1978 – 1985: The Days of My First Challenger

Note: This is a continuation of previous posts about experiences during my teenage years in the late 1970’s. I’ve been looking for the rare photos I had of the car but I haven’t been able to find the few I remember having. If I find them I’ll update this story’s photos (which I have with some old photos).

I recently was contacted by a few of my old high school streetmachiner friends who discovered this blog and it was a pleasant surprise to hear about some of their car experiences over the last decades. So it’s with you all of you guys in mind that I post this article, hope it helps bring back some pleasant memories.

It was a fun and fascinating time, those days searching for my first car. I had two close car buddies, Scott Douglas (The Ford Expert) and Rick Elliott (The Chevy Expert) who together through junior high school and the early days of high school, would spend more time than we should have day-dreaming about life cruising the streets, roads and highways. Rick was the first one to get his car, a 1955 Chevy Bel-Air Wagon which he wanted to restore, so it sat in his backyard for what seemed like years. Then Scott got his 1967 Mustang fastback, which he kept in his driveway as it went straight into customization mode, which over those early years became a local legend, a wimbledon white GT-350 styled ground pounder with gold stripes. Then I found my 1971 Challenger, which, by the way, was the first one that was able to be driven.

 

A summary of the High School Days with my first Challenger

 

The Family Outing

My dad and I checked out a lot of Challengers of all years, but in January of 1978, when I was 15, I finally found a Challenger with a combination I could live with that was under $2000. By this point, my mom was involved and I think she wasn’t interested in me getting a radical fire breathing monster. Funny how mom’s suddenly get involved when that critical moment materializes, as if she’s going to drive it. Buying a Challenger, my first car, becomes a bit of a family affair. We found the Blue Flash in some obscure used car lot in San Jose with about 42,000 miles, previously owned by an old lady. And as far as what you think Challengers are normally, it was a bit of an old lady’s car. It had a floor shift automatic and a 383 two barrel (which still had some awesome torque), single exhaust, no sway bars, dark metallic blue paint with a black vinyl top, power steering with a 5.2 turn box,  a salt and pepper interior with a cigarette burn hole in the back seat, air conditioning, and wire rim hubcaps with 70 series “Mohawk” Tires, and a unique trim package I’ve rarely seen since.  The price was $1700, or $1900 out the door. It ran great. At the time I had $1250, so my Dad helped me with the rest.

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Thanks to my brother Nick Yee, he uncovered this photo with highlights the original condition the 1971 was in before I started tampering with it with my teenage hands. Photo taken about 1978.

 

Some Random Reminiscing

As with many of the younger persuasion, I slowly began modifying and personalizing my Challenger. I will not go into extensive details here, but suffice it to say that as a young street machine freak, you just do as you feel and that is okay. It was all about whatever you can afford and whatever seems like a cool idea gets the nod of approval. This Challenger turned into my high school ride and also my ride into adulthood. The Challenger was a reliable partner through my high school days: having a really great time cruising with all the motorheads at school, wild burnouts in the back parking lot, road trips, and general partying. We were raising hell on the highways and byways and, fortunately, survived the experience and didn’t hurt others.

Worthy of MoPar note was the quickest car at school owned by Dale Mosher, a hemi-orange 1969 Dart with a 440 six-pack with a black vinyl top and 4.10s in the back. Truly a rad rocket.

 

The absolute best cruising night was in 1979 when a huge group of us got together to go cruising on a Saturday Night in San Mateo, California. We met in the back parking lot of Palo Alto High School and just about everyone showed up who had the car fever, including the blue Torino Wagon with the yellow dome light pulling unsuspecting motorists over (you know who you are, my friend). I could  start naming people but I’m sure I’d miss someone. If you were there, you’d remember those days before the “No Cruising” law. That strip on El Camino Real was absolutely packed.

