Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dad's 1970 Challenger R/T

The Woodward Dream Cruise can really get one motivated to start a car project, or in many cases, finish them. My parents have been regulars at the Dream Cruise for almost as many years as I have. This year, after leaving the show, my mom decided to really start pushing my dad to finish up the Challenger I formerly owned. I've noticed my dad getting a little more serious over the past year or two, I figured it was just a matter of time before he finally said "Ok, let's get it down."

I am reposting an old entry, this time with the latest changes and direction we are heading. Stay tuned, as I'm told after the start of the year, this project will find it's feet. While my Camaro has plenty of finishing touches, many of which will take a good two years to finish, I already view it as a done project, with little more than upkeep and upgrads down the road. I'm anxious for a new project, though with what's left with my Camaro, a new project is a ways off for me. My dad's Challenger will fill that need, and the finished product will be one of the most badass Challenger R/T's on the road!

Below is the initial entry, this time with updates.

As some of you know, I owned a 1970 Challenger R/T a few years back. I picked it up for $6,000, running/driving with a solid body out of Arizona. I put about another $6,000 into the car, and then life changed. With the auto industry in a downward spiral back in 2006, I lost my job. Fortunately, after several attempts, I convinced my dad to buy my Challenger, as opposed to selling it outright. Every project car needs a solid game plan, and those plans get modified as time passes, and plenty of time has passed since I bought the car back in 2001, and it sat parked ever since fall of that same year. I'm lucky in respect that I'll still get to do a large portion of the work on my dad's Challenger, as well as almost all of the planning. The following is what has come from 10 years of planning.

Engine: My plans for the engine have varied greatly, and while most recently I had been leaning towards simply rebuilding the stock 383, I just wasn't satisfied with that. Honestly, I think my dad would appreciate something with a bit more punch as well. While the question remains as to whether we'll reuse the 383 block, we will go with either a stroker kit or crate engine from Muscle Motors Racing out of Lansing, Michigan. The end result will be a 500 cubic inch low deck that will pass as the original 383, a sleeper engine if you will. The engine will make in the ballpark of 550 hp and 600 ft/lbs of torque, all while keeping it's street manners.

Transmision: The 4 speed will be pulled out, and a complete 5 speed kit from an aftermarket company, bolt in ready, with everything we need will go in it's place. This follows the plan for best streetability possible, and allows for a little deeper rear gear, without sacrificing gas mileage. While gas mileage isn't the ultimate goal, I'd like the car to get 13-14 mpg highway.

Exhaust: A set of full length headers, flowmaster mufflers, and either factory dual exhaust tips, or a similiar aftermarket design.

Fuel: We were going to transplant my 750 Race Demon onto the Challenger, but the "GO BIGGER" approach with the engine will leave the 750 insufficient, so probably an 850 Holley will find it's way on top. A mechanical pump, new lines, regulator, and filter will round out the package.

Rear End: The car has an 8 3/4 rear, which should be plenty stout for our build. A gear swap, from the somewhat lethargic 3.23's to maybe a 3.55 or 3.73, new axles/bearings, and either a posi rebuild or new posi and we should be good to go.

Suspension/Steering: The rear suspension was completed while I still owned the car. I started out with custom leaf springs built by Eaton Spring in Detroit. They based the springs on a 440 spring, de-arched them, and I believe removed a leaf or two. This accomplishes about a 2 inch drop, which turned out perfect. I also installed poly bushings and Koni Shocks to complete the rear.

The front suspension is another story. I had pondered several different options and have finally concluded, there is really only one choice. Reilly Motorsports makes a complete bolt in front clip that includes tubular k-member, tubular a-arms, spindles, coil over shocks, sway bar, engine mounts, and rack and pinion steering. After much research, and talk with a few companies, I have concluded that sticking with the torsion bars would make it difficult to lower the front to the proper height to match the rear without sacrificing ride quality, and would require costly drop spindles. Also, header clearance is always a concern, and factor in the torsion bars, running exhaust would be a nightmare. Lastly, perhaps most importantly, your steering options are very limited for Mopars if you wish to stick with a steering box, so this upgrade to rack and pinion solves that concern. Lastly, this should drop a good 100-150 lbs off the front end, and when combined with the aluminum heads, should make the car much more nimble, and a great handling ride.

The package sells for $4,000, which isn't really that bad when you consider the alternative. Add up the price of tubular control arms, sway bar, torsion bars, new steering box, drop spindles, and you are probably going to be in the $2,500-$3,000 range, and be no where near the handling.

Brakes: 4 wheel disc brakes by Wilwood will be responsible for bringing the Mopar to a stop. I happen to like the feel of my Wilwood manual master cylinder, with stock front discs and rear drums. So, I would think a new set of biggers discs combined with larger clamping calipers would be plenty of stopping power, and not "junk up" the engine bay with a huge brake booster, or some other hydraulic assist setup.

Interior: The interior will remain mostly stock. The only exception will likely be the stereo, shifter, and front seats/seat belts.

Body/Paint: The body/paint is hard to plan out until we dig into it and see just how solid, or full of bondo it is. I will say I haven't seen anything to lead me to believe there is a lot of bondo in the car. The body will remain mostly stock, with perhaps a few exceptions such as welding up and smoothing some seams, getting rid of the wheel well trim, and maybe the emblems on the side of the car. I tend to like the clean/smooth look of not having a bunch of trim/emblems breaking up the body. One other addition may be a rear spoiler that came on the TA's, as I think it finishes off the rear of the car.

Electrical: The wiring kit is installed, and most things are wired up. It makes sense to move the battery to the trunk, to lighten the front and help traction. The interior gauges may need sent out, and a few repaired, as they weren't funcioning the last time the car ran. A new alternator, and mini-starter should be in the plans. An MSD box and MSD distributor will provide the spark.

Cooling: An auminum radiator, electric fans, and aluminum pump will round out the cooling.

Wheels/tires: To compliment the killer suspension, we need something better than the 14 inch factory magnum wheels fitted with dry rot tires. I'm not a big fan of these over the top rims/tires. In fact, I think they look downright stupid in most cases. I've kept an eye on what people are using, what I like, and what I cringe at. I have concluded that either 17-18 inches all the way around would look nice, with perhaps a 17 front/18 rear stagger, squeezing the biggest rim and tire that will fit.

First step, I hope to convince my dad to order up the whole front suspension clip,complete with brakes. This would allow us to knock out all of the front end work, leaving just the powertrain to deal with for the mechanics, and then the body/interior.

I'd really love to have this car completed for my parents by the time my mom retires, as dad is already there. I think they would really enjoy being able to take the Challenger on vacations, car shows around the country, and even just a long road trip. Stay tuned, as I'll be sure to report back on any progress once it starts.

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