There is no doubt that the love and passion for Mopars is through and through all over the World. These days, we find quite a few Mopars making the trek across the water to various parts of Europe and Australia and into the hands of diehard Mopar enthusiasts. While some grumble at the fact that these Mopars are leaving North America, we honestly love to see people enjoying them all over the World!
Around five years ago, Cyril Albrus, a Mopar enthusiast in France started his hunt for a classic Mopar. He tells us, “Back then, I really wanted a 1968 to 1970 Dodge Charger R/T. Over the years, I had always dreamt of and wanted a true classic car. I wanted something that was as close as possible to factory specifications and of course, numbers matching.” To help in his search, Cyril reached out to his friend, Sylvain Raulin, who imports muscle cars from the U.S into France.
One day in 2015, Sylvain contacted Cyril to let him know of a Mopar he had come across on his Facebook page. The owner was tossing the idea around of selling it but wasn’t 100% sure. While it wasn’t a second generation Charger, it was arguably something just as cool; a genuine H-Code 340 1971 Dodge Challenger R/T that had been treated to a recent restoration. To make things easier, the car wasn’t in North America; it was in Italy.
Cyril says, “Sylvain explained that the Challenger was one of approximately 1,000 340 R/Ts built in 1971 and they were actually rarer than the 383 powered ones. I spoke to the owner named Luca and then went and looked at the car. Upon seeing it, I instantly fell in love. While many parts weren’t 100% correct such as the non-numbers matching automatic transmission and a bunch of aftermarket parts here and there, I knew I wanted it so we discussed him selling it. He agreed and I made the purchase.”
Once getting it back home to France, Cyril and his friends got to work making the Challenger as correct as possible, starting with the engine compartment. The 340 had been freshly rebuilt right before Cyril purchased the car and was only in need of detailing to make it more correct. Under the hood, Cyril used only NOS or restored original parts such as an original rebuilt 4973S carburetor, restored air cleaner, original intake manifold, correct idle solenoid, original alternator, NOS 3-speed wiper motor and NOS brake booster. The only reproduction parts are the Mopar battery and the hoses. The Torqueflite automatic transmission was sent to famous French Mopar guru and drag racer Peter S. for a full rebuild.
Inside, the interior got a full overhaul with new carpet, seat foams and seat covers. The chrome parts were all re-plated and the Rallye instrument cluster was rebuilt and detailed properly. Underneath, Cyril rebuilt the entire front and rear suspension. Up front, all of the suspension components have been blasted, powder coated or painted to be as close to factory as possible.
Brand new bushings from Firm Feel were installed and they also rebuilt the original power steering box. Out back, Cyril installed new ESPO leaf springs and Firm Feel bushings. Bilstein shocks were installed on all four corners. Cyril shares, “I spent a lot of time and used the factory shop manual to properly achieve the right factory stance/ ride height for the car. It took quite a bit of work but I’m really happy with it.”
When Cyril purchased the car, it was riding on a set of old Cooper Cobra tires. Cyril wasn’t happy with them so he installed a set of brand new BFGoodrich Radial T/As (235/55/15 on all four corners) to accent those beautiful black 15” steel wheels and dog dish hubcaps. The exterior of the Challenger didn’t need any work at all, with the exception of the tail light finish panel. Cyril fully restored the panel, which he says he finds to be one of the most beautiful parts on a 1971 Challenger.
When talking to Cyril about the history behind the Challenger, he explained that the car has quite the interesting history. While the first eight years of the cars life are a bit of a mystery, the remaining years after are well known.
He shares, “It was sold new somewhere in California. It came from the factory in FY1 Top Banana Yellow with black R/T stripes. From 1979 to 2008, the Challenger belonged to a fellow named Ronald O. in Pennsylvania. I got in touch with him and he spoke of the car with a certain nostalgia. It was registered in the name of his mother at this time and he used to drive it to go to college. He also remembered using the Challenger for local street drag racing with friends in Philadelphia down S. Delaware Ave. He even claimed to have won many times!”
“Around 1984-1985, Ronald decided that he wanted a newer car so he parked the Challenger in his backyard. Over the next ten years, the car sat in his backyard without being moved or touched. Many years later, Ronald decided to get back to it and make the Challenger run again. He grabbed his tools and walked out back to the car with determination. He opened the hood and was very surprised to see that someone had broken into his yard and stolen the air cleaner, intake manifold, carburetor and valve covers. Frustrated, he closed the hood and never touched the car again,” explains Cyril.
In 2008, an Italian man named Alessio P. spotted the Challenger sitting in the backyard and approached Ronald to sell him the car. After many failed attempts to purchase it, Ronald finally agreed to sell the car. Alessio completed the purchase and brought the car with him to Italy to restore it. He turned the car into a good quality driver before selling it to Luca in 2013.
Cyril says, ”Luca fell in love with the Challenger just like I did. He had the 340 rebuilt and then invested a lot of money into quality body and paint work and as you can see, it shows very well. I am very proud of my car. I can drive it everywhere and enjoy it like the people in the ‘70s used to. The 340 is playful and pleasant to drive and the car is nicely balanced. I absolutely love driving it around our mountainous roads here in southeast France. Of course my two boys are future Mopar fanatics in the making and love the Challenger. They will inherit the car someday as I will never sell it.”