Is the Challenger that you see here Ma Mopar's last rear-drive droptop before the Viper?
It could be, thanks to a build date late in the 1971 model run, and the executive decision at Highland Park a few years before to phase out all convertibles. A-Body ones were the first to go after 1969, and 1970 was the last year for the B-Body and C-Body droptops. Finally, the E-Body convertibles were gone after 1971. Soft-top, rear-drive Chrysler products would not return until the Viper arrived over two decades later.
Of all the E-Body convertibles, the '71 Challenger has to be about the rarest. Just 1,793 were produced in the platform's second year, down from the 3,857 that ChryCo built and The Dodge Boys sold in 1970. (Total Challenger production was way down in 1971: 26,742, which was just over a third of 1970's 76,395 total.)
But, if this particular Challenger, which rolled out of Hamtramck Assembly on Wednesday, May 5, 1971, was the last rear-drive Mopar convertible until the Viper, then Ma Mopar's droptops went out in grand style.
Seats, side panels, top boot-they're all original. AM radio was added later to this rigina
This one went out of the former Dodge Main plant with an eye-grabbing color combination, starting with the GY3 Citron Yella body color, accented with black stripes along each side.
Donna Randall, who owns this Challenger, says the colors were re-applied over its OEM steel. "Believe it or not, all that sheetmetal is original" she says. "The car was repainted about eight years ago, but the door jambs have the original paint, and the color match of them to the new paint is dead-on." Her husband Glenn adds, "It's amazing for a convertible to have original sheetmetal, especially one that came out of Canada."
How did this car survive the ravages of time and corrosion in The Great White North? Glenn recalls, "It came out of a pretty decent collection about two years ago." That was the time that Donna told Glenn to look for her a car, but not just any car. She said, "If you found me a convertible with an automatic, I'd love to do everything that you do with cars." So, Glenn was on a mission, and it took him about two years to find the coolest colored convertible that he could.
Under that cool "High Impact" color is an engine that a lot of hard-core Mopar enthusiasts swear by: the 340-inch LA-series small-block, built the year before its compression-and power-was cut.
In 1971, as the year before, when you checked option code E55 on the order blank, not only did you get the 340, but you also got the Rallye suspension with front and rear sway bars, a 26-inch heavy-duty radiator, the same quick-ratio steering box used in the '70 Challenger T/A, the R/T's scooped hood and chrome exhaust tips, and 15-inch wheels. "All of that good stuff is factory," says Glenn. That also goes for the power top, steering, and brakes.
Not bad for the $252.50 extra that E55 added to the '71 Challenger convertible's $3,207 base sticker price. (With E55 and the other factory options on it, the bottom line on this Challenger's window sticker was around $4,230.) One big-ticket factory option was left off. "There's no air conditioning, unfortunately, but with a 340 in a convertible, who needs it?" Glenn says with a big laugh.
But not many '71 Challengers were built with the E55 option package. Just 1,057 coupes and 176 convertibles got it, to go along with 1,078 340-powered '71 Challenger R/T coupes.
Lest you think this ultra-rare Mopar is a garage queen, think again. "We drove the car to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, from Annapolis, Maryland, on the Thursday before the 2009 All-Chrysler show started. We drove it up, and then drove it back home. We didn't get home until midnight on Sunday.
The original 340 still sits between the Challenger's fenders, unburdened by air conditioni
We've heard that the 340-powered Challengers are some of the best-handling Mopars, and Glenn doesn't disagree. "It handles better than any other E-Body that I've driven," he says with a big smile. "I have a '70 'Cuda that's a 440 6-Barrel/four-speed car-I've had it for a while, and my wife won't drive a four-speed. Even though she learned to drive on one, she hasn't driven one since
With a Slap Stick-shifted 340, why mess with a clutch? "She loves it, we're happy with it, and we drive it everywhere," Glenn adds. "Since we got that car, we don't drive anything else!"
'71 Dodge Challenger convertible
Owned by: Donna and Glenn Randall, Annapolis, Maryland
- Engine: Instead of the big-block, this Citron Yella '71 Challenger convertible has a 340 under its hood-the option code E55 engine that went in at Hamtramck when this car was built on May 5, 1971.
- Transmission: Option code D32: A heavy-duty 727 TorqueFlite, with a factory "Slap Stick" shifter in the console
- Rearend: The original 8 3/4-inch rear end, with an open differential and 3.23:1 rear gears.
- Suspension: Original Rallye suspension that went on at Hamtramck: (Front) heavy duty longitudinal torsion bars, sway bar, and shocks (Rear) heavy-duty leaf springs, sway bar, and shocks.
- Brakes: B51 power brakes with discs in front, drums in back
- Wheels and Tires: 15 x 7-inch Rallye wheels were original equipment on this Challenger, while the OEM E60-15 bias-ply tires were replaced long ago by P235/60R15 BFGoodrich Radial T/As
- Body: An original '71 Challenger convertible unibody that's never needed new steel.
- Paint: GY3 Citron Yella "High Impact" paint went on in the paint shop at Hamtramck, and the same color was re-applied about eight years ago (as were the black stripes.)
- Interior: Original high back black vinyl buckets (code H6X9) were OEM, and that's what it still has. "Music Master" AM radio was a later addition, as this was a radio/speaker delete car when built.
"She loves it, we're happy with it, and we drive it everywhere. Since we got that car, we don't drive anything else!"-Glenn Randall