Triple Threat T/A
Throughout the Mopar hobby, we’ve encountered a large number of reasons as to why people restore a certain car. Sometimes they’re looking to own that cool car they wanted in high school but never got. Sometimes they’re looking to recreate a former ride and stir up fond memories. Others are simply taken with a particular car and choose to enjoy that car for the rolling sculpture that it is. Some seek show trophies, some seek racing glory, some want nothing more than a fun car to cruise around in with the wife and kids. It’s a diverse hobby. Seldom do we encounter an old Mopar that can truly be considered a multi-taking car, but the 1970 Challenger T/A shown here is an example of just that.
First, let’s face facts. With all due respect to all you Hemicuda and Hemi Challenger owners out there, the T/A Challengers and AAR ‘Cudas were hands-down the coolest looking E-bodies ever built. We’re not saying they’re the most valuable, we’re just saying the factory went way over the top in making these things cool. You just can’t beat the looks of a T/A or AAR – all the cosmetic touches came together perfectly in these cars. Likewise, the balance of these cars is better than you;ll find with any other E-bodies. The 340+6 motor up front didn’t put an excessive load on the car’s nose, and the sway bars and fast ratio steering boxes usually found on these cars make them handle like nothing else Chrysler built during the muscle car era.
The public didn’t fail to recognize this. By the standards of the day, the T/A Challenger and AAR ‘Cuda sold quite well when compared to similar competing cars such as the Pontiac Trans Am or Camaro Z28. Combine the production figures of the ‘Cudas and Challengers and you’ll even come up with a number quite close to the sales numbers posted by Ford’s Boss 302 Mustang of 1970.
Over thirty years removed from those days, the striped E-bodies with the fiberglass hoods have gained an almost cult-like following with enthusiasts, but we’re sad to say, most people put a lot more emphasis on how they cars look than how they run. Case in point, a little while back we saw a stone stock 1970 Pontiac LeMans, powered by a Poncho 350, blow the doors off a four speed AAR – that’s an ugly scene that should’ve never occurred. We won’t name names.
Mark Weymouth of Rochester Hills, Michigan is one of those guys who’s really turned off by watching people turn muscle cars into muscle weenies – all show and no go. Since Mark has a number of very cool cars in his collection, he knew all-too-well the ins and outs of the show car world. In fact, in addition to his Plum Crazy Challenger T/A, he has a pristine ’70 Hemi Challenger that’s won just about every concours aware one could possible aim for.
With the T/A, he wanted to take a somewhat different route. Could you build a car that would clean house on the car show circuit and also be capable of beating the daylights out of everyone in the relatively new Pure Street racing series? Somehow, Camaro and Mustang guys had figured out a way to go fast Pure Stock with similar sized cars and small blocks, but the only quick small block Mopars were mounted in A-bodies. Plus, it hadn’t escaped Mark’s attention that most of those Pure Stock cars were hardly restored to current show car standards. Mark wanted to prove a point.
For handling the job, Mark turned to the talented crew at Aloha Automotive in Port Washington, Wisconsin. World renowned for their Mopar restorations, Aloha was already familiar with what Mark wanted as they’ve restored several of his cars (including his purple Hemi Challenger).
Back in the early part of 2002, the low mileage relatively pampered T/A arrived at Aloha’s sprawling facility for the full top-to-bottom deluxe treatment. When we say “sprawling,” allow us to underscore that. These guys have five building on sit totaling over 40,000 square feet situated on over three acres. They have every metal fabrication machine known to man, their own machine shop, an engine dyno, a chassis dyno, you name it. This is a true “one stop shop” for restoration. Tommy and the boys did a thorough examination of the Challenger, then rolled up their sleeves and went to work.
During the 1980s, the car had received what would today be called a “Pro Touring” rebuild, complete with fatty tires, suspension mods, and Recaro seats. In fact, it had been in the hands of the same owner since 1972 prior to Mark securing the car in 2001. What struck Tommy about the Challenger was the silver paint. Yes, the car had been born Plum Crazy, but early in life it had been resprayed silver. Then apparently it had been resprayed silver over and over again about as often as one would expect to wax a car! The guys weren’t counting, but Tommy informed us at least six layers of silver paint had to be broken through before the original purple was revealed! They probably took fifty points off the car just removing paint! There was a positive side to all of this heavy coating, however. Thanks to the metal being so deeply buried under multiple finishes, the panels were remarkably clean. Still, the one was a full rotisserie job, so everything came off down to the bare steel inside and out, top to bottom.
