MOUNT VERNON — The 1971 Dodge Challenger RT sat gleaming in the bright sun. After 11 months of restoration work, it is better built than when it came off the factory assembly line.
But the white RT sitting at Jack’s Garage on Sharp Road is not just another Dodge Challenger. It is a special order, one of-a-kind-car with distinctive options.
The option most difficult to see is a flat white stripe along the flanks, with the RT letters on the rear fenders. Apparently the white on white was to subdue the true nature of the car.
A bright option is the upholstery, and orange hounds-tooth design. The car also has all of the original parts, with matching serial numbers on each, adding to its value.
“I bought it as an investment,” is how owner Bob Meldahl of Newark explains his purchase of the nearly complete, but much used, car several years ago. Searching for a restoration shop, after much inquiry the choice came down to Tim Miller at Jack Cunningam’s garage. A veteran metal worker and mechanic, Miller was the only one who worked to complete the car.
In the Mopar world — which means Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth muscle cars — the car is so unusual it attracted the attention of the publisher of the magazine Mopar Collectors Guide. The magazine’s feature editor, Randy Holden, said the publication is for Mopar enthusiasts of cars made in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, all around the world. Published monthly, it has a subscription list of over 50,000.
Holden said he will write a story for the magazine about Meldahl’s car, but a publication date has not been set. Photography is a large part of car publications and the magazine has several photographers who travel around the United States for shoots. Friday morning, staff photographer Paul Wilson was at Jack’s for a shoot.
But those white stripes frustrated him. They are barely visible to the eye, and getting a picture proved difficult.
Wilson shot with and without flash, and even covered the shop windows, trying for light that would make the stripes “pop.” Then the car was driven outside and placed against a green sloping lawn. Wilson shot it — from every angle, including from a step ladder and lying on the ground.
The car is now back in Meldahl’s garage. What is the asking price for a return on Meldahl’s investment? If you have to ask you can’t afford it, he said.