Years ago, when the designs for Chrysler's E-Body platform were being finalized, there was a TV show-The Time Tunnel-that suggested time travel was possible in the future. But Marvin Charles' '70 Challenger T/A is a time machine of another kind. "When I drive it, I feel like I'm 18 again," Charles says from his home in Muncy, Pennsylvania.
In its original form, the Challenger T/A was a midyear entry into Dodge's Scat Pack, boasting a 340 Six Pack with provisions for four-bolt mains, unique iron heads with a different port configuration from those used on the four-barrel 340, and an Edelbrock-sourced aluminum intake sporting three Holley two-barrels. Making the heads OEM pieces meant they could be used in SCCA's TransAm series that year, as they were on the No. 77 T/A campaigned by Sam Posey. In all, 2,143 production Challenger T/As were built in the latter part of the '70 model run, with the model not offered again after 1970.
Along with his wife's car-a numbers-matching Panther Pink Challenger T/A that's been in the family since 1972-Marvin previously owned another Hemi Orange T/A. It had a black vinyl top, and he owned it since he was 17. Stored in his barn for years, time had taken its toll when he finally sought to restore it in the '90s. He says, "When I put it on the trailer to take it around and get estimates, a piece of the frame had fallen out and lay on the trailer when we got to where we were going. So I thought, Do I want to start on this?"
All was not lost, however. A trip to a Keystone state Mopar shop-Wolfie's Mopars in Richfield, near Carlisle-proved fruitful, when the shop's owner later called him. "He called me about a year later and said, 'Are you doing anything with that car?' I said, No, I don't know what to do with it. He said, 'Tell you what, I've got one down here, and it's a nice driver. Would you be interested in a swap?' We went down and looked at it, and that's what we did. We swapped that one off for this one," recalls Marvin.
Except for the .030-inch overbore...
Except for the .030-inch overbore in the cylinders and the requisite pistons, she's all stock.
Fast forward from 1997-the year Marvin swapped his black-vinyl-topped T/A for the one you see here-to 2003. That's when he and his son decided to restore it, hopefully in time for the younger Charles to take to his junior prom. However, as with many restoration projects, it took longer than planned. Marvin says, "We took it to the body shop in January, and come June, that thing was nowhere near ready." So a Jeep Cherokee was a reluctant prom night substitution. But the T/A was done in time for his senior prom the following year.
"We actually finished it the day of my son's senior prom. That's how close we cut it. The body shop man was really good. The bumpers, the lights-everything that I could do myself-he was more than willing to let me go ahead and do. We couldn't get the wipers to work, so we took the wiper motor off [my wife's] Panther Pink car so he had working wipers in case he needed them, which he did that night."
As for the specifics of the restoration-the car got the full treatment, thanks to a number of shops near the Charles' home. Marvin says, "It was all done locally. The body shop-Whipple's Auto Restoration-has been in Hughesville, Pennsylvania, for 50 years. It's third-generation operated, and they did the work. We did try to paint the grille area with the overspray exactly the way it left the factory." It was painted with a V2-hue Hemi Orange color in basecoat/clearcoat paint, sprayed on by Whipple's to resemble how Hamtramck Assembly's paint shop spritzed on the Ditzler in the spring of 1970. Whipple's also refinished the OEM fiberglass hood and rear spoiler, and applied the reproduction T/A graphics.
Marvin's T/A has the "full...
Marvin's T/A has the "full Kowalski" interior-black buckets, no console, Hurst pistol grip shifter, Rallye gauge cluster, a radio, and a few other options. Repro seat covers and other items are from YearOne. When we first saw the car at Carlisle, it was missing a lot of interior pieces. Since that was the only thing keeping us from shooting the feature, Marvin literally "Found it at Carlisle," and bought the pieces he needed.
Simpson Machine in Muncy did the engine, with Dave Bitler handling the assembly. Mechanically, the only changes to the engine are a .030-inch overbore and a set of corresponding 10.5:1-compression Sealed Power pistons. Otherwise, the 340 Six Pack carries much the same hardware it did when new, including a steel crank and rods, original-type dual-point distributor, and a factory-grind hydraulic cam. A new clutch sits between it and the Hurst-shifted A-833 four-speed transmission. The exhaust is also as-original, down to its front-entry/front-exit mufflers and big, chrome, dealer-installed, side-exit "megaphone" tips.
Underneath, the chassis received all-new parts, while keeping unique-to-T/A items like the rear sway bar, and E60-15 front tires and G60-15s in back, each pair on 15-inch steel Rallye wheels.
A new interior kit was sourced from YearOne, and B&W Upholstery in nearby Turbotville, Pennsylvania, installed it.
Marvin says the T/A is especially fun to drive on the twisty roads near his home in Susquehanna Valley. "It's beautiful," he says. "I wanted to get a [personalized] license plate number, but it was already taken. I wanted "18 AGAIN" because that's exactly how I feel when I drive it. It's a four-speed car, and when you're going through the gears, and you hear that exhaust, you shift and it starts all over until I get it into high gear, when I'm usually running about 90 mph."
Marvin says his wife wants them to get a "HIS TA" plate for this car and a "HER TA" plate for her Panther Pink T/A.
Fast Facts '70 Dodge Challenger T/A CoupeOwner: Marvin Charles Muncy, Pa
Engine: 340 Six Pack, with unique-to-this-engine cylinder heads with a different port configuration than the heads used on the four-barrel 340s. Originally assembled at Chrysler's Mound Road engine plant near Detroit, this engine was restored at Simpson Machine in Muncy, Pennsylvania, with assembly by Dave Bitler. The only change from OEM is a .030-inch overbore and Sealed Power pistons (compression ratio: 10.5:1). All other components are either OEM stock pieces, or reproductions of original parts, including the Chrysler dual-point ignition, Edelbrock intake manifold, and Holley carburetors.
Transmission: A-833 four-speed manual, with Hurst Pistol grip shifter.
Rearend: 8-3/4 ring gear, with a Sure Grip differential.
Suspension: Restoration of original Challenger T/A chassis included replacement torsion bars/rear leaf springs, heavy-duty shock absorbers, and front/rear sway bars (rear bar was unique to the T/A).
Wheels: Wheels are 15x7-inch Chrysler Rallye road wheels with E60-15 tires in front, G60-15 tires in rear.
Body: Original all-steel Unitbody (with OEM fiberglass hood and rear spoiler) was refinished by Whipple's Auto Body, Hughesville, Pennsylvania.
Paint: Main body color is a two-stage, basecoat/clearcoat V2 Hemi Orange. Whipple's also applied the reproduction T/A graphics.
Interior: Originally built with a black interior, with Rallye dash cluster, front bucket seats, and no console. A reproduction black vinyl interior kit from YearOne was installed by B&W Upholstery, Turbotville, Pennsylvania.