While the shell was getting the full monty in one building, the engine and transmission were next door being gone through with a careful eye placed on the rules of Pure Stock racing. For the more part, Pure Stock racing means just what it says – pure stock. You’re not allowed to mount header, bigger carbs, aluminum intakes (unless the car came with one of course) or anything like that to make more horsepower. The only wiggle room you have is to run a slightly larger than stock camshaft. It’s gotta be a hydraulic stick if that’s what your came with, but the lobes can be just a bit bigger. If you’re going to make power in Pure Stock, you have to make certain your motor is balanced and tuned to within an inch of its life. This is where Aloha’s machine shop came into play big time. The original 340 was completely balanced and blueprinted far beyond anything the factory ever took the time to do. All the clearances and tolerances were checked and double checked, before everything went back together with extreme attention to every little detail. The TorqueFlite tranny was also rebuilt nose-to-tail to stone stock specs with fresh new components. Ditto that for the 3.91 geared 8-3/4″ rear.
Adhering strictly to the fender tag and broadcast sheet, Aloha methodically began re-assembling the whole works over the winter of 2002/2003. A new Legendary interior was installed, a new vinyl top went on, and of course, an absolutely gorgeous fresh coat of Plum Crazy purple finally put the old Dodge back in its original hue.
What’s remarkable about this restoration (among many things) is the amount of NOS parts used in its rebuild. Aloha led the charge in securing as many NOS parts as they could lay their hands on for this project. Everyone felt there was something special about this car, so everyone involved became just as enthused as Mark in making it as perfect as it could be all the way around. Most of the components under the hood are not reproductions, they’re mint condition thirty-four-year-old pieces. There’s a lot of very expensive rubber and trim parts on this one, but that’s what the boys wanted. Just before the Mopar Nationals in 2003, the Plum Crazy T/A rumbled out of Aloha’s shop. After some last minute detailing and fine tooth comb scrubbing, Mark hauled the freshly restored E-body over to the Nats to see how well the restoration would measure up in the OEM judging.
For those of you who may not be overly familiar with the OEM judging criteria, this is the big league. We’re talking judges checking out whether or not you have the correct color wire attached to the right gizmo under the dash. This is where having the wrong castle nut on your shock absorber can make the difference in going home with a big win or having your peers laugh at you.
To make a longer story short, the T/A won its class in OEM at the Mopar Nats in 2003. Proving the car genuinely had what it takes, the car returned to repeat this in 2004, giving it what’s come to known as a “junior” and “senior” win which is modeled off the longstanding tradition of the Antique Automobile Club of American’s longstanding criteria. Once a car wins back-to-back concours victories, it’s considered as close to perfect as is humanly possible and is then not eligible for judging at future events.
With the car show end of his plan finalized, Mark began making the rounds to some Pure Stock racing events with the T/A in 2004. The purple Challenger had run consistent 13.40s in late 2003 and early in 2004, so it had proven itself to be plenty quick, but a little more speed was needed. Aloha went completely all-out fine tuning the Six Pack and the 340, then the car was off to the Pure Stock event at the Michigan Motorplex.
All the stars aligned that weekend, as the T/A posted a 13.504 pass at 104 mph just as you see it here; through the mufflers on bias ply Plyglas tires. That run was good enough to set the class record for a small block Mopar in Pure Stock and put the Camaro and Mustang boys in their place. Mark and the Aloha crew had pulled off what many said couldn’t be done – build a tow-time OEM concours winner that could also set drag racing class records!
Having accomplished everything he set out to do with the Challenger, Mark hooked up with his buddy Floyd Garret in Tennessee. As you’re reading this, the T/A is on display at Floyd’s famous muscle car museum near Pigeon Forge for all the world to see. Mark figures now that he’s enjoyed the car a couple of years, others should enjoy it as well. What better way to accomplish that than by putting it on display at Floyd’s place? Thus, we have a show car/race car/museum piece all-in-one! Rest assured though, Mark tells us he’s not through racing this one, as he wants to push the car into the 13.20s, perhaps next season.
If Dodge had built Challengers this well back in 1970, the things would still be in production today. We’d date say if Challenger had rolled of the truck at a dealership back in 1970 looking this good, everyone at the lot would’ve fainted from shock. It’s often said that the only things which get better with age are certain wines and cheeses. There’s a strong care to be made that certain cars get better with age as well, provided they’re delivered into the hands of guys who know what they heck they’re doing. Congrats to all involved for pulling this one-off, we can’t wait to see the results of the next project – watch for more of that in an upcoming issue. Yes, we do like to tease a bit, trust us, it’ll be worth the wait.
Story by: Mopar Collectors Guide
Written by: Randy Holden
Photos by: Rob Wolf
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