There are a lot of things that set this '70 Hemi Challenger R/T convertible apart from the crowd. The fact that only nine of them were built for domestic consumption makes it super rare for starters. The color combination--Sublime with a white top, black-out hood, and black R/T stripe package--grabs your attention. The option list includes surprises such as power windows and the seemingly out-of-place rear luggage rack. The Hemi with automatic trans--four of the nine so equipped--was shipped with power steering, but also with manual brakes. That's fine for a drag car, but you wouldn't order a convertible if racing was your plan.
It's a rare and strange musclecar all right, but when you talk to 50-year-old Darrell Fraynd, you might be surprised to hear his take on it, "I could go on about the car's options, but I don't know if that's all that important." He told us that the car, by itself, isn't special. "Yeah, it's rare and valuable, but what makes it special to me are the friends I've made with it, and the time I've spent with my son, Paul."
Darrell got out of the Army in 1970, and wanted an E-Body badly. Unfortunately, the price of the new Challengers and 'Cudas was a bit steep, so he drove a new Road Runner out of the local Plymouth dealership instead. He started looking for a Hemi car in 1977, and didn't find this one until 1982. Six months after placing an ad in Hot Rod Magazine, a man called him and said he had one, it was complete, and it was for sale. During his search, Darrell had run across several other cars, but they were really expensive for the time--"over 10 grand!" Darrell says. Not counting his travel expenses, Darrell picked up the convertible for $7,500. "Of course, I've got a lot more in it than that now."
When he bought the car, it had just been painted a Cadillac metallic blue, and before that it was white. The car was complete, including the numbers-matching engine and trans, but the heads were off the motor, and the front sheetmetal had all been loosened up. The mileage on the car was a scant 44,000. Darrell has traced the history of the car back to 1972, where it was last registered in Columbus, Ohio. It was used by one owner in West Virginia as his daily transportation, including in the winter. Darrell tells the history of the Hemi: "Of the three cars he owned, this is the only one that would start and run in the winter!"
In 1974, it was bought by a man who used it as an eighth-mile drag car. Surprisingly, the engine remained intact, and exceptionally well-taken care of. Better still, the car had never been cut the way most race cars are--just a set of shackles in the back to raise it for added tire clearance! Darrell has timeslips from its racing days, but "they aren't all that remarkable."
Apparently, the deciding factor in the car's retirement was the former owner not wanting to install a rollcage and cut up the interior. The paper trail doesn't go any further back than 1972, but a guy approached Darrell at the '98 'Nats and said he'd seen the car cruising Woodward in 1970. Considering the color combination and the distinctive luggage rack, it probably was this car.
After its purchase, Darrell spent the next several years scrounging for parts before sending it to his good friend Joe Jordan in Wausau, Wisconsin, for a full restoration in 1993. Joe does excellent restoration work, but only works on friends' cars and his own. Originally, Darrell and Joe were going to paint the Challenger Tor Red, but decided to return to the original colors, and like most owners of cars with unusual color combinations, Darrell's glad he did.
"It's important to have the car the way you like it when you have it. I chose to put it back to the way it originally came, but I can understand why someone would want to add something to it to make it the way they want. I just chose to put my cars the way they originally came.
"It would probably take at least another $5,000 to make that car exactly right," Darrell says. Even as recently as 1993, a lot of concours parts weren't being reproduced. But correctly date-coded plug wires aren't too important to him, either. Darrell says, "These cars were meant to be driven." The result? "It's getting some wear on it from driving."
That's just fine with Darrell. "It's not my intention to have a car that I can't ever use. You can't just put these away--you have to take them out and let people see them. That doesn't mean you have to abuse them, but these cars were meant to be driven. We trailered it to Columbus last year for the 'Nats, but we cruised it all over Columbus at night." He let his 16-year-old son, Paul (who he listed on his tech sheet as part-owner of the car) drive it around Columbus. "Take them out and enjoy them," is the Fraynds' credo.
So is the fact that the car is driven what makes it so special? No. Darrell says that what makes this, and any other Mopar special, are "the friends you meet in the hobby, and the time you share with your family. I've watched Joe's kids grow up and graduate...same with a bunch of other friends. Joe and his sons did a lot of the work on it [the car] during the summer, while they were home from college. I've had some, ummm, very interesting offers for the car, but it's not for sale, and won't be because my 16-year-old son enjoys the hobby. I'll pass it on to him."
Family, friends, and Mopars. That combination's a winner whether you're talking about a 1-of-9 Hemi Challenger or a 1-of-90,000 Slant Six Dart.