We were living the mystique that is conjured in ones mind when you think of the “Muscle Car Era” all the while with Van Halen, AC/DC or Lynyrd Skynyrd blaring in the background. Actually it was the Oil Crisis Era, but we did not care. What was cool was my young nephew and niece used to cheer out, “Dukes of Hazard!” to the sounds of the big block Mopar or how some high school girls used to have their talks while sitting ON my car in the back parking lot at school, thinking it was cool place to hang out.

first_2

This photo was taken by my Navy bud, Michael Avery. I think we were doing some backroad moto-ing in the National forest east of San Diego in 1981.

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This photo is from my Navy bud, Michael Avery, here I am probably at the Navy gas station or Navy DIY auto shop at Naval Training Center, San Diego in 1981.

 

 

A quick rundown of most of my modifications that occurred over time:

Edelbrock Torker,  a Holley 780 CFM with vacuum secondaries, topped off with a Moroso Low Profile Air Cleaner

Eagle Headers and dual exhaust with cross over and Thrush turbo mufflers, tail pipes dumping down over the rear axle

Windage Tray, B&M shift kit, Accel Supercoil, and Mopar Electronic Ignition

American Vector 15×8(?) with Goodyear Polyglas GT G-60 back and F-60’s front (torsion bars needed to raise front end to clear tires)

Addco sway bars front and rear with urethane bushings

KYB Shocks with coils overs in rear (gave me another 1/2″ clearance for my tires)

Stewart Warner under dash mounted Tach

Ducktail T/A type rear spoiler

Sanyo Bi-Amp AM-FM Cassette indash strereo Jensen co-ax rear speakers and some small tweeters in front

Dual racing mirrors from the local Scherba’s Auto Store

 

In Closing

I could recall a bunch of stuff, but I just want to pitch something out there for you guys to chew on.

Thanks for reading.

First Challenger a 1971 as in the area it was stored while I was away serving overseas in the Navy after 1983.

First Challenger a 1971 as it was in the area it was stored while I was away serving overseas in the Navy after 1983. Friends said that the Amrican Vectors looked great when I was peeling out. When I find my photos of the car when it was stock, I’ll post them. Originally the car had longitudinal side “door-ding” moulding and the biggest piece of chromed pewter wrapped around front edge of the hood and fenders to give the bumper a wrap around look.

This early 1980's photo is of Scott Douglas, the Ford Expert, part of a triad friendship along with Rick Elliot, the Chevy Expert. When I had my Mustang, Scott was always ready to help me with whatever I needed.

This early 1980’s photo  of Scott Douglas, the Ford Expert, part of a triad friendship along with Rick Elliot, the Chevy Expert in the early days at Palo Alto High School. When I had my Mustang, Scott was always ready to help me with whatever I needed.

A partial gathering of the PASM Association, the Palo Alto Street Machine Association. Photo taken by yearbook staff in1979. I was on the yearbook staff that year, so I made sure we got this photo in. Too bad one of my friends decided it was cool too draw over it with his pen. Location, the back parking lot of Palo Alto High School.

Just a partial gathering of the PASM Association, the Palo Alto Street Machine Association. Photo taken by yearbook staff (1979) . I was on the yearbook staff that year, so I made sure we got this photo in. Too bad one of my friends decided it was cool to draw over it with his pen. Location, the back parking lot of Palo Alto High School. Ready for exhibition speed at the slightest provocation.

Three of my Industrial Arts teachers at Palo Alto from 1976-1980, from left to right, Bud Jamison (Architecture), O.D. Mitchell (Auto Shop), and Bob Hoskins (Metal/Algebra/Geometry). All of my teachers were great, but Mr.Mitchell was my favorite through 4 years of Auto Shop. Photo is from my 1979, Junior year, Yearbook.

Three of my Industrial Arts teachers at Palo Alto from 1976-1980, from left to right, Bud Jamison (Architecture), O.D. Mitchell (Auto Shop), and Bob Hoskins (Metal/Algebra/Geometry).Missing is Mr. Don Jang, my drafting teacher for 3 years.  All of my teachers were great, but Mr.Mitchell was my favorite and mentor through 4 years of Auto Shop. Photo is from my 1979, Junior year, Yearbook. I was class of 1980 but 1979 ROCKS!

