In the Garage in 2011

THE CAR AND ITS OWNER 1970 Dodge Challenger

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T pro street race car owned by John Casalino

When it was introduced for the 1970 model year, the Dodge Challenger R/T already had plenty of muscle, with a base 383-cubic-inch engine pumping out 335 horsepower. Motor Trend magazine says "the Challenger R/T and (its companion model Plymouth) Barracuda separated the men from the pimply faced pizza-delivery boys." While more than 80,000 Challengers were sold that year, a little more than 19,000 were ordered with the R/T option. Today, these cars are highly prized by collectors on Long Island. Casalino's orange coupe kicks things up a few notches, with its custom paint, hood scoop and ultra-wide racing slicks in the rear.

"It is an original, 'big block' R/T car that was converted to a pro street race car (street-legal car modified for drag racing) in the 1980s," he says. "It is powered by a 440-cubic-inch 'big block' producing over 630 horsepower. It runs the quarter mile in 10.6 seconds at a top speed of 129 miles per hour. When I launch the car off the line utilizing a foot brake, with no electronics, it lifts the front wheels off the ground."

"I purchased the vehicle seven and a half years ago," Casalino says. "It is truly a dream come true."

"I first saw the car at drag racing school at Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., 14 years ago," he says. "The gentleman who owned the car was in the class with me. I have always wanted a 1970 Mopar (Chrysler-built car). The previous owner and I became friends and I tortured him to sell me the car for eight years. Finally, one day, I got the phone call I had been waiting for and bought the car."

"I purchased it complete," Casalino says. "It is truly one of a kind. Since it is a race car, it only drives down the quarter-mile track so the mileage is low. But, as in all race cars, they are hard miles. I will be pulling the engine and 'freshening it up' this winter. I have the original showroom brochure, owner's manual, and parts and service manuals."

"If you see something you like, be persistent," he advises. "It took me eight years to purchase my dream car."

Casalino estimates the value at $45,000.

"My dad, may he rest in peace, was the general manager of a Plymouth dealership in the 1970s and I played in the 1970 muscle cars as a child," Casalino says. "I lost my dad 17 years ago, and having this car keeps me close to him. Being a race car, it is not street legal and I must trailer it, so cruise nights are not an option."

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