Hemicudas were often drag raced, meaning light on options and ill tempered for everyday driving.
Desirable Options: The favored engines are the 426 hemi, 440 Six Pack, 383 and 340 V8s in that order. Since the 340 was optional and the 383 standard equipment, you'll find the 340 is rare, commanding a premium over the 383 especially if four speed equipped. Other favored performance options include Super Track Pack which includes Dana 60 axles, heavy duty suspension and engine cooling. The Shaker hood induction system is rare especially on Challenger R/Ts. A true shaker Challenger commands a noticeable price increase over the regular sports hood model. Rally dash instrumentation, Rally wheels, rear wings and High Impact paint colors or graphic decals are desired options that dressed up the car. Some E bodies had unusual interiors such as plaid or hounds tooth fabric inserts in garish colors. The option list was large and we're just covering the more popular items here.
What to Look For: Buyers should spend sixty percent of their time inspecting the body of a Challenger R/T or 'cuda and the remaining forty percent on the drive train. The major problem you're checking for is rust as they're unibody cars. Secondly, you're checking for alterations. These cars have been popular for over twenty years and many clones have been produced from shells with straight six or 318 powered cars.
Desirable options include Rally dash, Pistol Grip four speed, console and Shaker hood and High Impact paint. Expect to pay more for these items.
For rust, you need to check the torque boxes just past the firewall on the front floor pans. Also inspect the torsion bar cross member for rust. The floor pans, rear frame rails, trunk floor and inner fender aprons are all rust areas. Another rust area is the sheet metal behind the shock tower where the hood hinges bolt in. Patch panels are commonly seen on old restorations from the 1980s. It's common to have entire rear quarter panels rust out along with trunk floors. Be sure to inspect the leaf spring perches and surrounding metal for integrity. True performance 'cudas and Challengers will have metal box reinforcements surrounding the front of the leaf spring perches. They were gusset spot welded at the factory. If you see poor weld work and peculiar gaps around the reinforcements, dig further. They may have been added by someone building a clone.
Severe rust around the front windshield pillars is common especially on vinyl roof cars. The rocker panels including the door sills, inner rail where fuel lines are located are bad for rust as well. Reproduction sheet metal is available for most pieces but factor in the cost of tear down and welding. It may be cheaper to find a solid car.
Performance E bodies were complete packages with different suspensions, frame reinforcements and numerous upgrades compared to the humble 318 or slant six cars. They had leaf spring torque boxes, proper big block V8 engine saddles (called K-members), thicker torsion bars, different leaf spring counts, specific engine and transmission identification and a host of other related hardware, all of which should be present on a restored car or unmolested original.
Check the shock towers and all sheet metal behind and in front of fender apron for rust, patch repairs including front frame rails.
Authentication is a good news-bad news deal for Mopars. The good news is the factory was pretty thorough with identification with engine size and type marked on the VIN plate, door sticker and fender tags. All factory installed options are stamped on the fender tags and build sheet if the car has one. This data is easy to find in enthusiast books.
The bad news is ALL of these items are reproduced now. You can have a VIN tag or fender tag made to order. I've even seen fake build sheets for big block Mopars. You must dig deeper to verify a factory car. I'll be blunt, a well done clone by an aficionado is almost undetectable from the real thing. If you're looking at a big dollar car, please bring someone along who knows the model well. Let an impartial set of eyes work for you to catch any changes.
Check rear frame rails including leaf spring perches for rust, alterations including owner added reinforcement torque boxes to produce clone cars.
In addition to decoding the fender and dash VIN tags, look for additional hidden VIN stampings to verify a true performance car. The radiator cradle has a partial VIN stamp located underneath the top rail. It should match the dash tag. Reproduction rad cradles exist but won't have VIN stampings. All transmissions and engine blocks have partial VIN numbers as well. On small block engines, the partial VIN is stamped along the passenger side oil pan rail. The big block V8s have the partial VIN located above the oil pan rail as well. Automatic transmissions have partial VINs stamped halfway up the driver side of the case near the bell housing mating surface. On 440 Six Pack and Hemi models, the engine K member has a skid plate welded on to protect the oil pan during hard collisions with the road. The Hemi and 440 Six Pack rad and related cradle cut out must be the correct width. An inferior clone car made using a small block body may have the smaller torsion bars, incorrect leaf springs, rad cradle and brakes. Some of the poor clones are actually dangerous to drive without the correct hardware.