I didn't know the PALY yearbook staff was not print my write up I submitted with my photo. At the discretion of some high schooler in 1980, I will only be known as the guy with his Challenger

I didn’t know the PALY yearbook staff was not print my write up I submitted with my photo. At the discretion of some unknown high schooler in 1980, I will only be remembered as the kid with his Challenger

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The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976. I think I wore this hat everyday through my Freshman year in high school. Photo by Nick Yee

The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976.

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I’d take that Whine anytime

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.

CCS_hacienda

A photo I found on Google and added special effects. It kind of resembles the first Challenger I ever rode in. My dad drove it on a test drive from a used car lot.

 

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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The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976. I think I wore this hat everyday through my Freshman year in high school. Photo by Nick Yee

The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976.

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Challen’s Challenger Story – The Beginning

Writer’s Note: I found this manuscript I wrote in 2004 after I began to show my restored Challenger T/A. The story was intended to be a feature article in Mopar Muscle Magazine that never happened. I submitted it and I managed to get a photo with a Mopar Muscle written caption under Reader Rides.

So I’m going to reproduce the whole thing, written mostly as it was in 2004, including a brief reference to Vanishing Point somewhere. I’ll break it in several parts just for you  internet Mopar guys and gals to nibble on (while you’re waiting for me to change my thermostat on my white car). 

 

CCS_red

From the Dodge Ad for the 1970 Hemi Challenger: “This Pony has Horses.” Image source: google

 

CHALLEN’S CHALLENGER STORY

by Challen Yee

 

THE BEGINNING 

Back in 1975, when I was a young kid growing up Palo Alto, near San Francisco, I had dreams of having my own muscle car. My older brothers, who were too old for me to hang out with, would come home and feed me fascinating stories of their exploits which often had to do with their muscle cars or their friends’ cars, where they went or what they did – to me it all seemed larger than life.

When I became of age, around 12 or 13, my friends at Jordan Junior High School were motorheads and we all chose an American muscle car as our favorite. We had no idea these allegiances would last a lifetime. Which car would I choose?

Through my parent’s creativity, they chose to name me, their third son, “Challen.” They said that without the “GE”, I’d have to generate my own power. This stroke of fate is what led me to investigate the Dodge Challenger as my muscle car of choice.

One of the first Challenger ads I remember seeing was the one with the red 1970 Challenger R/T. The ad read: “This Pony has Horses.” Across the page was this sinisterly scooped, shaker-hooded machine that started my young imagination rolling. Underneath read some specifications that seemed to reverberate with massive earth-quaking power. Magical words like “Hemi” and “R/T” would forever be etched in my mind. My lifetime relationship with the great MoPar classic had begun.

One local story I’ll always remember about  E-body street machines was about a guy in Palo Alto. His name was Curt (or Kirk) Martin – it was reported that with his plum crazy (violet) 1970 440 `Cuda, he could light up his rear tires on the highway at 60 miles per hour. I never met Curt, but I’ll always associate his name with his powerful 440 `Cuda.

Challengers turned out to be an awesome choice. It seemed like it was a rare selection for a favorite car amongst the kids I grew up with, which suited me fine, because the Challenger was going to be my ticket to a unique ride.

 

A Young Imagination

In anticipation of buying my own car, I was working my tail off working for my dad’s roofing contracting company over the summers in hopes that someday I could find and afford the ‘perfect’ Challenger. I could draw, write stories about, speak tirelessly of, and imagine wildly about Challengers all day if everybody let me.

Today, kids are reading Harry Potter books; back then I was cranking out cruising stories, glorifying muscle cars and street machines and the cool “dudes” and “chicks” that drove them. One short story I wrote was about buying a used Hemi Challenger in 1984 for $500 (of course this is Orwellian fiction), and another would make a great script for a zany remake of a Cannonball Movie, called “The Great Desert Car Rally”… 186 hand-written pages, starring a tricked out Challenger with a turbo-charged 340 and an enormous cast of cars and characters. There’s more, like the unfinished 500 page hand-written novel (main car: Challenger) with even more cars and characters… but back to reality.

