APRIL 2024: 1970 CHALLENGER RT/SE—IT WAS A 29-YEAR SEPARATION WITH A HAPPY ENDING

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Spend about twenty minutes at a car show and you’ll hear the same old story about seller’s remorse.

It’s a simple plot—car guy sells car—then car guy regrets the decision to his dying day.  

Jerry Sutherland

Gary Leisemer was that guy when he sold his beloved 1970 Challenger RT/SE to buy the family farm. 29 years later, he tracked his old car down and became the latest in a series of multiple owners. Gary really wanted the car back, so he started what he called a “two-year word of mouth” search for his old Challenger.  

Gary originally bought the Challenger back in 1983 when he was a 16-year-old high school kid. The car had been through several owners and several versions before and after he owned it. Gary was part of the process because he stripped the car and painted it under his watch. At one point during its owners’ history, it had a hemi under the hood and it wore a 70s era gold metal flake paint job.  

The Challenger also wore a maroon paint job and at another stage in its auto-biography the Challenger  had another 440 under the hood.  Gary learned the car changed hands at an estate sale before it landed in the garage of another owner.

Gary tracked the car down and learned the owner was on the fence about selling the Challenger, so Gary came up with a winning game plan. He told the owner he had the original keys to the car so when Gary looked at it, he handed the keys to the guy and the key fit in the ignition. Call it a Cinderella moment in car guy world.

The sales pitch was easier after that because the previous owner knew Gary was a serious, committed buyer with a great vision for the car’s future. 

Gary’s vision included a complete remake of the Challenger’s metal. He knew the car had a few issues when he stripped it down under his first watch on the Challenger. The years and the successive paint jobs had not been kind to the E-body Mopar, so Gary had a big job ahead of him.

He replaced a large percentage of the sheet metal on the Challenger. The list included a new hood, new quarter panels, new door skins, floors, and firewall because this car had seen some rough years after all the owners in its history.

Gary also completely replaced the interior with new upholstery, door panels and a dash pad. He wanted to retain the stock look of the Challenger, but he went in a different direction with the power train.

There’s a giant 507 cubic inch big block under the hood mated to a four-speed manual. This monster pumps out 681 horsepower on race fuel. Gary installed a 4:10 Dana rear end built to handle the massive horsepower, plus he has electric gated exhausts to hide the rumble of a Mopar big block. The difference is like night and day when the gates are open—car alarms go off from blocks away.

Seller’s remorse rarely has a happy ending but this ’70 Challenger is clearly the exception to the rule.     

Jerry Sutherland

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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