Enter Ron Wietholter and his '71 Dodge Challenger. A detective with the Covington, Kentucky Police Department, Ron got into Mopars way back when and fondly remembers his '72 Challenger. Swearing never to get rid of it, he did just that. Life happens, circumstances change, and before you know it you are driving a "practical" car. (Can you just hear the disdain in that word practical?)
But then something happened to Ron in 2001. Midlife crisis struck him like a blow from a two-ton heavy thing, and, wouldn't you know it, Ron bought an '85 Corvette-the quintessential midlife mode of transportation. We are happy to report he nixed the requisite gold chains and silk shirts. After modifying the Vette and hitting the show circuits, Ron did the responsible thing and gave the plastic wonder to his wife. Ladies just look better in Corvettes anyway. Then the unspeakable happened. While attending a show with his wife, a sinister black '70 Challenger entered the show grounds. Ron was immediately redeemed, driven back to reality, and returned to the Mopar fold. Seeing the positive affect the Dodge had on Ron, his loving wife encouraged him to buy one. Now Ron was a man on a mission.
An extensive search turned up this gem in Ohio. The original 318, three-speed Chally had been equipped with an automatic by a previous owner. The car was in good enough shape to land Ron a trophy at a local car show the day after he took delivery of the Dodge. But Ron couldn't leave well enough alone.
Good friend Rodney Lawrence, a former mechanic at the city motor pool, and Ron set out to transform the pedestrian E-body into the sight for sore eyes you see here. First thing on the agenda was ditching the 318/904 combo for something more inspiring. In its place went a 360/380-horse Mopar Performance crate motor. A 727 was procured and fitted with a Transgo shift kit. Next on the ditch list was the 711/44-inch rearend, logically replaced with an 831/44 fitted with a 3.73 geared Sure Grip unit from Randy's Ring & Pinion. Ron and Rodney were on a roll and jettisoned the front drum brakes in favor of a disc brake kit from Master Power Brakes. A 211/42-inch exhaust system breathing through a pair of Flowmasters was bent up and connected to the Hooker Super Comp headers.
With the drivetrain out of the way, the boys sent the car over to Rod Prather's "Hot Rod Garage" in Newtown, Ohio, for the essential paint and bodywork. Rod and son Jay meticulously ironed out every inch of sheetmetal and sprayed it with Rallye Red PPG base/clearcoat. The hood stripes were actually painted on as opposed to the less durable decals. With six coats of color and four coats of clear, the paint is truly something to behold. Glen Bridges of Kelly's Trim Shop in Covington, Kentucky, was commissioned to resurrect the aging interior utilizing a headliner, dashpad, carpeting, and seat covers from Legendary Auto Interiors.
The last and, perhaps, most critical piece to the puzzle that decides how much curb appeal a car will command are the wheels. Here's where Ron decided to damn the purists by choosing a set of 18-inch Budnik Mercury Rims, fitted with Toyo Proxes T1-S tires.
Now that Ron's midlife crisis has passed, and he's gone back to his Mopar roots, we have only one suggestion for you readers: under no circumstances should you buy a Corvette. Ron will tell you there's no substitute for a Mopar musclecar. Even though we sometimes stray, it's good to know you can always go back, but please, no gold chains.
|FAST FACTS |
|Owner: ||Ron Wietholter |
| ||Covington, Kentucky |
|Body: ||'71 Dodge Challenger |
|Color: ||PPG Rallye Red |
|Engine: ||360ci 380hp crate engine |
Stock 3.58 stroke cast crank
MP hydraulic roller cam, 288/292-degrees of advertised duration, .501/.513-inch lift
Chrysler Magnum iron cylinder heads, with 1.925/1.625 valves
Mopar Performance M-1 single- plane intake manifold, Holley
770-cfm Street Avenger carb
|Transmission: ||727 automatic with Transgo |
| ||shift kit |
|Rearend: ||831/44-inch with Richmond 3.73 gears and Sure Grip |
|Wheels/Tires: ||Front: Budnik Mercury 5 18x7 with Toyo Proxes T1-S 225/40Z5R18 front tires; Rear: Budnik Mercury 5 18x9 with Toyo Proxes T1-S 275/40ZR18 |