Video: El Hemi, The Rumbling Family Member

As the 60s came to an end, Dodge introduced the Challenger, and the world took notice. It was the answer to the Mustang and Camaro, and Juan Escalante’s father’s dreams.

After seeing the new Dodge model at the Detroit Auto Show, Juan Escalante’s father fell immediately in love with the Challenger. He wasted no time rushing to the dealership to get his. It had to be painted orange and black, the interior had to be black, the transmission had to be a 4-speed, and the engine had to be the biggest available.

What he got was this 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T with a 426 HEMI engine and 4-speed manual transmission. It’s one of only 127 equipped with the engine/transmission combo, making it a very rare variant of the Challenger. The car remained in the family from day one.

The Challenger took a multi-decade hiatus from the United States to visit Venezuela. Before it landed on the South American shores, the rumors of a Challenger coming to the area had the local gear heads in a tizzy. When the car finally arrived, it was the first Challenger in the area to pay a visit. It quickly earned the name “El Hemi” amongst the locals.

During the late 70s, the car started to have some issues. Being a resident of Venezuela, parts were hard to come by. It was then tragically parked until the mid ’90s. After a few decades, Juan Escalante and his brother talked their dad into letting them bring the car back to the United States – some 24 years later.

The restoration gave life to the Challenger in 2005. Sadly, the original owner passed in the middle of the project, but the spirit of the build lived on through his sons and grandson. One thing he stressed to his sons before his passing was that they put the car on the streets, that they drove it, and passed on the love for the car to their kids.

Over the restoration and years, the family has stayed connected through the Challenger. The connection spans multiple generations already. This kind of connection to our childhood, to our family, to our heritage, to our past, and our future generations through a car is why cars like these are magic.


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