1970 Dodge Challenger T/A

From the first time in early 1970 when William Ouellette saw the Dodge Challenger T/A in the North Star Dodge dealership in Brooklyn Park, Minn., he knew that was the car for him.

Back in 1970 Ouellette was driving a well-worn 1965 Dodge Coronet 500 while courting Mary, the woman who would become his wife on July 4, 1970.  Soon after the couple married the time came for a new car. Practicality came into play and budgetary restraints sent them to a Ford dealership in suburban Minneapolis. There they could purchase a used Mustang GT convertible for about two thirds of the price of the new 1970 Dodge Challenger.

The paperwork on the Mustang was underway when the salesman returned with news that another couple five minutes before had just bought the Mustang.

Ouellette and his wife then marched across the street to the Dodge dealership and asked to see the Challenger T/A. The muscular car was brought out and the couple bit the financial bullet and purchased the Bahama Blue car on Oct. 9, 1970 for $4,329. The dealer allowed $1,029 on the old car they were trading. The Ouellettes agreed to pay $114.78 a month for three years.

Unfortunately, a monkey wrench was thrown into their plans when he was drafted into the Army in February 1971. Ouellette remembers that his take-home pay from the military was about $60 a month, yet the struggling young couple successfully kept the car payments current during his time in the Army until his discharge in August 1973.

During those early years with the Dodge Challenger, Ouellette says, “It was registered in six states and used to tow a trailer from Minnesota to New Mexico and then back to Wisconsin. It was also used to carpool our children to nursery school.”

Nine years of daily use had taken a toll on the Dodge. Ouellette blames the introduction of unleaded gasoline for the burnt valves that prompted him to take the car out of service. With only 65,000 miles on the odometer the Dodge was tucked away in Ouellette’s garage in Cincinnati, Ohio. There, in the confines of the garage, it languished all through the 1980s and 1990s.

Ouellette explains that the Challenger T/A is the production version of the Dodge Trans-Am racecar. According to the owner, records show that only about 2,400 such cars were produced in 1970 for the SCCA Trans Am racing series. He says 16 of them left the factory wearing a coat of Bahama Blue.

Extra cost options on this particular Dodge include: AM radio, center console, and pistol grip shifter on the manual four-speed transmission. Power disc brakes were a standard feature. They were necessary to rein in all that power.

The three two-barrel carburetors are what give the car its moniker of “Six Pak.” The carburetors sit atop the 340-cubic-inch V-8 engine that is rated at 290 horsepower. “It’s a very fast car,” Ouellette says. He adds that huge sway bars, both front and rear help in handling the 3,405-pound car.

The 15-inch radial tires on the rear are one-size larger than the front ones. “It looks fine with radials,” Ouellette observes. The Dodge rides on a 110-inch wheelbase.

After 23 years out-of-service, Ouellette spent two days to get the long dormant engine running. He says it ran, but not well. Then the car was moved, along with the Ouellette family, to California.

Once settled in Livermore, Calif., the engine was pulled out and again was rebuilt to original specifications. The manual transmission has never been overhauled, however, about three years ago the positraction rear end needed attention.

At the Miracle Auto Body shop in Pleasanton, Calif. the car was stripped and resprayed and the original bumpers were reinstalled. Ouellette only takes his 1970 Dodge out occasionally. He says the exhaust note that comes tumbling out of the megaphone exhaust tips forward of the rear wheels is still exhilarating. — Vern Parker, Motor Matters

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