1970 DODGE R/T 426 Hemi Challenger 4-Speed 'Pistol Grip' Manual

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1970 DODGE R/T 426 Hemi Challenger 4-Speed 'Pistol Grip' Manual

Background

Given that the peak muscle/pony car era is generally considered to be 1964 to 1970, the 1970 Dodge Challenger was something of a latecomer to an arena in which the Ford Mustang, Pontiac GTO, Plymouth Barracuda, Oldsmobile 442, 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle SS and 1965 Buick Gran Sport were already familiar competitors.

The Challenger’s brief was to raise the bar in terms of power, dimensions and luxury, and take the fight to cars such as the Mercury Cougar and Pontiac Firebird.

Available in a vast array of engine and trim configurations, the Challenger’s halo model was the R/T 426 Hemi, where the ‘R/T’ stands for ‘Road & Track’, 426 is the 7-litre engine’s capacity in cubic inches, and ‘Hemi’ is Chrysler’s legendary V8 engine with its hemispherical combustion chambers.

When equipped with the 4-speed manual box (with its ‘pistol grip’ Hurst gear lever) this car developed 425bhp, was capable of 0-60mph in 5.4 seconds and 0-100mph in 13.6 seconds.

The 426 Hemi engine was purely a homologation engine for NASCAR and its design is still the basis for Top Fuel drag cars' engines today.

That’s some serious grunt for 1970, a year that saw: Elvis Presley at No.1 in the UK charts; the first Boeing 747 commercial flight to London; and Sidney Poitier in They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (yes, it had an exclamation mark in the title).

Talking of films, anyone seen 1971’s Vanishing Point? This very watchable (and very politically incorrect) film has a cast that includes Barry Newman and a frequently under-dressed Charlotte Rampling.

The film’s real star, though, is a white Dodge Challenger R/T.

At the time, Chryslers were the popular choice for studio executives looking to populate their films with cars.

Why?

Because Chrysler had cunningly adopted the rather far-sighted policy of leasing cars to film studios at a rate of 1 dollar per day.

A total of 165,437 first-generation Challengers were sold.

Of these, only 13,796 were R/T hardtop.

Most people agree that the best of the bunch are the 1970 models and that the one to have is the 1970 426 Hemi R/T hardtop 4 speed manual.

Only 137 of these were ever made.

And we’ve got one of these rare, iconic, fabulous beasts here with us right now at The Market’s HQ.

Iain Tyrrell, the longstanding (and in recent years, YouTube) authority on all matters concerning classic and collectible cars, asked us to loan him this Hemi so he could make another fantastic episode for his channel 'Tyrrell's Classic Workshop'. Please click the link below to view. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6MgA6tfKE8

The Vehicle

There are many words you could use to describe this fabulous car.

‘Inconspicuous’ isn’t one them. Neither is ‘subtle’.

If you’re within 50 metres or so of this car you’ll find it occupies most of the horizon.

It’s long enough to be in two post codes at once, it’s a blindingly bright shade of ‘Hemi Orange’ and it makes a noise that will set off alarms at a range of a mile or so.

It couldn’t be more Good Ol’ Boy if it was smuggling moonshine over a State line, playing the banjo in a sinister way and looking left and right at the same time.

We’ve seen cavemen with a more sensitive, feminine side to them.

It retains its original matching numbers R-code engine and A833 manual gearbox, and was the subject of a meticulous rotisserie restoration around 14 years ago. It has covered very few miles since then.

The restoration was carried out in strict accordance with the exact original specification - as recorded on the car’s build sheet. The presence of the correct factory overspray in the engine bay and on the undercarriage is a testament to the quality, authenticity and detail of this restoration.

Amazingly, the build sheet (looking as dog-eared, dusty and ancient as a Dead Sea scroll) is still with the car. The sheet has been decoded to show all the factory options. These include the desirable Track Pak (A33) and a full stripe delete.

It also shows that the car was a military export as new.

Presumably, this mahoosive orange behemoth wasn’t shipped off to some secret, undercover unit.

The original fender tags are also present, including those carrying the all-important 'Hemi' designation.

The car was purchased from the Legendary Motor Car Ltd of Ontario, Canada and imported into the UK by air in 2017. The car subsequently had a new clutch fitted and was upgraded to electronic ignition in order to make it more usable.

Next, the car went to spend some time in Majorca, where it joined its then owner’s collection of other cars, including two MG Metro 6R4s and a Jeep ‘Golden Eagle’ – cars we imagine would be rather better suited to twisty Majorcan dirt tracks than a Dodge Challenger.

In July 2020 the car was sold to the current owner and was sent to a Mopar specialist for an inspection and tune. The inspection confirmed and commended the quality of restoration once again. The sump and rocker cover gaskets were replaced, the steering was tightened and straightened, and the ignition timing was reset.

All the factory stampings in the body and drivetrain are present and matching. The exception being the number on the radiator support bar, which is one of the most commonly replaced panels on E-body Mopars.

We’ve driven this fabulous car and can confirm that this is a properly screwed together example and one that has been the subject of a great deal of expert attention and work over the years. It starts up on the button and goes and stops just as you’d hope a 7-litre V8 Hemi-engined muscle car might.

The pistol grip gear lever is a joy to use, with each gear change slotting positively into place with the weight and smoothness of oiled granite.

