1971 Dodge Challenger Parked for 40 Years Emerges With Unexpected and Rare Feature

1971 Dodge Challenger barn find 11 photos
Photo: Shade Tree Vintage Auto/YouTube
1971 Dodge Challenger barn find1971 Dodge Challenger barn find1971 Dodge Challenger barn find1971 Dodge Challenger barn find1971 Dodge Challenger barn find1971 Dodge Challenger barn find1971 Dodge Challenger barn find1971 Dodge Challenger barn find1971 Dodge Challenger barn find1971 Dodge Challenger barn find
Most barn-kept cars emerge out of storage in bad shape and with mundane features. Some, however, come into the light as low-production gems with sought-after features. The 1971 Dodge Challenger you see here is far from rare, but it has a rare feature you wouldn't expect to see on a Mopar from this model year.
Unearthed by YouTube's "Shade Tree Vintage Auto," the first-generation Challenger has been in a warehouse since the mid-1980s. Not surprisingly, it's in pretty bad shape for a classic that has been neglected for almost four decades. It's not quite as rusty as expected, but it suffered extensive damage, and the interior was ruined due to rodent infestation. Moreover, the dashboard is cracked from prolonged exposure to sunlight, while the floor pans are almost gone.

The original V8 engine is also gone, with only the four-speed manual gearbox still in place. The engine bay includes traces of a big-block V8, but there's no information on whether the Challenger got such a mill from the factory. Our host also points out that despite all the R/T-style features, this Dodge is not an authentic R/T.

This means it's one of 18,956 non-R/T Challenger hardtops built in 1971, regardless of powerplant. And it also means it's a rather mundane example that's not worth restoring, especially in this condition. However, our host discovered a surprise while closely examining the front clip.

Because it suffered a significant crash back in the day, the Challenger had its original front end replaced with one sourced from a 1970 version. But the latter didn't come from a run-of-the-mill car. The front clip was taken from a limited-edition T/A.

If you're unfamiliar with this model, it was created as a homologation special for the SCCA Trans-Am series. It was lighter than the average Challenger and had many unique features, including a matte black hood with a large scoop. The latter fed air into a 340-cubic-inch (5.2-liter) V8 engine rated at 290 horsepower thanks to a "Six Pack" carburetor configuration.

Dodge produced the Challenger T/A for only a few months during the 1970 model year, rolling out only 2,399 examples. A one-year gem, the T/A is now a sought-after collectible that changes hands for six-figure sums when still equipped with a numbers-matching powerplant.

So how do we know the front clip is indeed from a T/A? Well, it hides a few unique features, starting with a "52" tag on the K frame. It also has three holes in the fender tag area due to its dual-tag layout. Our host also discovered traces of T/A decals on the front fenders.

Does having a T/A front clip increase the value of an otherwise mundane 1971 Challenger? It doesn't, but it's still a cool feature to find on a muscle car that's been hiding for almost 40 years. And I'm pretty sure the owner wouldn't have trouble selling it for big bucks. But the T/A front end isn't going anywhere. Our host plans to rebuild this car for the 2024 Muscle Cars at the Strip event.

And interestingly enough, he decided to go with a 340-cubic-inch "Six Pack" before he found out about the T/A clip. Sure, it's based on a 1968 block, so it's not an original T/A powerplant, but it's the next best thing and a proper pairing. All told, it's the kind of project you may want to follow if you're into rat rods.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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