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...
An avid fan of Hemis and 440 Six-Packs, Lee Hofmann followed Daniel Banker's example and sent his '69 date-coded block and transmission to Vic Fera at Brevard Cylinder Heads in Merritt Island, Florida. The block was cleaned, honed, and fitted with JE pistons, new rings, ARP hardware, bearings, springs, valves, and gaskets-all purchased from Mancini Racing.
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,...
Using all Legendary materials, the seats were recovered, and new carpet and headliner were installed, returning this R/T Challenger to its factory original condition.
The winner of a bidding war,...
The winner of a bidding war, Lee was able to purchase this low-mileage E-body in immaculate condition.
Daniel's '70 Challenger is...
Daniel's '70 Challenger is a gorgeous restoration, and it was done without costing a million dollars or a second mortagage-evidence that a cherry Challenger isn't only reserved for the super rich.
On the same day Daniel brought his Challenger home in February 2001, he contacted his friend, Fred Gilmore in Sterling, Kansas. A few years earlier, Daniel had sold him a previously restored '70 Challenger. Fred told Daniel of a similar E-Body he remembered seeing at a Mopar show in Great Bend, Kansas, a year earlier. Inspired, Fred said he had the guy's phone number and was going to give him a call.
The guy still had the Challenger, but refused to sell it. The phone conversation with the owner ended with Fred asking if he could come and take a look. He says, "I visited with the owner at that time, but he had no intention of selling the car. I kept in contact with him over the next few months [until] finally in the spring of 2001, I convinced him to part with the car."
Fred became the eleventh owner of the car; the purchase of the Hemi Challenger included a complete list of all the owners and how many miles were on the car every time it was titled.
To bring the Challenger back to its proper state, Fred would need to conduct a complete rotisserie restoration and sent the body to Jeremy's Paint and Body Shop in Sterling, Kansas, where the car-numbered JS23ROB440241-would be repainted in Sikkens-brand base/clear. Lefty's Upholstery, from nearby Hutchinson, installed the interior using an N.O.S. headliner from the Acme Headlining Company. The restored Rallye gauges were by Performance Car Graphics in Tallahassee, Florida. Finishing off the interior is a refinished steering wheel by Gary's Steering Wheel Restoration in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Daniel's Hemi was an all-original...
Daniel's Hemi was an all-original plant that was sent to Vic Fera at Brevard Cylinder Heads. Once the block was prepared, it was filled with nearly 100-percent Mopar Performance parts thanks to Mancini Racing's large cache of Hemi parts.
With only 39,560 actual miles on the odometer, the N.O.S. short-block with the correct part number and casting date was sent to Duane Saum of Saum Engineering in Wichita, Kansas, to complete the powerplant rebuild. Using all genuine Mopar Performance parts, except for the rings, the Hemi was married to the original 727 TorqueFlite that was restored by John Cope of Cope Racing Transmissions in Lowell, Indiana.
Completed in the spring of 2004 just in time for the All-Chrysler Carlisle show, Fred's beautifully restored Challenger sat next to Daniel's and Lee's on the show field.
It was during Daniel's many hours dedicated to restoring his Hemi Challenger that he befriended yet another E-Body aficionado, Lee Hofmann from Peoria, Illinois. Mostly interested in Six Pack and Hemi cars, Lee, guided by Daniel, located this B5 Blue Challenger-coded JS23ROB440219.
The Challenger was found in an ad in Hemmings Motor News, and Daniel was the second caller. He says, "The first caller offered the seller a $1,000 more than the asking price, which tipped the seller off that he priced the car too low. The seller was in New York City, but the car was in Chicago in his brother's care. His brother was away on vacation for a week, and he refused to sell the car until his brother got home."
Daniel-working on behalf of Lee-arranged to have a mutual friend meet the owner of the Challenger in a Chicago suburb. At that point, the seller began playing each of the interested parties against the other, but Daniel was finally able to settle on a price Lee could be satisfied with.
Just like it looked in the...
Just like it looked in the showroom.
The car was a nice driver in the condition purchased, but Lee wanted it perfect, so he sent it to Gary Plessinger for a complete restoration. Gary skillfully treated the all-original sheetmetal with more DuPont paint and restored the interior with Legendary materials. Once again, Vic Fera from Brevard Cylinder Head was asked to rebuild the 1969-dated block and the matching transmission. Just like Daniel's 426, Lee's Hemi was rebuilt using JE pistons and all Mopar Performance equipment supplied by Mancini Racing.
