What was originally destined to be the Mopar counterpart to the Mustang, Camaro, and Firebird ponycars, the Challengers and 'Cudas effortlessly surpassed their competitors in style and potency, as well as reputation and, eventually, auction floor prices. Even the rarest of Shelby GT500 Mustangs and 427-powered, Yenko-built Camaros don't draw in the crowd (and dollar signs) like a Hemi-motivated drop-top 'Cuda.
Getting your hands on any E-Body Mopar equipped with the venerable King Kong plant is hard enough, let alone three Hemi R/T Dodges built within minutes of each other. Individually accumulating such a collection would be almost impossible for most, and so a trio of friends-Daniel Banker, Fred Gilmore, and Lee Hofmann-divvied up the consecutively-built threesome between them, making one of the most impressive Challenger trifectas imaginable.
July 23, 1970, the scheduled day of production for these three R/T machines, was only one week away from the official end of the current model year. On the first of August, production of the '71 models would commence. With only a week left to produce the '70 model, most, if not all, of the cars built that day were "sales bank" cars, meaning they weren't specifically ordered, but standard package vehicles. No doubt the crew at the Hamtramck plant was busy using up the few remaining parts that would no longer be of use when the new model began production. Scattered through the day's run were vehicles JS23ROB440219, JS23ROB440239, and JS23ROB440241.
It would be twenty years later when the three Challengers would be reunited from across several states and nearly 20 different owners.
An avid fan of Hemis and 440 Six-Packs, Lee Hofmann followed Daniel Banker's example and s
Owner of the green R/T (VIN number JS23ROB440239), Daniel Banker, explained how the Challenger ended up in his garage. He had posted a nondescript want ad on a Mopar enthusiasts' Web site, Moparts.com. In February 2001, he received a phone call from a young man in Morris, Illinois. he informed Daniel he had such a car, which had been sitting in his parents' garage since 1974. Daniel says, "His father bought the car, put it in the garage, pulled the motor and transmission out, and never touched it again. Sadly, he passed away unexpectedly, leaving the car to just sit there for another two decades. I was able to work a deal with the young man, and the car headed [home] for a complete rotisserie restoration."
Although the Challenger had been garaged for 16 years and was in original condition, it still required a full restoration from its years of abandonment. Daniel says, "The first year I owned the car I cleaned it, started gathering N.O.S. parts, and contemplated the restoration process. I had never taken on such a huge project. I felt the car deserved the best because it was a numbers-matching example with a perfect broadcast sheet."
A carpenter by trade, Daniel was put off by the beautifully restored Mopars that seemed to require nearly $100,000 to "be done right." Since Daniel's wallet couldn't warrant the cost of a farmed-out rotisserie restoration, he decided to do as much as possible with his own two hands. the Challenger was almost perfectly straight since 1974, so only small splotches of rust needed to be addressed in the Dutchman panel (the filler panel between the window sill and the decklid) and lower quarters.
For the final bodywork and rich, deep green DuPont Chromabase paint, Daniel employed Walt and Bobby Biddle from Biddle's Paint and Body in Cocoa, Florida.
Freshly repainted, the Challenger returned home to receive its new interior. Using new Legendary seat covers, the rear bench and front buckets were wrapped up, snuggled down, and bolted down on top of the newly carpeted floorboards. Above, a N.O.S. headliner from Acme Headlining Company in Long Beach, California, was installed. amazingly, the dash and gauges were preserved and required little more than a gentle cleaning. Working under the direction of friend and fellow E-Body fanatic, Gary Plessinger from Hamilton, Ohio, Daniel was able to assemble the R/T Dodge with little difficulty.
While the Challenger slowly came into its own, the original numbers-matching 426 block and transmission were sent to Vic Fera at Brevard Cylinder Head in Merritt Island, Florida. The block was filled with JE pistons, new rings, bearings, springs, valves, gaskets, ARP hardware, along with other parts from Mopar Performance and Mancini Racing.
Using all Legendary materials, the seats were recovered, and new carpet and headliner were
The winner of a bidding war, Lee was able to purchase this low-mileage E-body in immaculat