Red
Black
605ci Indy Cylinder Head HEMI
5 Speed Manual
  • Rally Red/Black
  • Built 604 Hemi V8
  • Richmond 5-speed
  • Ford 9 inch / 3.25 gears
  • 15x8 & 15x10 wheels
  • Documented build

They say that nothing succeeds like excess, and looking at this astounding 1971 Dodge Challenge R/T convertible, I'm convinced. With a 604 cubic inch Hemi, a 5-speed transmission, and that vivid red bodywork, this is not the car to choose if you want to go unnoticed. Built with a ton of NOS parts and engineered to be durable as well as fast, this is a car you can drive and enjoy without worries, and it will show its 40-year-old taillights to just about anything else you're likely to encounter on the road.

Originally a Plum Crazy convertible with a wheezing 2-barrel 383 under the hood, this car was purchased expressly for the conversion to a fire-breathing, Hemi-powered supercar. It was built to replace another Hemi convertible—a Hemicuda clone—and any lessons learned on that first car were translated directly into motion with this one. Starting with a tired ragtop, the car was stripped to a bare shell and substantial repairs and upgrades started there. New floors, doors, and quarters were installed, and NOS front fenders were sourced, and a rust-free decklid was located and bolted in place. A reproduction Shaker hood replaced the flat, featureless original, and the car was taken to a well-known race fabrication shop to have reinforced frame rails installed underneath, not just a set of wimpy subframe connectors. Once the steel was in shape, the serious job of paint prep began, and several hundred hours later, the 2-stage urethane was sprayed, this time in Rally Red instead of the original Plum Crazy. This car was not originally an R/T, but if you're going to go crazy, you may as well go all the way, so correct black R/T stripes and decals were installed on top of the fresh paint, giving the car a vastly more aggressive appearance.

At the same time, all the trim and brightwork was restored to new condition. In 1971, there was quite a bit of chrome, even on the sporty models, so the chrome grille surround, bumpers, and door handles were all refreshed. The windshield was replaced and the stainless trim was polished. A new Go-Wing was installed on that rust-free deck lid, along with fresh lenses and emblems throughout.

But you didn't read this far to hear about how it looks. No, what you really want to know about is that 604 cubic inch Hemi under the hood. Based on a vintage iron Hemi block, it now features Eagle rods and Ross forged pistons swinging under a set of aluminum Indy Legend cylinder heads. A Crane camshaft actuates the massive 2.4-inch intake and 2.0-inch exhaust valves feed the raised ports in those killer cylinder heads, and it all flows out through a giant set of long-tube headers from TTI. A Barry Grant 1050 CFM carburetor atop an Indy single plane intake manifold takes care of the air/fuel mixture, and is fed using a pair of fuel pumps, one mechanical and one electric. An MSD Digital 6 ignition system uses a billet distributor to light the fires. All told, it cranks out more than 600 horsepower on 93-octane pump gas. Braided hoses and fittings have been used throughout the engine compartment, and the cast aluminum Mopar valve covers add a little extra flash. A correct Shaker hood scoop has been fitted and finished in satin black to match the stripes. Key it up and it sounds like a caged thunderstorm under the hood, and on the open road, you better make sure you're aimed in the direction you want to go, because cracking the throttle open is like lighting that legendary JATO rocket engine from the urban myth.

Earlier I mentioned that the chassis has been heavily reinforced with full-length frame rails, and now you can see why that was necessary. You'll also find a Richmond 5-speed manual transmission under there, which is easily up to the task of handling the Hemi's brute horsepower. Out back, forget the ordinary Dana 60, this car has stepped up to a custom-built and narrowed Ford 9-inch packing 3.25 gears, a Traction-Lok limited slip and custom 31-spline axles. Look again at those 10-inch wide rear wheels and you'll know why this car needed a custom rear end. A correct Hemi K-frame was installed up front, and a Firm Feel steering box has been added. A 1-1/8 inch front swaybar combines with a ¾ inch rear bar to flatten out the handling, and all new bushings have been installed throughout the suspension. Edelbrock shock absorbers are used at all four corners to keep the car planted. Wheel Vintiques supplied the custom Magnum wheels, which are 15x8 up front and a super-wide 15x10 out back. Tires are BFGoodrich T/A radials, 265/50/15 up front and a steamroller-like 295/50/15 in back.

The black leather interior is the ideal compliment to the bright red paint, and yes, it's real leather from Legendary. The dash pad is from Year One, while the door panels are from Just Dashes, so you know everything is of uniformly high quality. There's no console in this car, in keeping with its brutal nature, although the Richmond 5-speed does wear a vintage pistol-grip shifter. Challenger logo floor mats have been installed recently over the black carpets that look like they've seen plenty of sunshine in their time. The gauges have all been rebuilt, including the clock and 6500-RPM redline tachometer. A powerful AM/FM/CD stereo system was installed in place of the original Music Master AM radio, and it includes amps and subwoofers mounted in the beautifully finished trunk. Overhead, there's a new black convertible top that folds easily and stacks neatly under a matching black top boot. The trunk also holds a space saver spare, reproduction mat, and jack assembly with inflator bottle.

On a car like this, documentation is critical, and you won't be disappointed. First of all, we have the original build sheet—even though the original specs went out the window as soon as that Hemi was installed, it's good to know the car's pedigree. We also have a large build book that includes photos, instructions, receipts, and manuals that cover most of the components that went into the construction of the car you see today. This car also appeared on the cover of the May 2000 issue of “Mopar Collector's Guide” magazine, and a copy is included with the sale of the car.

So if a hyper-accurate Hemi clone is too garden-variety for you, and you can't bear the thought of cutting up a nice original car, here's a very viable option. Incredibly fast, well-engineered, and beautiful to look at, this is the muscle car we all remember from our childhoods. It will flat-out humiliate many modern performance cars, and will easily draw a crowd when parked side-by-side with just about anything else on the road. It is completely sorted, very reliable, and has been built with driving in mind. This should be the summer you finally get the car you've wished for, a bright red convertible with a massive V8 under the hood. You only live once, why not do it from behind the wheel of this Challenger ragtop? Call now!

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