Amazingly, friends Lee, Fred, and Daniel ended up with three Hemi Challengers all built on the same day.
Using new Legendary seat covers,...
Using new Legendary seat covers, the rear bench and front buckets were recovered, and new carpet was installed. A N.O.S. headliner from Acme Headlining Company, Long Beach, California, was installed; the dash and gauges are all original.
The only non-Shaker Hemi in...
The only non-Shaker Hemi in the trio, Fred Gilmore's green Challenger sports a stout 426 with only 39,560 actual miles on the odometer. The N.O.S. block was sent to Duane Saum of Saum Engineering in Wichita, Kansas, for a rebuild. Using Mopar Performance parts, the Hemi was bolted to its 727 TorqueFlite that was restored by John Cope of Cope Racing Transmissions in Lowell, Indiana.
Fast Facts: Three '70 R/T 426 Hemi Dodge Challengers
Daniel Banker-Cocoa Beach, FL
Fred Gilmore-Sterling, KS
Lee Hofmann-Peoria, IL
Engine: Daniel and Lee's elephants are nearly identical, as Daniel recommended Vic Fera from Brevard Cylinder Heads located in Merritt Island, Florida, to build their respective plants. Daniel's block was all original and simply needed a thorough cleaning and freshening using Mopar Performance parts supplied from Mancini Racing and JE pistons. Lee's block was a date-correct 1969 casting that went through the same restoration process. Fred's Hemi used a N.O.S. block that was sent to Duane Saum of Saum Engineering in Wichita, Kansas. Fred's is the only one of the three that doesn't have a Shaker hoodscoop.
Transmission: All three run 727 TorqueFlite gearboxes restored to factory specs. Fred sent his to John Cope of Cope Racing Transmissions in Lowell, Indiana; Daniel and Lee had their transmissions reworked by Vic Fera, who rebuilt their engines at the same time. meant to be full restorations, you won't find crazy shift kits, high-stall torque converters, or reverse manual valvebodies in any of these.
Rearend: All three sport Chrysler's stout Dana 60s with streetable 4.10 gears and Sure Grip differentials.
Horsepower & Performance: As per the factory's rating, the 426 Hemi produced a market-leading 425 hp. those numbers have been questioned over the last thirty years, as many who restore these powerplants discover their "stock" Hemis make close to 465 hp in some cases.
Suspension: As all three R/Ts were complete restorations to preserve each vehicle's heritage, each of the vehicles were returned to factory rubber and spring ratios-no trick polyurethane or Super Stock springs here.
Brakes: As standard Hemi-equipped vehicles, large factory power disc brakes were mounted up front with drum brakes out back on all three Challengers.
Wheels: 15x7 Rallye wheels.
Rubber: F60-15 Goodyear Polyglass from Kelsey Tire in Camden, Missouri.
Body: All three underwent full restorations, but Daniel admits his required most of the metal work because his lower quarters and rear-window filler panel needed to be replaced. YearOne supplied the filler panel that Daniel boasts was the best replacement panel he's ever purchased. He says, "it fit like a glove." Daniel had Walt and Bobby Biddle from Biddle's Paint and Body in Cocoa, Florida, tackle his paint and body work; Gary Plessinger from Hamilton, Ohio, took on Lee's full rotisserie restoration; and Fred had Jeremy's Paint and Body Shop in Sterling, Kansas, handle his metal and paint work.
Paint: Daniel's Challenger was painted in F8-coded DuPont Chromabase paint, and Fred's identically hued Challenger used Sikkens-brand base and clear. Lee's B5 blue also used the same DuPont coating.
Interior: Legendary seat covers, an Acme Headlining Company headliner, and the original dash and gauges were needed for Daniel's interior, while Fred's required Lefty's Upholstery from nearby Hutchinson to restore the interior using an Acme headliner, the original factory dash pad, restored Rallye gauges by Performance Car Graphics in Tallahassee, Florida, and a refinished steering wheel by Gary's Steering Wheel Restoration from Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Lee left the heavy labor to Gary Plessinger, who skillfully restored the brilliant blue interior back to factory original condition.
Looking like it did the day...
Looking like it did the day it rolled off the assembly line on July 23, 1970, Fred's Hemi is authentically restored down to the minutest of details.