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1972 Dodge Challenger

1972 Dodge Challenger
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I believe Jeff summed it up best when he said, "When I turn 50 (he was 46 at the time), I'm going to buy an old muscle car again.  As a teenager growing up, I had several old cars such as Dusters and Demons.  I would spend countless hours repairing, improving, driving, and enjoying them and I thought how it would be nice to recapture those weekend drives in the summer.  Kind of reliving my youth, since owning one of these muscle cars certainly takes me back."  Though we may enjoy aspects of life, family time, and possibly work, we do tend to stop and miss those halcyon days of our youth when times seemed slower and simpler.  "The car represents a sense of youthful freedom that has long disappeared.  It takes me back to a time when I was a teenager and felt invincible.  I remember I could cash in my pop bottles and have money to put in the gas tank and drive around all night."

Approximately 188,600 Dodge Challengers were sold over its lifespan (prior to the retro version).  "My wife, Jennifer, implied life is too short to procrastinate, so I told Jennifer about a '72 Challenger in the back row of a car dealership in Perth, Ontario where their family cottage was."  Whenever Jeff drove up there, he would deliberately pass that dealership with hopes of seeing the Challenger.  Its metallic Popsicle-purple on display like some siren beckoning him with almost sexual innuendos - look at me, caress me, drive me.

"We took a test drive at it met all our expectations as we fell in love with her," recalls Jeff.  "The sounds, smells, power, and feel, just made us both smile, took us back in time.  We really wanted this car."  But the price the dealership demanded was out-of-reach.  "One day when I drove by the lot, my heart sank.  The car wasn't there.  I felt betrayed and desolate.  Some other enthusiast now claimed it."

Miraculously two years later, Jeff found the car again for sale in Midland, Ontario on eBay.  The new owner did not want the car and was hoping to sell it to recoup some cash from its purchase.  As fate would have it, he was prepared to sell the car for the same amount Jeff offered the dealership.  "We took the four hour trip to Midland and purchased the car immediately.  The car was then delivered to us in mid-July.  I was ecstatic and couldn't believe my luck.  I guess it was just meant to be."

Though the car needed some TLC, the frame and floor were in good condition.  The paint was dull and full of orange peel."  Apparently, the original was green with a white vinyl roof.  "When we purchased the car, it was a custom Purple with a black vinyl roof.  Mopar offered a Plum Crazy colour back in the day, but this purple  really makes this car pop, and attracts a lot of attention.  The paint job was just one of a battery of restorations required, but the important part was that it was a driver's car, not a trailer queen.  "Parts are still readily available for this type of car, either NOS or remanufactured.  I can even go to the local auto supply or specialty sellers, like YearOne, Summit, or Classic Industries and order what I need.  I even went into a local autoparts store in Syracuse one time and pulled parts off the shelf with dust on them to get me home from the Syracuse nationals, kinda funny... The engine detailing was a huge job. It had never been touched in years.  The engine removal, painting, wiring, and parts replacement, powder coating over the fall and winter months, and then we put it all back together in the spring.

"The car makes us smile, gives us a social aspect that we could not imagine existed, participating year round with weekly dinners and parties.  I think it has a calming effect on me and makes me appreciate things more.  Like a fine wine or a good meal, just time to kick back and enjoy life."  Amazing how a car can do that.

The car came off the assembly line with a 318 cubic inch engine and a 2-barrel carburetor but at some stage was promoted with a 340 cubic inch engine and a 4-barrel carburetor.  It still has the original transmission and rear end.  "The car is different," states Jeff, "not difficult for people who grew up with these cars, but it's 43 years old.  It starts differently than today's cars.  You have to pump the gas and feel it start.  Most people of this generation might find it tough to start without flooding the carb, then not know what to do.  I would say that when you get the car over 100 miles per hour on a straight stretch of highway, it starts to feel like you're floating.  The original suspension was not made for cornering, someday I might upgrade to newer suspension but for now it works fine.  The car sounds great, particularly when idling at the lights waiting for the light to turn green.  It's a head-turner."

In its short life, (production started in 1969 and ceased in 1974 due to an increase in insurance and a rise in gas prices) the Challenger turned out the be one of the best-looking cars produced in the muscle era and is today highly sought after.  I asked Jeff what reaction he received from the public.  "It's uncanny how people usually are much nicer on the roads when they see the car.  They let me merge into traffic, allow me to pass and, in general, are nicer to me than when I'm driving a normal everyday car.  Everyone is nice, they want to talk to me about the car, and approach me like they have known me forever.  It's such a refreshing aspect of how nice people can really be.  In fact, a funny story was when Jennifer and I were with a bunch of Mopar cars coming home from Syracuse Nationals.  At the US/Canada border, our friends went through and waited by the side of the road for us.  After the perfunctory questions, the female border guard asked: 'Do you mind if I tell you something?' I was a bit nervous, but agreed.  She said, 'I love your car and I have one, too.'  She explained that she had an old Charger and sold it for a new Challenger.  She was anxious to have her Challenger photographed beside ours but she didn't have a camera.  I offered mine and would send her the results.  I was then directed to the inspection area and parked the car beside the only other Challenger.  My friends were now concerned as it appeared I was being investigated for some illegal activity.  A minute later, she came running around the corner beaming and we took several pictures together.  Of course our car buddies laughed and mocked out celebrity status.  I do believe the picture can still be seen as a computer screen saver with CBSA and I am told by my friends that when they travel in their old cars to the U.S., sometimes they are asked if they know the couple with the purple Challenger.  Very nice!"

The car introduced Jennifer and Jeff to a new group of friends.  "When Jennifer and I bought the car, we thought how nice it would be to drive around the countryside and enjoy the warm summer weekends together.  We had no idea the social aspect with friends, not just car people, but really nice people we have met along the way.  They have supported me in good times and bad, and they make me laugh when I'm tired or feeling down.  We are truly blessed to have found this car and the people around us, we are very lucky to have them in our lives.  You see companionship and trust usually associated with family or even sports teams.  I guess after working over 35 years in the Federal Government, it's not something I have seen very often."

Jeff's story reminded me of the movie, The Yellow Rolls-Royce and how its involvement with the various owners, changed them.  Through happenstance, made them see life in a different light.  Jeff's prognosis regarding teh future of classic cars is one of guarded optimism.  "The problem I see is that the cost of collecting these cars may be for the Upper Middle-Class and those with plenty of disposable income.  It's a very expensive hobby.  The present owners assume, after investing so much time, energy, and money, that their car is their golden retirement egg.  Usually, it's not.  The cars are getting harder to find at a decent price, but I can't see Barrett Jackson going out of business in my lifetime."