Rare Find: Impeccable 1971 Dodge Challenger Emerges for Its First Bath in 40 Years - 027

Amidst the deluge of barn-kept classics unearthed these days, mostly spanning from the 1950s to the 1970s, there occasionally emerges a genuine rarity. Meet the 1971 Dodge Challenger, a treasure chest of automotive history.

In the grand mosaic of automobile history, 1971 marked the second model year for the inaugural Mopar generation. The Challenger had enjoyed a wave of popularity in 1970, clocking nearly 77,000 units in sales.

However, the following year bore witness to a dip, with just 27,377 Challengers finding homes. The era of high insurance rates for high-performance vehicles was upon us, dissuading many muscle car enthusiasts from their pursuits.

Though 27,000 units might seem substantial, a closer inspection reveals the rarity within. Of these, less than 5,000 bore the coveted R/T package. A mere 71 were endowed with the 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) HEMI V8, while a modest 250 sported the 440-cubic-inch (7.2-liter) six-barrel RB engine.

Yet, rarity knows no bounds. The entry-level six-cylinder variant was no exception, with a mere 1,755 specimens emerging from the factory. The convertible, a symbol of open-air exhilaration, saw a paltry 1,857 units regardless of engine. But what makes this Bahama Yellow gem truly unique is its powertrain configuration.

Under the hood lies a 318-cubic-inch (5.2-liter) V8, its rhythmic heartbeat guided by a three-speed manual transmission. According to the owner, only ten such combinations graced the roads in 1971. While precise documentation confirming this number remains elusive, the statistics surrounding this gearbox unveil the scarce nature of this pairing.

Dodge offered three transmission options for the 1971 Challenger—TorqueFlite automatic, four-speed manual, and the three-speed manual. The automatic reigned supreme, commanding over 70% of sales. The four-speed, a more spirited choice, nestled into approximately 24% of Challengers that year. As for the three-speed manual, it found a home in fewer than 1,000 units.

Though specific figures on 318/three-speed Challengers prove elusive, available data suggests low production numbers for this gearbox, irrespective of the engine. Just 41 examples featuring the 340-cubic-inch (5.6-liter) V8 were coupled with the three-speed. As for the 383-cubic-inch (6.3-liter) V8, only 59 R/Ts and three non-R/T models graced the assembly line with this transmission.

Taking into account this context, it's not unreasonable to believe that only a handful of 318/three-speed Challengers rolled off the production line in 1971. And even if more were crafted, the Bahama Yellow exterior paired with a white vinyl top renders this Challenger a truly exceptional find.

Yet, regardless of its vibrant exterior and mechanical prowess, this Mopar dwelled in barn-bound seclusion for four long decades. Emerge it did, with a mere 19,208 miles (30,912 km) etched into its odometer—a lower figure than most 1971 Challengers can boast today. It remains a numbers-matching, predominantly original gem.

This coupe's revival journey saw it emerge from a cocoon of grime and neglect, thanks to the skilled hands at WD Detailing. The enduring Bahama Yellow paint, now 52 years young, radiates with newfound vigor. The white vinyl top, though displaying signs of age on the C-pillars, retains its allure.

The interior, a curious blend of triumph and tribulation, reveals seats that appear as though untouched by time, while the dashboard bears no scars of long-term storage.

Yet, a closer inspection exposes cavernous rust cavities beneath the front and rear seats, to the extent that the driver's seat couldn't find purchase after detailing. A poignant reminder that time takes its toll.

In the end, the result of this Mopar's first wash in 40 years is nothing short of remarkable, albeit with a caveat. Restoration costs loom large, and the 318 V8 Challengers are not renowned for their desirability or value.

Yet, we hope the owner views this Challenger as a labor of love—a testament to an era when rarity and nostalgia held the steering wheel.

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