.

Next Part: What happened when someone offered to sell his purple T/A for $2400.

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The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976. I think I wore this hat everyday through my Freshman year in high school. Photo by Nick Yee

The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976.

 

Copyright © 2014 ChallenYee.com. TheDodgeKid.com  All Rights Reserved.

My first Dodge Challenger in storage

Throwback Photo- Circa 1983

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After graduating high school in 1980, I joined the Navy and used my first Challenger to make several trips up and down between Palo Alto and San Diego between 1981 and 1982.

When I was assigned to a seagoing unit out of Hawaii in January 1983, I chose not to transport the car and instead stored it in my parent’s backyard.

Eventually someone made and offer to buy my car and I sold it while I was away.

Had  a lot of good times with that car.

 

The fastest road trip my car made was being driven by my brother, a Highway Patrol Officer, from Thousand Oaks to Palo Alto where we left around midnight and arrived around 4am driving up Highway 101.

First Challenger a 1971 as in the area it was stored while I was away serving overseas in the Navy after 1983.

First Challenger a 1971 as it sat in the storage area (with cover off for photo) while I was away serving overseas in the Navy after 1983. My choice of mag wheels and exhaust dump offs (which flared out after the mufflers and before the rear axle) were inspired by one of the Palo Alto High School English teachers named Barry Bergstrom who had the American Vectors and “Bergstrom Pipes” on his orange Chevy Nova that he drove to school and sometimes bracket raced (from what I heard). Also credit the Dukes of Hazzard County for wheel selection. PALY upper classman 1979 grad Dan Kirby said these wheels looked great when I was peeling out because you could really tell they were spinning … which I often felt obliged to do every time he gave me the “stomp on it” hand signal.

 

 

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The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976. I think I wore this hat everyday through my Freshman year in high school. Photo by Nick Yee

The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976.

 

Copyright © 2014 ChallenYee.com. TheDodgeKid.com  All Rights Reserved.

Back to the Future

A trip back to my past
PALO ALTO HIGH SCHOOL – Palo Alto, California

 

The Back Parking Lot of Palo Alto High School, where most of the students parked their muscle cars.

Where the street machine craze went real- Palo Alto High School, the back parking lot where between1978-1980 we practiced the loosening of our youthful daring, restrained by a world of academics and motor vehicle law. It was in this part of the parking lot where many a street machine came screaming at high R's and high G's around the end of the lot with tires laying down prodigious amounts of rear and sometimes front tire rubber across the barren asphalt.

Where the street machine craze went real- Palo Alto High School, the back parking lot where between1978-1980 we practiced the loosening of our youthful daring, restrained by a world of academics and motor vehicle law. It was in this part of the parking lot where many a street machine came screaming at high R’s and high G’s around the end of the lot with tires laying down prodigious amounts of rear and sometimes front tire rubber across the barren asphalt.

 

Just look at the money they pumped into this high school football field. I guess, considering it is within a mile of Stanford Stadium where the Cardinal (once the "Indians") play, they needed to spruce things up. Belive it or not, my two kids are hiding with their heads out of view in my car.

Just look at the money they pumped into this high school football field. I guess, considering it is within a mile of Stanford Stadium where the Cardinal (once the “Indians”) play, they needed to spruce things up. Believe it or not, my two kids are hiding with their heads out of view in my car.

 

 

In the back parking lot os Palo Alto High School, the boys' gym in the background. Same building as in 1980 and many years before, but we didn't have the cool looking Viking Ship paint job back in then.

In the back parking lot of Palo Alto High School, the boys’ gym in the background. Same building as in 1980 and many years before, but we didn’t have the cool looking Viking Ship paint job back then.

 

Palo Alto High School and the current day entry gate to the football field. Man, they sure beautified this area since 1980. It looked like a dump with a cheap cyclone fence in 1980. Sure makes for a nice pick with my Challenger now.

