When you first look at Tommy and Karen Wall's '71 Challenger, it seems to be a nicely restored Dodge musclecar. The GY3 Citron Yellow paint, Shaker hood, and sano appearance does little to dispute this until you notice the lack of R/T badging. That's because this vehicle came off the assembly line with a standard 318 under the hood.
"I'd always wanted a big-block E-Body," explains Tommy. "We had a chance to buy this car in very good condition, so it was a great place to start. Since the originals are so expensive now and we wanted something we could drive without worrying about it getting hurt, this was just what we wanted."
Indeed, the Challenger package from 1971 is often considered a benchmark machine in the five-year model run with its unique grille and long option list. Had it been born an R/T, the Walls' work probably would have been a lot easier. Still, as it was, the 318 car proved a great starting point for what's less a clone than a nice street machine
While a Hemi would have been the ultimate for most, the engine chosen to power the Dodge was basically a stock 440. The work was turned over to Duluth, Georgia's, Steve Schweizer, who assembled a fresh new mill using primarily OE and Mopar Performance Parts. An MP .484-lift/284-duration street cam went into the center, Hooker headers route fumes to 3-inch pipes for better exhaust flow, and spark plugs via a Chrysler electronic ignition coupled to an MSD distributor and MSD wires. Otherwise, it's as close to stock as a factory-built powerplant. On top, of course, is the prerequisite Edelbrock intake and brace of new Holley two-barrels topped off with the Shaker outfit, which is a combination of used and repro parts.
Behind this is a 727 coupled to a slightly loose 2,800-stall converter and a streetable 3.91 gearset residing in the 8¾ rearend. Since the idea was to keep the car as stock-appearing as possible, Rallye wheels were added, shod in wide BFGoodrich rubber. For driveability, a Hemi suspension was installed, the subframes tied together, and front and rear sway bars were made part of the car. The battery was moved to the trunk as well.
Dan Thompson of Auto Perfection in Marietta, Georgia, receives credit for the paint, which was carefully applied to the prepped body. In addition to the Shaker, the car now sports the rear-deck wing and performance-notched rear valance for the exhaust tips. Inside is the console-hosted Slap Stick, Rallye dash package, and a small aftermarket addition in the form of a Grant steering wheel. The interior was courtesy of Year One. Tim's Upholstery handled the vinyl top and seat-cover installation.
The finished project sees street duty about 3,000 miles a year, idles in traffic, turns heads on the show field, doesn't give the owners heart failure every time they see a big truck, and is enjoyed on the roads near Kennesaw, Georgia. The Walls even drove it to Atlanta last year for the Hot Rod Power Festival finale. It might not be the real thing, but this Challenger's lack of R/T badging doesn't make it any less serious than the real thing. Fair game, indeed.