Once a Battered Movie Star, This 1970 Dodge HEMI Challenger Is Now a Museum-Grade Gem

What's your favorite movie car? Are you into Batmobiles, or do you prefer production vehicles like Steve McQueen's 1968 Ford Mustang from "Bullit?" How about an unassuming Mopar like the white 1970 Dodge Challenger used in "Vanishing Point?"
1970 Dodge HEMI Challenger 8 photos
Photo: Matt Gause/YouTube
1970 Dodge HEMI Challenger1970 Dodge HEMI Challenger1970 Dodge HEMI Challenger1970 Dodge HEMI Challenger1970 Dodge HEMI Challenger1970 Dodge HEMI Challenger1970 Dodge HEMI Challenger
While not quite as famous as "Bullit," "Vanishing Point" is one of the greatest action films when it comes to car chases. The movie follows ex-policeman and race driver Kowalski delivering a muscle car cross-country to California with the police on his tail. Played by Barry Newman, Kowalski drives a white 1970 Dodge Challenger.

The studio borrowed five vehicles from Chrysler. Four Challengers had the big 440-cubic-inch (7.2-liter) RB under the hood, while the fifth car used a 383-cubic-inch (6.3-liter) big-block. Despite Kowalski talking about the delivery car being supercharged, all vehicles were stock save for suspension upgrades.

Even though it did not receive positive reviews upon its initial release in January 1971, "Vanishing Point" became a critical success in the UK and Europe. This prompted 20th Century Fox to re-release it in the US on a double bill with "The French Connection."

A cult following began to develop in the mid-1970s, and "Vanishing Point" eventually went on to inspire other films, including Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" and Edgar Wright's "Baby Driver."

In 1997, Fox released a remake of the film. It starred Viggo Mortensen as Kowalski and has a slightly different plot. Now a Gulf War veteran and former stock car racer, Kowalski is an automobile restorer and delivers high-performance cars to pay his wife's medical bills.

But while the story differs, Kowalski still drives a white 1970 Dodge Challenger. Moreover, Fox went with a HEMI version this time around. The rig you see here is Unit 1, the primary camera car and the vehicle that appears in most close-up shots and high-speed scenes. And yes, it's an authentic HEMI Challenger.

Like most movie cars, it became battered and worn at the end of filming, but it was given a complete restoration and used as a promotional car. Some 25 years have passed since, and the HEMI Challenger is now a museum-grade classic. And it's pretty rare, too.

What makes it scarce? Well, it's mostly the 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) HEMI engine. While Dodge sold almost 77,000 Challengers in 1970, only 356 of them left the assembly line with the range-topping mill. The run included nine convertible and 60 R/T SE examples, making this R/T hardtop one of only 287 units sold that year. It's also a four-speed manual car, which narrows it down to one of 137 built.

The HEMI Challenger was recently spotted at Holley MoParty in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and you can take a closer look at its perfect body and super-clean engine bay through the video below.

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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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