Just like today, new car owners...
Just like today, new car owners of the '60s and '70s often took their vehicles to the dragstrip to test their performance. Some of these cars-like this '70 Challenger R/T found by Gardner Peters-were painted wild colors, raced regularly, then stored, and are still waiting to be found.
People who purchased high-performance cars during the muscle car era weren't too different from those who buy performance models today. Performance automobile owners have always shared the common feeling that a car is not simply a way to get efficiently from point A to point B, but should also get the driver's adrenaline pumping along the way. Muscle cars were ideal purchases for the automo-tive enthusiast of the day, with big engines in lightweight bodies. Some of these cars-like this '70 Challenger R/T discovered by Gardner Peters-were painted wildly and turned into modified street machines, racing regularly at the dragstrip on the weekends and terrorizing the local avenues during the week.
Though dusty and aged, you...
Though dusty and aged, you can clearly see the large metal flakes in the bright purple paint job. This is a good example of how people customized their cars in the '70s.
Prior to being purchased by Gardner, this Challenger had two previous owners. The first was a lady who purchased the car new, then quickly returned the car to the Dodge dealer in Brockton, Massachusetts, in late 1970 because the 440 engine used a bunch of gas and had too much power. The Challenger's second owner, who Gardner has developed a friendship with and credits with keeping the car in such good condition, then purchased the car from the dealer in December 1970 and quickly went to work modifying his new ride. Since he wanted to race the Challenger, he immediately pulled the heads for port work, then installed a big cam, headers, and a '69-1/2 440 Six-Pack induction system on the engine. The transmission was treated to an overhaul and a reverse-pattern manual valvebody. a 4.10 geared Dana was installed out back. After using the car as a street/strip machine for several years, the second owner finally decided to dedicate his efforts to drag racing and painted the car accordingly.
Wild colors and paint schemes were the rage in the '70s, especially on race cars, and the owner of this Challenger decided to repaint his original Plum Crazy car a slightly wilder shade of purple. In 1975, the metal-flake purple paint job was applied along with the cobweb stripes, and the car was named "Purple Haze." The Challenger was raced frequently at the New England Dragway as well as Englishtown, running low 11s in race trim, and the numerous "class-winner" decals on the rear windows testify to its success. Though not regularly street driven, the owner of the car did keep it registered and inspected for street use until 1982 when family obligations forced him to stop racing and place the car in storage.
Multiple class winner decals...
Multiple class winner decals indicate the success of this Challenger at the dragstrip. Race cars can be good finds as they were usually stored inside and rode on trailers more than they were driven. Gardner was lucky the original engine hadn't been damaged by years of dragstrip duty.
Gardner met the car's second owner in the late '90s and told him if he ever wanted to sell the car to let him know. Over the next six years, he and the owner became friends, and when the owner finally decided to sell, Gardner was the first person he called. Quickly striking a deal for what Gardner calls a "fair price," the Challenger changed hands for only the third time in more than three decades.
Since this Challenger was raced on weekends, stored inside, and driven very rarely on the street, it's in amazing shape. The engine is still the original 440; the body is rust-free; and the interior is all stock with the exception of the carpeted console and door panels. The car is a well-preserved time capsule that shows what race cars of the '70s looked like. Gardner plans to keep the car's appearance as-is, saying he'll enjoy the car with it's metal-flake paint job but may consider a restoration in the future.
To get the car in good running condition, Gardner replaced the exhaust and headers, recored the radiator, aligned the front end, and changed various brake and fuel system components that showed their age. After driving the car for a year or so, new shocks and rear springs were installed, but otherwise the car remains as purchased.
When asked for advice about landing a rare find, Gardner says to simply not give up searching. This Challenger was less than a mile from his house for several years before a coworker told him about it. Even then, it took six years to convince the owner to sell. We love the cool metal-flake paint job, and we thank Gardner for sharing his rare find.