We see a lot of cars that-between their factory build and present day-have resided in more than one state. Many times, these are California or desert Southwest cars with minimal rust, hauled back East, then restored or built into pavement-wrinkling street machines.
Jim Rigby's '70 Challenger R/T coupe isn't one of them. after it rolled off the line at Hamtramck Assembly on the day after Labor Day 1969, it headed east to a Dodge dealer in central New York, and it's been in the Empire State ever since.
Jim says it was sold new in Utica, New York, at Carbone Motor Sales. "I have some people who are trying to figure out if it was ordered like that. some people say it might have been a dealer-ordered car," he says. The features it was built with (per its fender tag) lean toward the appearance side of the options list with some performance items thrown in for good measure. it's an R/T, so the 383 Magnum, dual exhausts with chrome tips, F70-14 raised-white-letter tires, and heavy-duty suspension with front sway bar were standard. Add in the optional an A-833 four-speed and the Performance Axle Group (which included a 3.55-geared, Sure Grip-equipped 83/4-inch rearend and a 26-inch radiator), and you were only a few hundred dollars over the Challenger R/T coupe's base price of $3,266.
The 383 Magnum was standard...
The 383 Magnum was standard in the Challenger R/T for 1970. Jim had RJ Cars restore the one in his R/T to showroom-new condition. The factory emission-control info sticker on the left fenderwell is the "early" 1970 one.
To all that hardware, Hamtramck Assembly added cloth-and-vinyl buckets to this E-Body, along with a white vinyl top and side stripes, matte-black performance hood paint, center console, light group, seatbelt group, an AM radio with eight-track tape player and rear speaker, Rallye road wheels, and some other appearance and convenience options. this car's sticker price came in around $4,335.
Jim was looking for his first musclecar and first Challenger when he spotted it. "I was just looking for any decent Challenger," he says of his search. "I didn't really have anything in particular in mind, but I was very happy to pick this one up."
But this car was far from showroom-fresh when Jim found it, even though it had been off the road and garaged away from New York's harsh winters and heavily salted roads for quite some time. "A friend of mine saw it on the Internet. It was up near Utica, which is about two hours away from me," Jim says from his home near Rochester. "He knew more about cars than I did, so I asked him if he would go look at it with me. But he couldn't go till Monday and it was a Wednesday. I thought, If it's a good car, it's not going to last the weekend. So I jumped in my car, liked what I saw, and bought it."
How many factory options can...
How many factory options can you spot inside Jim's R/T? We see at least five, including the AM/eight-track radio, four-speed, console, cloth/vinyl seats, and the seatbelt group (which includes the warning light next to the reverse-warning light next to the glovebox).
At first, Jim-who's a trooper with the New York State Police-wanted to tackle the restoration himself. But after the "easy" work was done, he knew he needed help. "I had grand delusions of tearing it all down and putting it back together again," he recalls. "But I don't have the expertise or the tools needed. I took it apart pretty easily, but one day I looked at my garage, and I thought, Oh my God, I'm in way over my head here! That's when I decided to hold off a bit and look for someone to restore it." And that's where RJ Cars in nearby Arkport, New York, came in. "It took close to three years," Jim says of the rotisserie project that transformed his garage full of parts into the blue/white/black eye-grabber you see here.
The original quarters needed replacing, but the rest of the car's original steel had escaped the ravages of time and was treated to a black epoxy primer coat once the rust repairs were done. Then on went the B5 blue paint, this time in basecoat/clearcoat form.
In went the rebuilt 383/A-833-based powertrain, then the restored interior, and then the finishing touches were done just before the '07 Chryslers at Carlisle weekend.
"When I bought the car in 2000, my son, Raymond, was five years old. the car sat around here for several years, and he always said it was a rusty piece of junk and laughed at it," says Jim. "As he got older, he realized what musclecars were---he's 13 now---and he starting asking, 'Dad, where's the car now? Please don't sell it!' all the time it was down at RJ Cars being restored. this past summer at Carlisle, we surprised him with it."
Jim adds that in addition to doing a top notch job on the car, Russ Jacobs and all his RJ Cars employees were friendly and accommodating.
Optional cloth/vinyl seats...
