Linda and Jim have any advice for those who may have a classic Mopar needing restoration? “If it’s the right time to restore it, do it,” says Linda. “Don’t skimp on anything—do it right. Keep it as original as possible. You may spend a little bit more money, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.” Jim says, “Restore your car the way you want it done. Don’t do it for the next guy. Restorations are expensive and time consuming, collect as many parts as possible before hand. This will save some time and money on your restoration project.”
1970 Dodge Challenger 340
Linda Clemens – Telford, Pennsylvania
Restored by: Jim Clemens at RST Custom Auto - Telford, Pennsylvania
|Engine: Dana Pennepacker rebuilt the original 340 with a Comp Cams hydraulic camshaft, Edelbrock Performer intake and four-barrel, Hedman Headers, and a Mopar billet distributor and electronic ignition system, plus plenty of chrome that wasn’t in the A66 package way back when.
| Transmission: Dana also turned his talents to the original 833 four-speed, which still sports its original Hurst Pistol Grip shifter.
|Rear: Standard with the 340, still in the car now: An 83⁄4 rebuilt by Dana Pennepacker with an Auburn limited-slip differential and 3.23 gears.
|Suspension: Restored ’70 Challenger A66: (Front) Heavy-duty torsion bars, 11⁄8-inch sway bar, polyurethane bushings and KYB shocks (Rear) Heavy-duty leaf springs, polyurethane bushings and KYB shocks.
|Brakes: Stock front drums were replaced with discs; OEM rear drums and power brake booster restored; SSBC dual-circuit master cylinder.
|Wheels/Tires: Stock ’70 Challenger 15x7 steel Rallye wheels wear BFGoodrich TAs (215/60R15 front, 235/60R15 rear).
|Paint/Body: Original all-steel ’70 E-Body unibody restored by Jim Clemens at RST Custom Auto. Paint is PPG Deltron base/clear version of the original B5 Blue.
|Interior: im Clemens restored this, too, with help from Legendary Auto Interiors (seats and carpets), with a Kenwood Infinity sound system replacing the original R11 AM radio.