The country might be in the grips of record-setting low temps and freezing artic air, but things will be heating up in Scottsdale, Arizona, during the annual Barrett-Jackson Car Collector Auction. This event unofficially kicks off the car show season, and with the prices of highly prized vintage muscle cars climbing, we’re sure some other records might get broken other than the weather.
For a preview of what will be rolling across the block, we enlisted muscle car fanatic and on-air host at Barrett-Jackson Steve Magnante. Steve is the former tech editor at Hot Rod magazine, author of many automotive books, including “101 Muscle Car Facts” and “Rusted Muscle”, and is a walking encyclopedia of car history.
Many of the machines rolling across the auction block might be 50 years or older, but Steve finds precise details on how these cars were built and used during their life and lets everyone know what makes each machine special.
Here are Steve’s Top-Ten Dodge picks that will be rolling through the Barrett-Jackson Auction this weekend, along with some interesting facts and details on each. They all have a story that needs to be told.
Only 503 Daytonas were built in 1969 to legalize the aerodynamic nose cone, tail spoiler and other features for high-speed NASCAR racing. Little known facts: The fender-top scoops feature circular holes with screens to assist in the escape of trapped air at high speeds. The Daytona’s cousin – the 1970 Plymouth Superbird – lacked these hand-cut holes. The tail spoiler sits high enough to allow the trunk lid to open and close. It could have been just as effective a few inches above the trunk lid, but that would have rendered the trunk inaccessible. And contrary to popular belief, the spoiler is not made of fiberglass. Rather, it is made entirely of aluminum.
As the muscle car era came to a close, Dodge’s Challenger dropped the mighty 426 Street HEMI at the end of the 1971 model run. Challenger production continued through 1974, but the 340 and 360 (1974) small blocks were the top engine offerings. This 1971 has the Super Track Pack that added a set of aggressive 4.10 gears to the Dana 60™ rear axle. Because HEMI-powered Challengers were built with larger tires than other Challengers, the threat of tire-to-front-fender contact was real. To eliminate this, extra tire sidewall clearance was provided by hand trimming the front fender lips. To alert assembly line workers of the need to install these specially massaged fenders to the body during assembly, a special tag with the message “HEMI fender” was secured to the inner apron.
The 1968 model year brought a complete re-style to Dodge’s personal luxury offering, the Charger. And while the R/T muscle car badge was offered in 1967 (on the Coronet R/T), the 1967 Charger never got the R/T badge (or equipment). That changed in 1968. This gold HEMI Charger is equipped with the 727 TorqueFlite® automatic transmission. To help maximize performance, Dodge engineers gave the HEMI-specific TorqueFlite a higher stall speed, an extra front clutch and other “beef ups” to assure reliability behind the 425 horsepower. One HEMI-only detail is the transmission fluid cooler mounted ahead of the radiator core, which kept fluid temperature at or below 180 degrees. An item that sets this R/T apart from the majority is its lack of the traditional “bumble bee” tail stripe. Buyers who didn’t want to advertise their Charger’s performance capability could opt for this stripe delete and fly under the radar … so to speak. The 1968 Charger made famous in the 1969 Steve McQueen action film “Bullitt” was also a stripe delete car.
Dodge created an instant legend when the 2011 Challenger Drag Pak was introduced with a version of the Viper’s V10 engine. Though no production line Challenger ever came from the factory with the burly V10, it actually fits the Challenger engine bay without major changes. This V10 Drag Pak is very special in that it’s never been on the drag strip … or street. Lets’ remember, the Drag Pak is strictly for sanctioned drag race use … it lacks the VIN tag needed for street registration. The Drag Pak was delivered to customers as a running car, but needed some finishing to make it NHRA-legal for race competition. One item Dodge offered – and most Drag Pak buyers accepted – was a roll cage. But in a few rare instances, buyers opted to receive their Drag Paks without roll bars. This is one of the few. The roll cage option added over $6,500. In hindsight, the existence of this never-raced, never-caged Drag Pak sets it apart as a pristine example of the breed.
The Dodge Super Bee arrived in mid-1968 as an answer to the runaway success enjoyed by Plymouth’s Road Runner. Though the inaugural-year Super Bee was only offered as a pillar coupe, the pillar-less hardtop seen here was offered in 1969 and 1970. This 1970 ‘Bee has the mighty 426 Street HEMI engine and, for the first time, the Hurst Pistol Grip shift handle. One of the muscle car era’s most memorable shifters, the Pistol Grip was used through the 1974 model run, outliving the HEMI and 440 Six Pack engines by three model years. Another factory-applied detail seen on this correctly restored Super Bee (except for the 15-inch Magnum 500 rims) is the red paint applied to the brake drums. First seen in high school parking lots and drag strip staging lanes in the early Sixties, Dodge embraced this detail for instant street credibility. Super Bees are one of Dodge’s most legendary muscle cars.