Optional cloth/vinyl seats prevented Challenger occupants from "wearing" the stock upholstery pattern on hot days. Fronts wear Legendary repro covers, while the back seat still wears its original upholstery.
There's one other Challenger in the Rigby garage: A '72, which he found not long after he bought the '70 R/T. "It's a California car with a 318, A/C, and tinted glass, but that's pretty much it," Jim says. "It's a plain-Jane car. I've done nothing with it but change the oil, jump in it, and turn the key. I'd searched for years for a car to buy, and all of a sudden, I had two of 'em!" One detail that Jim's looking to add to both cars: period-correct, blue-with-orange-lettering, New York State license plates, just like the ones issued from the mid-'60s through 1973.
What's it like driving the 383-powered R/T? "It's a dream. It's quite a head-turner," says the ever-observant state trooper. "It runs down the road great. it reminds me of the days when we'd work on our cars all week, just to drive them on the weekend, break them, then fix them up again during the week. I just love musclecars and the way they're put together."
Does Jim have any advice for first-time musclecar buyers in the market for a project or turnkey car? "If you scour the web sites and ads in the papers, and if something comes up, you just have to go and look right away because if it's anything worthwhile, it's just not going to last on the market. Nowadays, they're not sticking around [on the market] too long."
'70 Dodge Challenger R/T Coupe
Jim Rigby, Victor, NY
- Engine: Original 383 Magnum V-8 (standard on the Challenger R/T). Machine work by Mike Mastin, Livonia, New York. Re-assembly by John Krause at RJ Cars. Original Holley four-barrel carburetor restored; Mopar Performance distributor and electronic ignition conversion kit replaced OEM Mopar parts. Reproduction exhaust system by Accurate Exhaust. Reproduction stickers in engine bay include "early" '70 vehicle-emissions information label.
- Transmission: An optional-on-the-R/T item: the A-833 four-speed with a Hurst pistol-grip shifter-in this case, the short version used in console-equipped E-Bodies. Transmission rebuilt by John Krause at RJ Cars.
- Rearend: Jim's Challenger was built with the RPO A36 Performance Axle Group (3.55 gears and a Sure Grip differential inside an 83/4-inch rearend). Restored by RJ Cars.
- Suspension: Restored original R/T, front (HD longitudinal torsion bars and sway bar) and rear (HD longitudinal leaf springs). OEM rubber bushings replaced by urethane ones. Rebuilt by RJ Cars.
- Brakes: Original RPO B51 power front disc/rear drum brakes restored by RJ Cars.
- Wheels: 14x7-inch Rallyes wearing repro Goodyear Polyglas F70-14 tires, same as what the car was built with. (E60-15 tires on 15x7-inch wheels were on the option list then, but not spec'd for this car.)
- Body: Original '70 Challenger coupe rotisserie restored by RJ Cars. Replacement parts include: Goodmark quarter-panels, reproduction vinyl top/side-body tape stripes.
- Paint: Mopar's ever-popular B5 Blue (original color), sprayed on in Diamont basecoat/clearcoat by C.J. Tremper at RJ Cars. Once painted, the body was treated to reproduction white side-body tape stripes, white vinyl top, and matte-black performance hood treatment-all of which the car was originally built with.
- Interior: (Original) Loaded with options like "houndstooth" cloth/vinyl seat trim, Rallye dash with tach, AM radio with eight-track tape player, center console, rear window defogger. (Restored) Still loaded with options, including original AM radio/eight-track tape player. Repro front seat upholstery/foam by Legendary Auto Interiors, and installed by Frank Hoffman at RJ Cars. (Rear seat is original.) Steering wheel restoration by Gary's Steering. All other interior restoration work by RJ Cars.
Per "902" code on the fender tag, this Challenger was assembled by Ma Mopar on Tuesday, September 2, 1969, about five weeks after model year 1970 Challenger production started. Per "B" code in VIN, this car was built at Hamtramck Assembly.
Production totals (per stockmopar.com) Total '70 Dodge Challenger production (all series/engines/body styles): 76,935 Total '70 Dodge Challenger R/T production (all engines/body styles): 18,512 Total '70 Dodge Challenger R/T coupe production (all engines): 13,796 Total '70 Dodge Challenger R/T coupe production (with 383): 9,067