Writer’s Note: This is a continuation of my flashback series about some of my teenage experiences with Challengers in the 1970’s.
If only I had the chance again…
Scanning the local papers for ads became my new religion.
I was getting pretty good at understanding all the cryptic abbreviations, like people trying to fit all the critical data into something smaller than a Twitter post. Little codes like: “stick” “PS” “PB” “dual” “383-2” “440-4″ ‘RT” “dana” “Rally” ” “AC” “disk” “console” “AT” “hemi” ‘6pk” “F60” “SE” “blk int” “needs paint” “needs body” “runs” “6cyl” “conv” “needs mech” “FAST” “dana60” “rblt eng.” “red” “green” “purple” “orange” “blue” “race” “lo mi” “4 sp” “side pipes” “headers” “Holley” “4 bbl” and so on – all these gave you some idea what was out there.
I’d see an ad for a Challenger and then dream about it every day until my dad and I could go check it out.
One time, there was a 1970 R/T with a 340, Plum Crazy purple with a black interior and white vinyl top, and a FOUR SPEED (again!). We went to check her out at a used car lot in Sunnyvale which was about 20 minutes away.
I remember this day like it was almost yesterday. The sun was shining, as the awesome purple colored R/T sat menacingly along the sidewalk on the lot of Hacienda Motors, facing El Camino Real like it wanted to tear the road apart.
I was still under-aged and gun shy of powerful 4 speeds, so I let my dad test drive. I thought that was really cool watching dad drive the car. He wasn’t a muscle car nut by my standards, but he enjoyed driving and always seemed to take my interest in Challengers seriously. To a kid growing up, that was a great affirmation that I wasn’t completely insane.
My dad didn’t spend much time with me playing catch or playing games or a lot of things that most people might expect but he did try to meet me where I was with Challengers and that says a lot to me as I look back.
This was the first time I ever rode in a Challenger as my dad had to fiddle with the reverse-lockout pistol grip four speed shifter. It seemed like this could be a really decent car. Just the “340 Four Barrel” emblem on the scooped hood seemed to make this bad-boy scream ‘I am one ass-kicking muscle car’.
They wanted $2150.
I remember how it started and how great it was to hear the R/T pipes rumble, the symphony of mechanical parts permeating the air. This was no plain car, no way.
As dad got the R/T out onto the local side street, he applied the gas and started shifting gears, revving the engine, and glancing at the tach on the rally dash Everything seemed fine, except for this awful grinding sound that sprang up when we picked up some speed that crescendoed into some coarse mechanical whining that was about as loud as the exhaust.
My heart broke.
We chose not to get the car.
Looking back, the problem may have been a differential simple swap, but we figured we could find something better for the price – something that didn’t have any major problems.
It would sure be nice to have that one. A sweet car with a whine that nowadays couldn’t have been any sweeter.
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