Palo Alto High School and the current day entry gate to the football field. Man, they sure beautified this area. It looked like a dump with a cheap cyclone fence in 1980. Sure makes for a nice photo-op with my Challenger now.

 

Palo Alto HIgh School auto shop, where Mr. O.D. Mitchell awarded me twice as many units for taking Auto in my senior year because I did the work. I also won the Industrial Arts Award. Mr. Mitchell was one of most important mentors I had in my youth. He told me once, "Yee, most teenagers have one of three vices: sex, drugs and speed... Yours is speed."

Palo Alto HIgh School auto shop, where Mr. O.D. Mitchell awarded me twice as many units for taking Auto in my senior year because I did the work. I also won the Industrial Arts Award. Mr. Mitchell was one of most important mentors I had in my youth. He told me once, “Yee, most teenagers have one of three vices: sex, drugs or speed… yours is speed.” Apparently the beautification budget hasn’t got to this area of the school yet. It looks almost exactly the same as it did when I graduated in 1980.

 

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The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976. I think I wore this hat everyday through my Freshman year in high school. Photo by Nick Yee

The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976.

 

Copyright © 2014 ChallenYee.com. TheDodgeKid.com  All Rights Reserved.

High School Flash Back

HIGH SCHOOL DAYS – 1976 through 1980

Palo Alto High School – Palo Alto, California

 

PART OF THE PALO ALTO STREET MACHINE ASSOCIATION – Yearbook photo

A partial gathering of the PASM Association, the Palo Alto Street Machine Association. Photo taken by yearbook staff in1979. I was on the yearbook staff that year, so I made sure we got this photo in. Too bad one of my friends decided it was cool too draw over it with his pen. Location, the back parking lot of Palo Alto High School.

Only a partial gathering of the PASM Association, the Palo Alto Street Machine Association. Photo taken by yearbook staff in1979. I was on the yearbook staff that year, so I made sure we got this photo in. Too bad one of my friends decided it was cool too draw over it with his pen (THANKS ALOT, BOB) At least he gave it his best shot to draw a Direct Connection logo.  Location, the back parking lot of Palo Alto High School.

 

MY SHOP TEACHERS 

Three of my Industrial Arts teachers at Palo Alto from 1976-1980, from left to right, Bud Jamison (Architecture), O.D. Mitchell (Auto Shop), and Bob Hoskins (Metal/Algebra/Geometry). All of my teachers were great, but Mr.Mitchell was my favorite through 4 years of Auto Shop. Photo is from my 1979, Junior year, Yearbook.

Three of my Industrial Arts teachers at Palo Alto from 1976-1980, from left to right, Bud Jamison (Architecture), O.D. Mitchell (Auto Shop), and Bob Hoskins (Metal/Algebra/Geometry). All of my teachers were great, but Mr.Mitchell was my favorite through 4 years of Auto Shop. Photo is from my 1979, Junior year, Yearbook.

 

 

MY SENIOR YEARBOOK PHOTO – with my first car, a 1971 Dodge Challenger

I didn't know the PALY yearbook staff was not print my write up I submitted with my photo. At the discretion of some high schooler in 1980, I will only be known as the guy with his Challenger

I didn’t know the PALY yearbook staff was not going to print my write up I submitted with my photo. I was surprised when I opened up the book and only saw my portrait without any comments. At the discretion of some high schooler in 1980, I will only be known as the guy with his 1971 Dodge Challenger. It was a 383 with Slapstick, dark blue with a black vinyl top, and salt and pepper interior.

 

Here's a recent (2014) photo of the same area of the parking lot as was in the 1979 group photo. Photo by Challen

Here’s a recent (2014) photo of the same area of the parking lot as was in the 1979 group photo. The front of my car in this photo is in the same space as the 1979 photo. (photo by Challen)

 

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The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976. I think I wore this hat everyday through my Freshman year in high school. Photo by Nick Yee

The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976.