By the time the '71 models arrived on the street scene, cultural changes were seriously impacting the automotive market. Insurance rates were constricting musclecar sales, and serious restrictions were being put into place for emissions control standards the following year. Though not known at the time it began, the year would be the high water mark of the serious factory performance effort for the street, at least in that era. Never again would Detroit's models sport such immense displacements, radical styling, or street notoriety.
Of course, there were ways to "beat the heat," and one was to get a car that had a powerplant with less than 350 cubic inches. The Challenger R/T seen here came from the Dodge factory in Hamtramck Plant in Detroit, Michigan, equipped with the respected 340 four-barrel engine package, and was slated for Canadian delivery. Though not the same as having a Hemi for horsepower under the hood, it made for a better-handling sporty car and could still get street respect. In several tests, the 275-horse 340 was often considered a better package than the bigger-displacement 383 Magnum. Incidentally, this was the only year that the 340 was an option on the R/T, which had been reserved for big-block displacements only in 1970.
But our buyer did more than simply select the A-block engine. Despite the additional cost, numerous options were added to the car to make it truly unique. For one, this final year of the R/T package made it possible for the car to get the Shaker hood package. The rest of the driveline includes the Slap Stick-shifted 727 Torqueflite and the 3.55 SureGrip package in an 8 3/4 rearend.
Inside, the car got the black vinyl bucket seats and 150 mph rallye dash cluster in keeping with the R/T theme, but there was also a factory sunroof installed, which was the closest thing to a true convertible that you could get in the Challenger that year. It was built with the front and rear spoilers, and the extra chrome trim option as well. With 14-inch Rallye rims rounding out the package, the little screamer is thought to be the only '71 340 R/T built with the Shaker/sunroof combination.
The ensuing decades were hard on the car, and by the time Gene and Elenor Heins of Ontario bought it in 1992, it was rough. Still, Gene, a Year One distributor for Canada, knew it was a special example of Mopar history, and began the process of preparing it for restoration. The body was stripped and soda-blasted, and Gene was soon assembling a large batch of NOS parts coupled with quality replacement pieces from Mr. C's, Year One Distributing, and Totally Auto. Over the course of the next eight years, the car was carefully put back to as-built shape. When it came time to spray the massaged panels, Chippawa Auto Body in Niagara Falls, Canada, sprayed on the Dupont basecoat/clearcoat paint, exactly matching Chrysler's EV2 Hemi Orange.
To date, Gene has talked to people at both Chrysler Canada and individual Mopar enthusiasts, and virtually everyone has been impressed with the option packages chosen for this particular R/T when new. At the All-Chrysler Nationals at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, last year, where the car made its first public appearance, he was offered a nice sum for the car, but decided that this "lady in red" needed to stay in the family for the time being. And, frankly, as stacked as she is, who can blame him?
Gene and Elenor hope to establish a Challenger sunroof registery. If you know of or own such a car, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org/