1970 was the second model year for the 440 Six Pack engine option. For 1970, the cast aluminum Edelbrock Six Pack intake manifold was switched to cast iron on all but the earliest cars. But with its trio of Holley 2300-series 2-barrel carburetors, a full 1,350-cfm was available at wide-open throttle. This 1970 Charger exhibits the telltale “V” engine code in the fifth spot of the VIN, verifying it as a factory-built Six Pack screamer. Something new and exclusive for 1970 was this car’s hood graphic, which spelled out “440” for the world to see that it was part of the V21 performance paint treatment, which added $18.05 to the sticker price. Available only on the R/T, you’ll never see a 1970 Charger with “318” or “383” on the hood like this, those engines were never offered with the Charger R/T.
Dodge was one of the first Detroit automakers to enter the SCCA road race circuit with a small team of factory-assisted Darts and Barracudas in 1966. By 1970, Trans Am had grown into a huge part of the muscle car world. Dodge answered the Camaro Z/28, Mustang Boss 302 and others with the 1970 Challenger T/A. Setting the T/A apart from other Challengers is its standard 340 Six Pack, which borrowed the 440 Six Pack’s trio of Holley 2-barrel carbs and bumped output from 275 to 290. However, the real power was more like 330, but nobody was talking. Other little-known details found on every T/A is a special fender tag reading “Trans Am” and adjustable rocker arms. The Trans Am fender tag alerted assembly line workers to be ready to install specific items like the side exhaust system, fiberglass hood with light tension springs, rear-mounted radio antenna, fast ratio steering box, and other special goodies. As for the adjustable rocker arms, they weren’t there to allow valve lash adjustment; the 340 was equipped with a hydraulic cam. Instead, the special rocker arms are cast with an offset that wasn’t possible with the 340’s regular stamped steel rocker arms. These offset rocker arms were used to re-position the push rod trajectory to make room for the T/A cylinder head’s thicker intake ports. Yes, the 340 Six Pack engine came with special heads and extra “meat” to allow for porting by SCCA race teams looking for extra airflow. Another cool detail seen on this yellow T/A is the personal autograph of “Mr. Norm” Krauss, who’s legendary Grand-Spalding Dodge originally sold it when new.
The original Viper roadster was one of the purest American sports cars of all time. But its clip-on side curtains and drafty folding top weren’t for everyone. For 1996, Dodge added the GTS coupe to attract a new group of Viper buyers. With glass side windows and a fixed roof, all-weather driving was now possible. One detail that puzzles many GTS spotters is the “heat warning” sticker seen on each doorsill. No, the GTS didn’t continue the roadster’s side-mount exhaust, the new arrangement sent spent gasses straight out the tail via a pair of high-flow tailpipes. But due to Viper’s compact nature, exhaust plumbing was routed near the doorsills and rockers, thus the warning stickers. This blue 1996 stands as the beginning of the Viper coupe dynasty. And though Viper may be gone, thousands have been produced, so the memory of Dodge’s potent snake will live for many years to come.
Beyond the 1968 HEMI Dart – which was made specifically for NHRA drag racing – the hottest Dart muscle car was the 1969 440 GTS. Packing the same 375-horsepower 440 Magnum used in the Charger R/T, but in a compact body some 400 pounds lighter, this Dart delivered a power-to-weight ratio few competing muscle cars could match. Knowing the 440 was somewhat heavier than the 340 small-block typically installed in the Dart GTS, Dodge restricted the 440 GTS to automatic-only transmissions. Had the 4-speed been offered, the package would have been nearly unmanageable. That said, most 440 GTS buyers added drag slicks and solved the traction problem. This particular 440 GTS was sold new by the legendary Mr. Norm’s Grand-Spalding Dodge and was special ordered with 3.91 gears in its 8-3/4 Sure Grip differential. Most 440 Darts were built with more sedate 3.55:1 gears. Another detail seen on Dart GTS vehicles are the so-called “torque boxes” added to the floor where the forward ends of the leaf springs attach to the body. Typically seen on Street HEMI-powered Dodge vehicles and convertibles, few Mopar fans realize Dodge used them on most high-performance Darts as well.
In 2005, the Dodge rear-wheel-drive passenger dynasty of the Charger, Magnum and Challenger was still in its infancy. As such, when Dodge sought to create a high-profile performance offering for go-fast customers, they dropped the Viper’s all-aluminum 8.3-liter, 500-horsepower V10 and 6-speed manual transmission into the Ram 1500 pickup truck. Capable of 154 mph and 0-60 blasts in 4.9 seconds, an instant legend resulted. Since the Viper V10 made a metal-snapping 525 lb-ft of torque, the standard Ram rear axle unit had to be upgraded. Dodge muscle car fans of old were amazed when it was announced that the SRT10 would revive the legendary Dana 60 rear axle. With its beefy 9-3/4 inch ring gear and huge axle shafts, the Dana was Dodge’s go-to rear axle during the Street HEMI years when ultimate durability was needed. As an added spiff just for the SRT10, a finned aluminum differential cover was added to help reduce operating temperature. Produced for just a few years, the Ram SRT10 is set to take its rightful place in any Dodge performance vehicle collection. Better still, this bright yellow example has only covered 697 miles since leaving the showroom. With the heart of a Viper and the utility of a light pickup, the Ram SRT10 is a double threat.
Which of these prime examples of performance and power would you bid on?