Challenger R/T in the shop

Note: Go to for my latest blog articles on my Challengers.

Added on 4-26-2014 (2014 is the 50th Anniversary of the 426 Hemi)

Part of a running commentary on my 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T. Ongoing updates on the same webpage.

Bilstein Shock Impressions

Writers: note: Here below (see From the FFI website (posted around January 2013))  a testimonial I sent to Firm Feel in early 2013 describing my experience installing Bilstein shocks on my 1970 Challenger R/T and some driving impressions. Dick at FirmFeel got a kick out of it and now it sits on testimonial page.

I still have yet to send FirmFeel an updated driving impression since installed the leaf springs, torsion bars and have not enough high speed or hard charging taking of turns to muse about yet either. Believe me, I cannot wait.

The testimonials  are yet to come. Before I installed the Bilsteins, the front stocker sway bar was replaced with a FirmFeel 1.25 in bar, welded in the the lower arm reinforcement  and added the FirmFeel factory style 3/4 inch rear sway bar. When the sway bars went in, I had Mopar Performance frame connectors installed to restore some of rigidity in  the now 44 year old frame.

My Testimonial from the FFI website (posted around January 2013)

“I finally installed my Bilsteins on my car this weekend and have my initial report. First, the installation was straightforward. I haven’t replaced shocks on a Challenger since I was in high school in about 1978, but fortunately, my memory came back and remembered the little techniques to make the job go smoothly. The main one was using a 10 inch cresent wrench to open up the lower control arm mount just enough to gain enough clearance to tap that lower front shock mount home. The trick on the rear shocks is that the upper bolt needs to be hand installed from the bottom of the car, sitting facing the brakes with the head in the wheel well. Tightening happens with the 3/4 box holding the self locking nut through the trunk to hold while tightening the bolt from the bottom.

The rears, fortunately have clearance in the upper mount that no problems occurred when slipping the upper mount in.

All this was done in my driveway while my wife was out on errands. (LOL)

First, it’s nice to hold in my hands some quality shocks and say good bye to the old monroe-matic garbage. I noticed the Monroes had some pressure in them but nothing compared to the effort required to collapse the Bilsteins.

Initial driving impressions. Getting quality shocks makes my Challenger more composed and mature.

The ride quality improvement is definitely noticeable, especially on the highway at speed. I can go 80 to 90 easily without the shuddering from all the imperfections in the road. Down here in the Bay Area we’ve got a lot of highway reconstruction going on so the pavement is a mess. Before with the old shocks, you’d need some spinal traction to stop your back from feeling every crack in the highway.

The Bilsteins smooth things out, I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a surprise, because the reputation of the Bilsteins preceded my ordering them, but definitely, they meet my expectations in terms of ride. Very nice.

The second test was stopping. Low speed and highway speed hard braking. This is an area there is also very noticeable and welcomed improvement.

The big difference is the apparent departure of what my 9 year old son calls “Cartoon Stops.” That’s when I’m hard braking and the rear end is unweighting the back tires so they start screeching, unable to grab the road. It’s the epitome of a stereotypical big block muscle car trying to stop.

Well, that has changed after adding the Bilsteins. The car has a more mature attitude, more composure when stopping, as the shocks help keep the big e-body’s weight balanced the right amount to keep the tires planted on the road. Even the tires are some old BF Goodrich T/A’s,I’m getting some solid performance now out of them (eventually I want to get some better tires after I burn these out).

I used to auto cross a mainly-track-driven 1966 GT-350, so it’s nice to get some of this awesome handling in my street driven 1970 Challenger 440 R/T. THanks to Firm Feel, I’ve got a Mopar that is more fun and more drivable.

I haven’t taken enough turns to get solid impressions on how the car handles but I’ll send a note after I get some data together.

Thanks, Challen ”

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T, out getting some fuel after 4 months in the shop. April 2014



The CenterForce clutch is so light and has a lot narrower range on my clutch pedal, it takes getting used to 1st and reverse. I probably wasn’t aware of how worn the old clutch was. The others gears while the car’s moving is no problem getting used to. With the fresh carbs and new clutch, updated suspension, the car feels really tight and getting the power to the ground in a way you can feel.


