Moat of us have a car that over the years we regret selling. You know the “ones that got away” or “I should have never sold it” stories. Well, for Mark Hemrich of British Columbia, Canada, this car for him would be the 1970 Dodge Challenger he sold back in 1996. He shared, “When my wife and I were dating back in the 1980s, I drove a ’70 Challenger. It had a lot of custom work done to it and was a really cool car. I regrettably sold it in 1996 and always missed it.”
Several years later, Mark’s wife brought up their old Challenger in conversation and mentioned how she missed it and that she would really like another 1970 Challenger to add to their Mopar collection. Mark explained, “I always kept that in the back of my mind and around March 2018 a friend (this author) told me about a 1970 Challenger parts car he had found sitting in an industrial park outside of a warehouse. He had left a note on it interested in buying it and the owner had reached out.”
“Turns out, he had a 1970 Challenger R/T project inside the shop that he was using the other one for parts for and was interested in selling both of them,” Mark continued to say. Rolling out of the factory painted EV2 Hemi Orange with a black bucket seat interior, the R/T was a standard 383 automatic car optioned with leather interior, dual painted mirrors, a center console, 15×7 Rallye wheels and a 3:23 geared Sure Grip rear differential.
While most R/Ts had a stripe of some type, this particular one was ordered as a stripe delete. When Mark looked at the car, it was a completely disassembled rolling shell that had been newly painted. Every single part for the car was upstairs in a mezzanine in a very large pile so it was hard to tell what was what.
Mark told us, “The car had all of the sheet metal work done such as new quarter panels, trunk floor, trunk floor extensions and wheelhouses before being painted. While the metal work was done pretty well, the body work was very wavy. The owner told me he had it painted at the local GM dealership which made sense as the engine compartment was painted black like a GM.”
Knowing the car had good bones to build, Mark decided to purchase the car. He continued to say, “Once I got the car and all of the parts home, I started inventorying everything. The fender tag was missing, but thankfully I did find a nice broadcast sheet for it. Upon going through all of the parts, I was disappointed to see that a lot of what he said was for the Challenger happened to actually be for a second generation Charger. It became pretty apparent that a lot of the parts were missing and what was there was damaged, so I ended up selling most of the Charger parts to buy what I needed for the car.”
After looking at the body closely in his shop under LED lights, Mark concluded that it was nowhere near the quality he wanted so he decided to strip the car down to bare metal, redo all of the bodywork to make it straight and then had the car resprayed Hemi Orange; including the engine bay.
With the body and paint work completed, Mark began the process of ordering every new part that was available. Every nut, bolt, washer, clip and component was disassembled, cleaned, bead blasted, and painted or detailed. On the interior of the Challenger, he installed a brand-new black leather interior along with a leather Tuff steering wheel.
Underneath, the entire suspension, and brake system were totally rebuilt, and he changed the gears in the 8 ¾ to a 3:55 ratio for better acceleration while keeping the cruise-ability of the car. The 727 Torqueflite was rebuilt and fitted with a 3,400 rpm converter.
Since the original 383 was missing, Mark decided to install a 440 based 512 Stroker engine that he had built sitting in the corner of his garage. One day shortly after, his wife came out to the garage and asked, “why doesn’t the Challenger have a Hemi under the hood like my Charger SRT8?”. That was all the persuasion that Mark needed, so he bought a brand new 426 Hemi crate engine for it.
Mark shared, “I didn’t think the stock horsepower of the Hemi would be sufficient, so I pulled the heads off and had .040 shaved off them and then had them ported. I installed a slightly more aggressive .557/.540 lift camshaft and a ported factory Hemi intake manifold with dual 750 cfm Edelbrock carburetors. For exhaust, I went with ceramic coated TTI headers that go into a dual 3” exhaust with an X-pipe, Flowmaster mufflers and Magnaflow resonators.”
“During the restoration, I took the liberty of adding a few options that the car didn’t have from the factory, such as the R/T side stripes, front and rear spoilers, and chrome exterior mirrors. As the car was nearing completion, my wife decided she really wanted a Shaker hood on the car along with rear window louvers,” Mark said.
He continued to say, “We sourced a brand-new AMD Shaker hood and a reproduction Shaker bubble. The louvers were a bit of a challenge but thankfully a friend of a friend had an original set of Challenger louvers hanging on the wall in his garage so I bought them right away and restored them.”
During the restoration, Mark was able to do some research on the car and found out that it was originally sold in 1972 at Plimley Dodge in Vancouver, B.C. Mark’s best guess is that it was a lease or demonstrator vehicle prior.
It was purchased by a fellow in North Vancouver. He owned the car until he passed away in the late 1990s. His son inherited the car but ended up doing nothing with it. It ended up sitting for years in his backyard and got run into the ground until the fellow that Mark bought it from got it.
“The car is now completed and has 740 miles on it since the restoration. Originally, I built it for my wife, but she doesn’t like to drive it, because she says it’s too nice and is worried about it getting scratched. It looks like everything worked out for the good and I have a nice car to drive,” he laughed in closing.