Words and photos by Matt Strong

What can you do when you were raised to believe that the purest of all muscle cars was the Pontiac GTO? Answer, take a ride in a 440 1970 Challenger!

Yes, Joe Adrian was a believer in the Tribe for many years until he took a ride in a buddy’s Challenger 440, 4-speed. It planted him into the back of the seat as if a colossal amoeba was sucking him through the seat back. It kept him there until the end of 4th gear.  Yet, without any rear aerodynamic aides it was its two fists full coming out the chute and slowing at the top end. That single ride made a Pontiac believer a convert to big block MOPAR power. (Yes, this was on the highway, but Joe Adrian wasn’t driving so he gets a pass.)

His first MOPAR is a verified M-code 440, Dodge Supper-Bee A-12 that was manufactured as a 1969 ½ car because it was mid year when they built a second batch of race cars at Dodge/Plymouth. Many had been destroyed in NASCAR, some at drag strips and many were built just to get racecars in the hands of more racers with dealer promotion and participation. As a mater of fact, quite a few went to street drivers who took them out at night and scared the bejesus out of the guys owning models from GM and Ford.

Anyway, this ’69 ½ came out the door as an S/A car and was raced at the drag strip for 12,000 miles -- and that is a lot of runs under its belt. If a run is actually .9 miles minimum (there and back) that would be the same as 22,800 passes, be it quarter mile or eighth mile. Since it is a stick car, you would think it would have the chassis condemned – unfit for service of any kind without major structural repair. Yet the chassis is just as strong as it ever was, and not out of square a bit.

But, those miles while being trailed to-and-fro to local and national events probably saved it for posterity. It is a three-owner car: racecar owner, the guy that painted it green and now Joe Adrian. It will stay a long while at Joe’s place, as it will be a showpiece of his beautiful work in a new 4,000 sq. ft. building now being constructed on the same lot as Adrian’s Bodyshop as a restoration business.

The car was originally “Butterscotch” but it was green when Joe bought it. It will be back to the original color before next spring since Joe happens to own a high volume body shop in Westchester County, just about 34 miles from downtown New York City.  From the factory it stickered out the door right near $3,500. The options included key race parts. Mopar M-code 440 cubic inch 10.5:1 compression engine, SS springs and pinion snubber, Dana 60 Differential, bench cloth seats front and rear, radio delete (the one in the dash is an aftermarket unit), Hurst Shifter, 11” drum brakes front and rear and probably many other things that simply have fallen from my notes and brain.

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