Did one aggressive braking test, the car stayed super level, the tires are planted a lot better with the new torsion bars (1.00 Firm Feel) and the HD leafs. They complement well the Bilsteins I already had installed. The front end height is 1 inch higher than before the torsion bars went in, mainly to level out the car. The new springs are stock height and added at least an inch to the rear height. The car sits at a stock height. I like it.


The new Long shifter makes shifting the Richmond 5-speed  a dream now. Before one of the springs was broke and the whole mechanism was pretty worn, causing a lot of random shifting problems, the worst was getting stuck in gear, at others times, missing a gear or unable to shift into a gear. The old shifter was toast.

440 six pack

440 six pack

So glad the get the idle adjustment figured out. When I let the guys know how to adjust it, it was a snap. Another 1/2 turn on the A/F screws on the outboards settled the idle right down. Reset the timing to 36-38 degree BTC @3000 RPM , the engine runs just fantastic.

Probably could get more power tweaking the carbs, but it runs really nice, I’m willing to let it go for now.


Needed to figure out why idle was unstable. Check outboard A/F adjustment

Needed to figure out why idle was unstable. Check outboard A/F adjustment


4-23-2014 The Challenger has been in the shop since New Years. FInally got the transmission back in with a new clutch and throwout bearing. The pedal feel with a CenterForce clutch is a lot lighter than the old clutch, it’s so light it almost remind me of my old mini pickup. Adjusting idle on the new out of the box Holley Carbs would be easy if you have a little experience. Wasn’t sure why is was idling too high and unstable, what corrected the problem was a simple adjustment on the outboard carbs which in fact affect the idle.. They come adjusted too lean for a modified engine so a 1/2 turn on the nylon screws (2 in each base) did it and tamed the idle. Caution: The outboard adjusters do affect the idle but they are light duty material so must be very careful not to accidentally strip the soft material or run the air fuel too rich, and possibly run fuel by the rings.


In Shop working on tuning

Spun bearing

Spun bearing, led to having to change out the old clutch which was pretty stiff and pretty worn.


This occurred during routine moving of the car around the shop premises. It’s a good thing it happened there instead of on the road.

I always wanted to use a Center Force clutch, I noticed they don’t make any lighter duty models for the 440 Mopar, which works out well for me. Back in the early 1990’s I tried to install a CenterForce in my 1965 Mustang with a 289 and top loader 4 speed. The flywheel was milled down too far to accept the clutch, so I had to resort to using a conventional design. SO I am very pleased installing a CF clutch on my Challenger went without a hitch.

Also used a clutch linkage rebuild kit as the old pivot points and bushings were well worn.



Getting some work done in early 2014.

Chrysler 440 Six Pack - New Holley Carbs

Chrysler 440 Six Pack – New Holley Carbs

This is how the car sat before the leaf spring and torsion bar change
Dec 2013: This is how the car sat before the leaf spring and torsion bar change

With the new HD leaf springs, the rear rides higher by about an inch. The front rose 4 inches after adding the 1.00 FirmFeel torsion bars. The height is picture after lowering the front end down 3 of those inches. May takeoff another 1/2 inch for a slight rake.

With the new HD leaf springs (stock height), the rear rides higher by over an inch compared to the old beat up springs. The front rose 4 inches after adding the 1.00 FirmFeel torsion bars. The height is pictured after lowering the front end down 3 of those inches. May takeoff another 1/2 inch for a slight rake. But the height looks pretty stock. What do you think?

Enjoying a six pack without the hangover.
Enjoying a six pack without the hangover.


440 Six Pack. How do you like my O'Rielly's catch can? Hey, it works better than spewing coolant all over the driveway.

440 Six Pack. How do you like my O’Rielly’s catch can? Hey, it works better than spewing coolant all over the driveway.




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