Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lemon or Top Banana? The 1972 Dodge Challenger.

In keeping with our fruit theme this week, one could say that today’s car is lemon yellow, but lemon isn’t a term that denotes good things about an automobile.  In fact, the paint color on today’s car does have a fruity name of its own, and it doesn’t involve any type of citrus.  Say hello to the “Top Banana” yellow 1972 Dodge Challenger!

The real vintage Challengers that the modern day ones you can buy at your Dodge dealer are based on came from the era between 1970-1974.  More specifically, the retro style of the new Challenger is based on a 1970 model, which you could see from the tail lights spanning the width of the car’s rear plane and the shape of the grille if I had photos of the two cars side by side for you to look at -which I don‘t, so too bad. 

As vintage Challengers go, the ones that are most desirable are your 70 and 71 models, because they were built prior to government environmental meddling and could be had with big block engines like the 383 cu in Magnum V8 (335 HP), a 440 cu in V8 with a 6 pack of carbs (3 sets of 2 barrels, making 390 HP), or the big, bad 426 Hemi (packing 425 HP).  By ’72, government regulations put the kibosh on all that rip-snortin’ fun and the Challenger was relegated to using only small block V8’s and puny 6 cylinders to whip around with.   

In 1972, this was your choice for engines: a 225 cu. in. 6 cylinder with 110 HP (Bleh!), a 318 cu. in. V8 with a 2 barrel carburetor and 150 HP (slightly less Bleh!) and a 340 cu. in. V8 with a 4 barrel carburetor and 240 HP (it’ll have to do).  Top Banana here just happens to feature the big one, so at least it is at the top of it’s rather insignificant heap. 

The place in Mankato that is offering this ’72 model for sale ($27,900, BTW) has erroneously labeled it as an R/T -something that’s not possible, because in 1972, Dodge dropped the R/T packaging in favor of what’s called a “Rallye” package.  It’s particularly easy to identify because the Rallye package featured dummy fender scoops with strobe effect stripes streaking across the side plane of the car.  Hmmmm.. dummy scoops, check… strobe stripes… check.   Yeah, this banana is not an R/T, it’s a Rallye.

To give you an idea of the difference it makes to have a 70-71 big block vs. this 72 that’s loaded with all it could have, you could go to Mankato, MN and take a look at the lot this one is sitting on.  Right next to it is a brown 1970 R/T Challenger listed with a sale price of $45,900.  But even that’s not top dollar car as vintage Challengers go.  Lets once again pull out our copy of Hemmings Motor News and have a look-see at what’s for sale.  There’s a 1970 Challenger R/T convertible with the 440 six pack that supposedly was owned by Bob Hope available for the bargain price of $144,900.  There’s a factory super stock drag car 1970 Challenger R/T with the 440 for $99,000... They don‘t even have any Hemis listed, but those would cost a bunch more than the 440 if they did.

On the flip side, you can get a 1970 6 cylinder Challenger for $14,950.  For that price, I’m going to bet it may not be a numbers matching vehicle anyway, so one could pick it up and invest another pile of money transplanting a new Hemi crate engine.  If you really modernized and went with one of the new non-carbureted ones, you could get a solid 425 HP 6.1L SRT-8 Hemi for about $7,000 -of course, you’d have to upgrade a lot more than just the engine to get that set up to work.  Probably around the time you reached the $30,000 mark between the cost of the car and the cost of engine, transmission and other upgrades, you’d have all the components you need to make a monster of a Challenger, and though it would definitely be a resto-mod rather than a pristine original, you’d be able to keep up with and possibly smoke the originals for a lot less money.  But back to the Top Banana we’re here to discuss today. When all is said and done, this ’72 Challenger is still a decent looking car that did the best it could with the hand it was dealt.      

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