Dodge's Challenger popular from the start

by Larry D'Argis . Jun 29 2018
Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free PressNoel Roy of St.-Pierre-Jolys travelled to Moncton, N.B., to score a 1972 Dodge Challenger Rallye. His wife, Monique, arranged the flight to Moncton to view the car.

Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Noel Roy of St.-Pierre-Jolys travelled to Moncton, N.B., to score a 1972 Dodge Challenger Rallye. His wife, Monique, arranged the flight to Moncton to view the car.

As far as pony cars go, Chrysler’s Dodge division was a bit late out of the gate.

While many manufacturers had been in the market as early as 1964, it would be the fall of 1969 before Dodge introduced its all-new Dodge Challenger.

Dodge’s answer to the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, the Challenger was available as both a two-door hardtop or convertible.

Model offerings included a special-edition hardtop, R/T hardtops and convertibles as well as a special T/A performance hardtop.

Sales were brisk, with the Challenger pulling in more than 84,000 buyers in its first year.

Engine options included two six-cylinder versions, two small-block V-8s and three performance V-8s — including the highly coveted 426-cubic-inch Hemi.

With an impressive Detroit muscle lineup like that, what could go wrong?

The introduction of stricter emission standards, increased safety regulations, higher insurance premiums for performance vehicles and a looming oil embargo, were things no one saw coming to the party.

For 1971, the Challenger and most other performance offerings had their wings clipped. The Hemi V-8 was gone, and the big-block engines were slightly detuned to meet the emissions-testing requirements.

Sales dropped to less than a third of the 1970 figures, and more bad news was in store for 1972. The big engines were gone, as were the R/T models, but to keep the performance interest alive, Dodge introduced the Challenger Rallye.

The top performer was the Rallye when equipped with the 240-horsepower, 340-cubic-inch, four-barrel V-8 engine.

For Noel and Monique Roy from St.-Pierre-Jolys, their 1972 Challenger Rallye was a real find.

“I knew we couldn’t find an affordable ’70 or ’71 model, so we set our sights on finding a ’72,” Noel says.

In 2007, after looking for several months, they located a 1972 Challenger Rallye around Moncton, N.B., that spring.

Originally from St. Isidore, Que., the original 340 car had received a repaint, interior restoration and a performance upgrade to a 440 cubic-inch big-block V-8 engine in 2000.

As a Father’s Day gift, Monique had arranged a flight to Moncton to view the car. Noel looked the car over and after confirming everything, the deal was finalized, and the Challenger was shipped back to Manitoba by rail.

One of 6,902 340 V-8 equipped Challenger Rallye models produced in 1972, it was in straight, rust-free condition.

Repainted in the original Hemi Orange with a black interior, the redone upholstery included adding orange accent piping to the seats, one of the added items that drew the couple to the car.

The interior also features an AM/FM CD player, AutoMeter tachometer and Stewart-Warner oil-pressure and temperature gauges.

Optional equipment includes power steering, power front-disc brakes, Torqueflite 727 three-speed automatic transmission, 3.23:1 ratio Sure-Grip rear axle, rear spoiler, dual chrome side-view mirrors with driver’s remote, instrumentation package, quick-fill gas cap, Tuff steering wheel, hood pins, rear defogger and tinted windshield.

With the car back in Manitoba, Noel replaced the front floor pans and added frame connectors to stiffen up the unibody construction.

The brakes were rebuilt and new 15-inch Rallye wheels with BF Goodrich T/A raised-white-letter radial tires were insytalled.

An aluminum radiator keeps the big 440 V-8 cool.

Equipped with MSD electronic ignition, Weiand aluminum intake manifold and 780 c.f.m. Holley four-barrel carburetor, it breathes through big tube headers scavenging the exhaust through a 2.5-inch custom dual-exhaust system with DynaFlow mufflers.

While the 1972 to ’74 Challengers lag slightly in popularity to the ’70 and ’71 models, they are more affordable and can easily be modified, with factory parts, to be equal performers to the earlier models. That aside, their lower production numbers and limited five-year run, ensure the Challenger will always be desirable with collectors and enthusiasts alike.

The Roys have been members of the Manitoba Mopar Association for the past 14 years, and enjoy local shows and cruises in their Challenger.

They’d like to invite everyone out this Sunday, July 1, when the Manitoba Mopar Association presents its 21st Annual Mopar and Friends Canada Day Car Show. This year’s event features a new location, as the club joins in with the West St. Paul Canada Day Celebrations at Sunnova Centre on 48 Holland Dr. in West St. Paul.

Bigger and better, with added activities and entertainment for the entire family, the show is capped off with a fireworks display.

Open to all makes and models, registration takes place from 10 a.m. to noon, and the show runs to 4 p.m.. A $10 registration fee will be charged per vehicle, and proceeds will be donated to the Movement Centre of Manitoba.