You've heard it before: Mopar lover finds first car as a teenager, drives it daily (and energetically), then—eventually—sells it. Then, years later, he rediscovers it.
That's the story of Dale Cole's '71 Dodge Challenger R/T, seen here in its restored, trophy-winning condition.
Flash back to the late '70s, when Dale found this E-Body. "I bought it in 1979 for $1,500 when I turned 16," he remembers. "It was my first car, and it was my daily driver for two years."
Before: It’s April 1979, and Dale now has his first car.
Lead-footed driving on the prairie's unpaved roads weren't kind to this E-Body. "The body was full of rust, the engine was tired, and the tires were bald," says Dale, who adds that his '71 ended up parked along the fence at his parents' farm. He'd bought a new car and forgot all about his Challenger.
It didn't stay there for too long. Says Dale, "A friend's older brother wanted it, and I ended up giving him the car, as I had no plans to restore it any time soon."
Fast forward to 2007, when Dale had the chance to get his one-time daily driver back. "I got a call from my friend, who said that his older brother still had the car. It turned out he never got around to restoring it." Fortunately, that long-time storage hadn't caused any further deterioration, inside or out. "It looked as it did when I last saw it 25 years earlier," recalls Dale. "He never did drive it—it had been sitting with a tarp over it the whole time. The Rallye dash looked almost new."
The price was right, too. "I got it back for the same price I sold it for—$0.00."
Once home, Dale decided to restore it. But documenting what went on it at Hamtramck Assembly wouldn't be easy. "In 1979 I removed the back seat for cleaning, and I remember finding a buildsheet," says Dale. "Not knowing what it was, I'd thrown it out. When disassembling it, I found a partial buildsheet behind the glove box door and under the carpet, and I found a good buildsheet under the passenger-side bucket seat. I got lucky!"
That buildsheet, along with the fender tag, spelled out what his R/T was built with, including the E55 340 (which included front and rear sway bars), and H5F7 green vinyl/plaid cloth seats with carpeted door trim panels.
Before: Early days in the life of a 340.
This restoration wasn't an overnight job. "It took five years," says Dale. "We had to wait for Goodmark and AMD to start reproducing some parts, like door skins. Now, you can buy pretty much anything for an E-Body." He adds, "There were some issues with reproduction parts not fitting or being accurate, so we had to spend extra time fixing [them]."
He credits two shops for transforming the '71 from a barn-filler to a show-winner. "Mopar restoration specialist Robert Polson of Prairiefire Paint in Consort, Alberta, did all the sheetmetal work, and applied the GY8 Metallic Gold paint, which really pops out at you." He's also got kudos for the shop that did the mechanical work. "Kori Alexander, of Show & Go Restoration in Red Deer, Alberta, rebuilt the powertrain, and did the re-assembly," says Dale. "His knowledge and attention to detail is second to none."
The result? "It turned out better than I could imagine," says Dale. "It drives and rides like a new car. Even has the new car smell."
When he first showed it at Mopars at the Strip, it won the World's Ultimate Mopar award after a 933-mile (1,500 kilometer) drive to Vegas, right after the resto was finished.
Maybe the Mopar you're looking for as a project isn't a rarity like Dale's (one of 1,078 340-powered '71 Challenger R/Ts), but he's got some sound advice before you start: "Sit down and draw up your game plan," he says. "The first thing you need to know is, how far do you want to go with it, and how much to spend. Keep an open mind on your budget, and don't get depressed when it starts adding up. It seems that you spend a lot before you see any progress. At the end, the finished product was well worth it to me.
"Then find the right people to do the job. I was lucky that we have some good reputable and knowledgeable Mopar people near me, but I had to ship some parts quite a distance to get the right people to do it."
'71 Dodge Challenger R/T
Owned by: Dale Cole, Barrhead, Alberta, Canada
|Engine: Original 1971 340 was rebuilt by Kori Alexander at Show & Go Restorations in Red Deer, Alberta, with .030-inch oversized forged 10.5:1 TRW pistons, ported and polished original "J" heads and manifolds, correct original Carter Thermoquad carburetor, and the original 340 air cleaner (which has been wrinkle-powdercoated). The 340 also has a .470-inch lift hydraulic camshaft, and rebuilt date-coded alternator and starter. Exhaust system is a correct E-Body 340 system from Accurate Exhaust.
|Transmission: Kori also rebuilt the original 727 with a Mopar Performance Stage 2 shift kit, and he glass-beaded the 727's aluminum case to make it look new
|Rearend: Rebuilt original 8¾ rear end, with Sure Grip and 3.23 gears
|Suspension: Restored original '71 Challenger R/T Rallye suspension; (Front) heavy-duty torsion bars, tubular shocks, sway bar and new steering/suspension parts by Moog. (Rear) heavy-duty leaf springs, rear sway bar, and tubular shocks
|Brakes: Restored original front disc/rear drum, power assisted
|Wheels/Tires: OEM 15x7-inch Rallye wheels wear repro E60-15 RWL Goodyear Polyglas bias-belted tires
|Paint/Body: Original E-Body hardtop restored and painted in its original GY8 Gold (in base/clear form) by Rob Polson at Prariefire Paint in Conson, Alberta
|Interior: Original H5F7 green houndstooth interior was restored, thanks to OEM material from Legendary, plus resto services by Just Dashes, Show & Go Restoration, Upholstery by Arlo, and Classic Car Ranch in Rimby, Alberta.
Restored to make the 340 roar: The ’71’s original Carter Thermoquad carburetor.
Under the hood sits the original E55 340, restored by Kori Alexander to fresh-from-the-Mou
When was the last time you saw the F5H7 green vinyl/houndstooth cloth interior trim option