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Original 440: 1971 Dodge Charger R/T

By 1971, it seemed the writing was on the wall for the American muscle car as it faced a perfect storm of circumstances that would impact performance for decades. Companies detuned engines preparing for stricter emission standards, fuel prices were climbing, and insurance companies twitched uncontrollably whenever anyone used the word “performance” when describing a motor vehicle. Sales plummeted, with 1971 representing the final year Dodge would attach the iconic R/T badge to its Charger until the new millennium. This ’71 Charger R/T recently emerged after nearly two decades of hibernating in a barn. It is a surprisingly solid vehicle featuring its original V8 under the hood. It is a prime candidate for restoration and has generated its share of interest since the seller listed it here on eBay. The R/T waits for a new owner in Lake Villa, Illinois, where the bidding has raced past the reserve and sits at $8,600.

The 1971 model year marked the introduction of the Third Generation Charger. Coke bottle styling made way for what is often referred to as “fuselage” styling, giving the Charger a larger and more imposing appearance. It was also the last for more than three decades where the company would attach an R/T badge to a Charger. This R/T recently emerged from a barn where it has hibernated since 2004. It retains most of its original Code K6 Dark Bronze Metallic paint, although it is well past its best. It also features one odd front fender, but it is unclear why. If you look beyond those issues, this classic has plenty of good news. Its panels look pretty straight, with only minor bumps and bruises. However, the lack of significant rust will attract some potential buyers. The exterior features a few tiny and repairable bubbles, while the seller indicates that any remaining issues are confined to the battery tray and a repairable section in the front floor pans. The trunk pan and rails are rock-solid, which is a bonus in any Mopar model of this vintage. The car retains its factory grille with the distinctive headlamp doors, while the exterior trim and glass are intact.

Powering this Charger is a numbers-matching 440ci V8 that would have produced 370hp in its prime. The original owner elected to leave shifting duties to a three-speed TorqueFlite transmission, while power assistance for the steering and brakes would have provided a light and relaxed driving experience. However, that doesn’t mean this classic wouldn’t roar into life if its owner poked it with a sharp stick. Doing so would see the R/T launch down the ¼ mile in 14.5 seconds before winding its way beyond 130mph. The seller says the Charger doesn’t run and hasn’t done since around 2004. They don’t indicate whether the V8 turns freely, but they are approachable. They encourage interested parties to ask questions and arrange an in-person inspection. That suggests they have nothing to hide, which many will find a promising approach. It is worth noting that of the 3,118 Charger R/Ts to roll off the line in 1971, this is 1-of-2,172 that featured the 440/TorqueFlite drivetrain combination. While that makes it the most common version, it is still a rarity considering Dodge sold 67,884 Chargers of all variants in that model year.

With its exterior Dark Bronze Metallic paint shining richly when this Charger was new, its interior trimmed in White vinyl would have provided a stunning and classy contrast. Those days are far behind this classic, and its interior requires total restoration. On the positive side, it is intact and features a few desirable options like bucket seats and a console. Returning it to a factory-fresh state is unlikely to be cheap, but considering the potential value of this R/T by the time the buyer downs tools for the final time, it could prove a worthwhile investment.

In 1970, Dodge found buyers for 10,337 Charger R/Ts. The following year, that figure plunged to 3,118, which proved the catalyst for the company to retire the badge. The muscle car had fallen from grace with the buying public, but a hardy band of souls who were the torch-bearers for the genre remained. Today, vehicles that were largely ignored when new have become coveted classics, and the Charger R/T is no exception. Values continue climbing, and it is common to see clean 440-equipped R/Ts change hands for $45,000. A pristine car can push that figure to $60,000. Our feature car isn’t at that point, but its originality and lack of significant rust mean that achieving that standard is possible. Would you consider accepting that challenge?

Comments

  1. Bick Banter

    These unfortunately have always been overshadowed by the previous 2nd generation. So this is a pretty risky bet for the purchaser/restorer at 12k and rising. If the muscle car market retracts, then most of the action will fall down into that 2nd generation, which might leave these as orphans. If it keeps growing they will look like the smartest guys in the room. I guess we will see.

    Like 4
  2. Terry

    It would be a really pretty car in a unusual color when finished. I never appreciated these until recently but with the 2nd gens reaching the stratosphere in price I’m liking them more. Nick said you will look like the smartest guy in the room after the resto and I believe he is right. But……Look at all the 2nd gen Chargers on that lot !!!!! I think I’ll have to have some quality time with myself.

    Like 1
  3. Emel

    3rd generation….was the most aerodynamic. King Richard Petty made his name in NASCAR driving his famous red/blue number 43 3rd generation.
    And so did I….on the local McKnight Road night time drag strip.
    3rd generation Chargers baby !!

    Like 1
  4. Ward William

    Being a 71, it is about 3-4 years too late to be of any real value or worth restoring, numbers matching or not. Way more rust than the seller mentions too. A clear case of a delusional “I know what I’ve got” type seller.

  5. Randy Hammett

    Passenger front fender is from a 1972 to 1974 Charger. The yellow turn signal lens is mounted to the fender, not recessed as a 1971 model. Swap it out or bodywork. Look at pictures of drivers side to see difference.

    Like 1
    • SDJames

      Fender is a 72. 73 and 74 have a different body line and wouldn’t match up. The tire opening is also different on the 73-74.

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