Mysterious 1971 Dodge Challenger Claims One-of-One Special-Order Heritage

1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible 14 photos
1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible
Introduced for the 1970 model year, the Dodge Challenger was a bit late to the muscle car party. Insurance rates were already high, and the government was working on strict emissions regulations. By 1972, Chrysler had already discontinued its high-compression V8 engines.
So while it arrived with both the 440-cubic-inch (7.2-liter) RB and 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) HEMI on the options list, the Challenger had to settle for a 240-horsepower small-block as a range-topping unit in 1972. Things only got worse in 1973 and 1974. As a result, the 1970 and 1971 versions are the most sought-after iterations of the nameplate.

Dodge built nearly 77,000 Challengers in 1970. That's a big number that makes the Mopar quite common. However, specific variants are rare, starting with the HEMI Challenger, which sold just 356 units. The 440 Six-Pack cars are also scarce at 2,035 units built. Dodge also produced only 2,522 vehicles wearing both "R/T" and "SE" badges and only 3,884 convertibles (regardless of trim).

Things get even more interesting when it comes to the 1971 pony. Sales dropped dramatically to only 27,377 examples. Only 71 Challengers left the assembly line with the HEMI, and just 250 got the 440 Six-Pack. Naturally, the drop-top version was also ordered by fewer customers, 1,857 to be precise.

The slightly derelict example you see here is one of those convertibles. And even though it's nowhere near as rare as a HEMI based on official production figures, this drop-top could be a unique gem. How so? Well, hold on tight because it's a bit complicated.

According to the guy trying to sell the car, the Challenger may not be one of those 1,857 regular convertibles built for the 1971 model year. He claims it's a special-order, body-in-white vehicle. What does that mean? Well, back in the day, Chrysler sold bare body shells of specific nameplates. These were usually of the B-body variety (the Challenger was an E-body) and went to drag and NASCAR racers.

The seller also speculates the car may have been commissioned for "The Chrysler Team," but no records exist for such builds. Anyway, the Challenger sports a fender tag stamped with the letters "BODY IN WHITE" and "SPECIAL ORDER" at the bottom. There's no other info you'd usually find on such a plate. And interestingly enough, the tag is black rather than body colored.

It's definitely in the right place, and it looks like it's been there for a while, but there's no solid proof that it's factory original. And I've yet to see another one like it. Granted, this doesn't mean it's not authentic, but both the tag and the car require additional investigation.

Identification aside, this 1971 Challenger looks like a car that spent much time in storage. It has a few rust issues on the fenders and floor and appears to have been repainted a couple of times. The seller believes the car was originally white. The interior sports white seats and door panels, but the latter seems black underneath the surface. Yet another mystery to solve, I guess.

Under the hood, this Challenger hides a 318-cubic-inch (5.2-liter) V8 engine mated to a three-speed automatic transmission. The unit is largely complete, but it looks like it won't start without some proper maintenance. The car also comes with factory AC, power steering, power brakes, and a rear spoiler (which is mounted backward in the photos). The soft top is in poor condition, which isn't surprising for a car that probably sat for decades.

All told, this Challenger is a decent project at first glance. It's definitely not worth restoring relative to its market value, but what if this Mopar is indeed a special-order or a body-in-white vehicle with one-of-one status? Well, that question will remain unanswered unless someone like Mopar expert Galen Govier takes a closer look at this rig.

But feel free to knock yourself out looking for clues and post them in the comment section below. Meanwhile, the seller wants $32,500 for this convertible, but he's entertaining offers. Is this Challenger worth more than $30K?
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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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