Once it’s warmed up, had a stretch and cleared its throat, this car pulls away like an angry freight train and makes a noise full of Wagnerian fury and thunder. It’s really quite an experience.

But it’s not for the faint hearted.

You wouldn’t want to drive it over a mountain pass, that’s for sure. These cars were built for wide, straight American roads, not narrow lanes with lots of corners.

We think that the authentic Goodyear Polyglas tyres are probably responsible for some of the car’s skittishness and tendency to hunt and tramline - either by design or because they’re slightly under inflated. We’re not experts.

Just looking at this loud orange beast is like getting a slap round the face from the big lad in the Tango commercials.

Rest assured, people who see this coming will stop and stare.

And people who hear it at the last minute will dive headlong into the nearest hedge.

It is a glorious example of a very rare and truly iconic car.

On the Outside

Finished in rare Hemi Orange (EV2) with Black vinyl roof (VX1) and Black interior (X9), this car is in first-class condition today. The only real signs of use are one or two tiny stone chips here and there.

The original spec Goodyear Polyglas tyres are in very good condition with no perishing and plenty of tread. The original body colour steel wheels have some touched-in chips and the ‘dog dish’ hubcaps are untroubled by either time or use.

The Hemi Orange paintwork has plenty of shine and lustre to it. It gleams like it’s been freshly painted. We wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it glows in the dark. The black vinyl roof is scuff free, not peeling or faded anywhere, and fits tightly with no bubbles or ripples that we can see.

The shutlines and panel gaps are consistent and even. The panels are free of any scrapes, scratches, scuffs, creases, folds, ripples, warps, dinks or dents to speak of.

The chrome work is unmarked and in top condition. So, too, are the trim, grille and lights.  The badges, although patinated are in lovely condition.

There is no rust anywhere that we’ve spotted.

Marvellous.

On the Inside

The condition and authenticity of the interior is equally impressive. The seats are comfortable, supportive and free of any nicks, tears or significant creasing.

The rear seats, carpets, mats, door cards and roof lining are all in top-class nick, too.

The functionally elegant dashboard looks practically brand new. The steering wheel and pistol-grip gear lever are also excellent, although the gaiter is a little lop-sided and could do with being refitted.

As far as we can tell, all knobs, levers, buttons, switches, dials and toggles do what they’re supposed to do.

Did we mention the authenticity of this car? Just in case you’re in any doubt, open the cubby hole in the centre console.

Yes, that’s right.

It’s ‘The Best of the Doobie Brothers’ on an 8-track cartridge from 1976.

Of course it is.

The original ‘spacesaver’ wheel is present in the boot but unfortunately part of the jack is missing.

Lifting up the carpets here or anywhere else in the car reveals…no rust to speak of save for the odd bloom of entirely superficial dust.

Underneath

The underside is in immaculate, almost factory-fresh condition, as are the suspension componentry and drivetrain.

It all looks solid, tough and possessed of plenty of structural integrity.

Everything that isn’t orange is shiny metal. Everything that isn’t shiny metal is liberally coated in protective bitumen/wax.

Again, there’s no rust that we can see anywhere.

And then there’s the engine bay.

It’s clean, dry, very full and very orange.

Everything looks minty fresh and barely run-in.

The engine number is stamped on the block OB371978, and the gearbox is also C 99129 H. Pictures of both are in the photo gallery.

After its stay with Iain Tyrrell, he did report that there was a rattle coming from one of the exhaust silencers, so some work to rectify this will be desired, no doubt. We believe the exhaust fitted is the 'California' spec, which was designed to give a 'quieter' exhaust note. We therefore fully encourage the winning bidder to consider a new exhaust system that will deliver a far more pleasing and evocative sound.   

History Highlights

No, it doesn’t have service books or wads of bills going back to 1970.

What is does have is quality that speaks for itself and a very high-quality restoration that has held up remarkably well.

It also has matching bodyshell and drivetrain number, plus its original build sheet.

This looks like what it is – a car that was restored with no expense spared then kept warm, dry and barely used as part of a cherished collection.

It has a detailed bill for £2,250-worth of minor touch-up, remedial and recommissioning work carried out by Thunder Road Cars (Mopar specialists) in 2020.

The car doesn’t currently have an MoT certificate.

Please visit the documents section of the gallery of this listing where you will find photos of this and other paperwork to support our claim that this car has been maintained to a very good standard.

The number plate currently showing on the car IS NOT included in the sale.

If you’d like to inspect the car prior to placing a bid – something we would encourage – then please use the Contact Seller button to arrange an appointment.

What We Think

With only 137 ever in existence, you’re likely to be waiting a very long time before you set eyes upon another 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 426 Hemi 4-speed manual.

And we think you could be waiting for ever to find a better one than this.

This extraordinary car is pretty much in a class of its own.

It’s very special indeed.

We’re happy to offer this rare vehicle for auction with an estimate in the range of £85,000 – £110,000.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon; to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage options plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping.  

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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Seller

sweg

  • Location: The Market HQ, Abingdon, United Kingdom
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 47800
  • Chassis Number: JS23R0B371978
  • Engine: 7000
  • Gearbox: Manual
  • Steering position: LHD
  • Colour: Hemi Orange
  • Interior: Black
  • Estimated Price: £85,000 - £110,000

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