Rare, Low-Mileage 1971 Dodge Challenger Gets First Wash After 40 Years in a Barn

1971 Dodge Challenger barn find 11 photos
Photo: WD Detailing/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 classics discovered nowadays are mundane vehicles built in the 1950s through the 1970s. But sometimes owners or barn find hunters unearth genuinely rare cars. This 1971 Dodge Challenger is one of them.
1971 was the second model year for the first-generation Mopar. The Challenger was quite popular in 1970, moving almost 77,000 units. However, sales dwindled to only 27,377 examples in 1971, when high insurance rates for high-performance vehicles kept many enthusiasts away from muscle cars.

That's still a relatively high production figure for an early 1970s automobile, right? Well, while the 1971 Challenger may be common overall, specific versions are scarce. Of the 27,000+ vehicles built that year, fewer than 5,000 were ordered with the R/T package. Only 71 got the 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) HEMI V8, and just 250 were specified with the 440-cubic-inch (7.2-liter) six-barrel RB.

But it's not just the big-block cars that are rare. The entry-level six-cylinder version is also scarce, with only 1,755 units made. Then there's the convertible, of which only 1,857 were sold regardless of the engine. This Bahama Yellow car is not an R/T or a convertible and doesn't have a big block either. However, its engine and transmission combo makes it extremely rare.

Powered by a 318-cubic-inch (5.2-liter) V8 and a three-speed manual, this Mopar is one of only ten built like this in 1971, according to the owner. I haven't been able to confirm this number with the available documentation, but I'm pretty sure he's not just whistling Dixie. And let me explain why.

Dodge offered three gearboxes with the Challenger in 1971. Options included the TorqueFlite automatic and either a four- or three-speed manual. The automatic was by far the most popular, accounting for more than 70% of total sales. The four-speed found its way in about 24% of the Challengers ordered that year, leaving the three-speed manual as an option in fewer than 1,000 units.

I haven't been able to dig up specific info on 318/three-speed cars, but the available figures indicate very low production numbers for this gearbox regardless of the engine. Specifically, only 41 examples fitted with the 340-cubic-inch (5.6-liter) V8 were also ordered with the three-speed. As for the 383-cubic-inch (6.3-liter) V8, only 59 R/Ts and just three non-R/T models were produced with this gearbox.

All told, while the owner doesn't mention the source of his "one-of-ten" assumption, it wouldn't be far-fetched for Dodge to have sold only two handfuls of 318/three-speed Challengers in 1971. And even if more were built, the Bahama Yellow/white top combo makes it scarce, too.

But regardless of the paint and what's under the hood, this Mopar spent a whopping 40 years in a barn and emerged with only 19,208 miles (30,912 km) on the odometer. That mileage is lower than you'll find on most 1971 Challengers today. It's also a numbers-matching, mostly original rig.

The coupe emerged with a thick layer of grime covering its shell and a nasty-looking engine bay. Both cleaned up nicely once the folks at WD Detailing did their magic. I'd say the Bahama Yellow paint looks incredible for a coating that's 52 years old as of 2023. The same goes for the white vinyl top, even though it shows significant damage on the C-pillars.

The interior, on the other hand, is a combination of excellent and terrible news. The excellent news is that the seats look almost new, and the dashboard is free of the nasty cracks usually associated with long-term storage. On the flip side, rust left massive holes under the front and rear seats. To the extent that our host didn't have enough floor to re-attach the driver's seat after the detailing. Ouch!

So, while the final result of the car's first wash in 40 years is outstanding for the most part, this Mopar will need a serious cash injection to become road-worthy again. It's probably not worth saving since 318 V8 cars aren't desirable or very valuable, but hopefully, the owner will see this Challenger as a labor of love.

If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram
About the author: Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea profile photo

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.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories