While looking through the mail, I stumbled across some photos of a car I knew I had to see
Growing up in Southern California, I learned at an early age that Mopars had a special mystique about them. My father's cars all wore bowties, but something told me I was true to Mopar. Maybe it was the '69 Super Bee on the Plymouth dealer's used car lot just up the street from our house. I was 16 on a particular day in 1976, and the car was just 7 years old.
I thought it was the most awesome car I had ever seen-yellow paint with black stripes, a 383 Magnum under the hood, and a Pistol Grip shifter inside. I had never seen anything like that in dad's cars. A salesman came out to tell me about the car, and told me to bring my father to co-sign a loan and it would be mine. Dad came with me for a test drive. I didn't get to drive the car, but I remember Dad barking the tires in Second and Third gear. I was on cloud nine...if only briefly. When Dad pulled into the dealership I asked him what he thought. The words I heard next still ring in my ears.
"You're not getting this car!"
Six months later my older brother found a '69 GTX. That car turned out to be my first Mopar. Despite being in primer, plus missing the carpet and headliner, the car was in pretty good shape.
In place of the original engine was a 383. Those were the days when the dealership parts counters were filled with Direct Connection stuff. One day I asked the guy at the parts counter if he could tell me what engine my car came with from the factory. He told me that according to the VIN the car should have a 440 with two four-barrel carbs and produce 425 hp. I didn't know any better at the time, but I wonder if I owned my first Hemi car at the age of 16. Unfortunately, I didn't have that car for long. One day I was driving it a little too fast in the rain, lost control, and hit a tree.
I got married at the age of 18 and started my own business a year later. I spent the next 20 years raising a family-20 years without a Mopar. In 1997 over the Christmas holidays, I saw a '70 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum. When I returned home I knew I had to have one. After looking at several Challengers, I finally found one in Trenton, New Jersey. I flew up and bought it and drove it straight home.
The Challenger had a four-speed, numbers-matching drivetrain, and the broadcast sheet. I started to show the car and met an E-Body collector from central Florida named Bill Flynn, who has several N-96 coded cars. I added a Shaker Hood to my Challenger, but really wanted a true N-96 car of my own. On Hemmings.com I found one. It was a one-owner car that had been sold new in Queens, New York, and spent most of its life in Long Island until the owner moved to Florida. The car was located an hour and a half away from my house. It was a 440 Six-Pack, four-speed car painted B5 Blue with a black interior, black vinyl top, and a black stripe. The most important option to me was the N-96 shaker hood.
I bought the car the next day and drove it home. Immediately I started taking the car apart for a rotisserie restoration. Then, in September 2000, I found another car-my Panther Pink Six-Pack Challenger. I bought it from a doctor named Ron Cypher of Butler, Pennsylvania. He told me he had only driven the car 20 miles in the 10 years he owned it. His father retired from the local Dodge dealer, and Ron kept the car in his father's garage. I think he kept it there for his dad to admire. When Ron's father passed away, he brought the car to his home and parked it.
I spent two days trying to find an auto transport company to bring the car to my home in Florida. The earliest I could get the car picked up was three weeks away. I was afraid that if I waited that long Ron might change his mind about selling it. On the third morning I flew to Pennsylvania and drove the car home. When I got to Ron's house he told me that he almost called me the night before to back out of the deal. I'm not sure why Ron decided to part with the car, but I can say that I felt like the luckiest guy around when I drove it out of his driveway.
The car was sold new at Parker Dodge in Paducah, Kentucky. After I got it to Florida, I wanted to do a few things to get it ready for the showfield. I installed a set of reproduction Goodyear Polyglas GTs that I bought from Kelsey Tire in Missouri. The car had a '71 gull-wing on the trunk, which I replaced with a correct '70 Go-Wing. I pulled the engine for a good cleaning and detailing, and had my paint-and-body man repaint the engine compartment. While the engine was out of the car, I noticed a small oval sticker on the top of the transmission that read "Clarks Motor Clinic, Winslow, Arkansas." I found a phone number for the place and gave them a call. It turned out to be a small one-man shop and the owner, Don Clark, remembered the car well. He had done some head work for a previous owner and rebuilt the transmission. He told me the name of the guy that owned the car at that time. From there I have been able to piece together the history of the car back to 1973. I'm still trying to find the original owner. There must be someone in or near Paducah, Kentucky, that remembers this car. I have spent hundreds of hours researching the history, and if I keep digging, sooner or later I'll be successful.
Now I own two N-96 Challengers. Also, in response to my want ad on Moparts.com, a young gentleman called me from Illinois. That's a call I won't soon forget. This time it wasn't another Six-Pack car; it was a Hemi. The car had been sitting in a garage behind his parents' home since 1974. It has the original paint with only 35,000 miles on the clock. Interestingly, it is the last Hemi Challenger N-96 car known to exist. The car was built on July 23, 1970, which is just eight days away from the start of the '71 model year production. I now own 3 of the 184 shaker hood Challengers that were built in 1970. They make up a pretty cool collection of Mopars.
Update: May 15, 2002
I had a feeling that my next car was just around the corner, and as luck would have it, I found a 383-powered car with a shaker hood sitting in the North Carolina woods. Until now it was thought that no 383 shaker cars were built in 1970. This car hadn't moved in 20 years. Not only is it an N-96 car, it is an original FM3 Panther Pink car. Options include a white interior, black vinyl top, white bumblebee stripe, and a rear spoiler. The fender tag and broadcast sheet verify this. The car will undergo a complete rotisserie restoration.
A friend told me that if I get one more FM3 car, I wouldn't be just a guy with a couple of Panther Pink cars; I will be a Panther Pink car collector! I still can't believe I've been lucky enough to find not one, not two, not three, but four real N-96 coded shaker Challengers. And to top it off, two of them are the hottest color found on any Mopar musclecar.
Yes, I'm "Tickled Pink."
|Y05 26 EN1|
|*N42||N85||N96||R11||V6W* || |
|147007||Vehicle Order Number|
|420||Scheduled Day Of Production|
| ||(APRIL 20, 1970)|
|H6X9||Black Vinyl Interior|
|FM3||Panther Pink (Body)|
|FM3||Panther Pink (Roof)|
|A36||Performance Axle Package (3.55)|
|A44||Rear Window Louver Package|
| ||W/L&R Painted Mirrors|
|A62||Rallye Instrument Cluster|
|G36||L&R Painted Mirrors|
|M21||Drip Rail Moldings|
|N96||Carb Fresh Air (Shaker Hood)|
|Y05||Build To Specs|
|EN1||End Line 1|