Ken Katarynchuk had been looking for a Panther Pink Mopar for two to three years when he ran across this Challenger RT/SE. He did not know at the time he had found one of one known to exist.
The year was 2001. The month was February. Already, E-bodies had escalated tremendously in price. Muscle Mopars with High Impact Paint (known as H.I.P. cars), were high profile and hot to own. Of course, they stood out among their less brightly colored kin. Actually, a car like Ken’s Challenger would stand out against a space shuttle launch.
Ken wasn’t going to be choosy. His Mopars were muscle iron, including two Hemi cars of eight total, not counting one 390 powered 1968 Mustang GT fastback. But, he wanted any Mopar as long as the factory color was Panther Pink.
The reason was Panther Pink (or Moulon Rouge in the Plymouth camp) was extremely rare and very popular today for car showing. Ken would even accept a six-cylinder Plymouth or Dodge, or perhaps a garden variety Road Runner or any other series of high production as long as the color was H.I.P. Panther Pink.
Fellow collectors can imagine Ken’s surprise to stumble across a Panther Pink (FM3 code) in a big block Challenger that was an R/T to boot, an SE (Special Edition, which is top of the line and has that great looking smaller back window), and 4-speed with a factory stock Magenta (purplish pink) stripe, no less. Ken’s find was incredible and one for the books.
His Panther Pink quest began with a simple query to a fellow worker. “I work in the oil field. I was on a drilling rig. I noticed the Tool Push had Saskatchewan license plates on his truck. So, I asked him if he knew of anybody down where he was from that had any Mopars for sale.”
The co-worker gave Ken two leads and two phone numbers. The first phone call found a 1968 Plymouth GTX, which was already sold. The second ring connected to the owner of a 1970 Challenger. Ken recalls the man on the end of the line said the Challenger was white now, but came from the factory painted pink.
Bingo, Ken had a hot lead. The Challenger was a 12-hour drive away. Ken had to be sure of the factory color to avoid the classic wild goose chase. But, he didn’t want the car to get away from him. The owner talked about taking out a national ad to sell the car.
“I said no, you don’t want to do that. I asked him to send me all the information on the fender tag.”
The owner faxed the data to Ken. Ken decoded the letters and numbers.
“It came out as a Magenta stripe 383/4-speed RT/SE Challenger in Panther Pink.
The owner knew the car was rare. He just didn’t know how rare. He didn’t know his daily driver was the one and only one 383/4-speed Challenger RT/SE in Panther Pink with the Magenta side stripes known to exist, according to Galen Govier’s Registry.
Ken moved quickly. He phoned the owner as soon as he had decoded the fender tag.
“I said buy a disposable camera, shoot the whole roll of film. I’ll pay you for the camera. Send me the camera, I’ll get it developed here.”
Ken got the camera on a Tuesday, developed the film Wednesday, and on Friday he was on the road to retrieve the car. The drive consumed 12 hours.”
He found a vintage muscle Dodge that was typical of one driven for decades on Canadian roads. Needless to say, rust was a problem. Ken told us about replacing the “floor pans, the trunk floor, the inner and outer wheel houses, and full rear quarters.” (Full rear quarters means completely to the factory seams, as opposed to patch panels.)
The front fenders were “pretty sound” because the third owner- the man who painted the body white- had replaced the rusty fenders years ago.
Really shot was the pot metal around the park/signal lights in the front valance. Ken says salt and mud nest in these areas causing rust. The pot metal crumbled into pieces.
Luckily, his restorer Doug Syme is a “true craftsman” with metal. “Joey’s Custom Paint & Restoration” in Edmonton followed up this meticulous sheet metal work with a “high end prep and paint” job. Well known Mopar racer Harvey Pahl rebuilt the 383 to factory specifications and was partially restored by Kori in Red Deer, Alberta.
The car was originally factory undercoated. Ken decided to leave off the protective spray so the restored undercarriage is visible.
With the car apart, he found somebody had painted the transmission John Deere yellow with a spray can and painted the engine bay black with a brush.
Ken made sure the restoration went back concours. He planned to show this car. Panther Pink might not have been great for inconspicuous daily driving, but it is great for car shows. The restoration is concours and has a proven track record in the nine months since completion.
During the time the Challenger was in the shop, Ken researched the car’s provenance. He talked to the four previous owners, starting with Steve Melnyk from Edmonton. In 1970, Steve drove to several dealerships looking for a new car. He finally settled on this 1970 Challenger RT/SE. He didn’t order the car. He bought it off the showroom floor of Chinook Chrysler (Calgary, Alberta) in July 1970.
Apparently, either the dealer ordered the Dodge this way, or one of the Dodge Rep’s ordered the car for display. Incredibly, the same Chrysler dealer in Calgary sold a second Panther Pink Challenger RT with the Magenta stripes. This car was a 383 automatic and is today is restored and resides in the Connecticut.
In his research of his Panther Pink Challenger, Ken has heard stories that Chrysler was behind in sales to Mustang and Camaro in the late 1960s. Chrysler wanted to jump start sales. They had a new E-body for 1970. It was great looking. These were the hippie days. Psychedelic was the buzzword for the youth generation with connotations of drug use and bright colors. Chrysler really got psychedelic with their new Challenger and ‘Cuda series.
In addition to the pink colors, Chrysler also issued a second H.I.P. color in the Sassy Grass Green. Drugs induced psychedelic reactions. The word grass implied marijuana, which was a soft drug popular with the hippie crowd. Some Sassy Grass Green cars got chartreuse stripes, or bright yellowish-green.
These colors came out in mid-year. They were called “Spring Colors” to capture more sales. Did this sales angle work?
Ken has heard horror stories of how some of these cars sat on dealer lots for quite some time. He has heard one story of a customer who bought a pink Road Runner at a nice discount to the sticker price, then told the dealer paint it blue and he would pick it up.
Ken has noticed the public in general see the Panther Pink Challenger with a different set of eyes than the Mopar collector.
“If I go to an all-make show- like I was at an all-make show in Calgary a month before I went to “Mopars At The Strip” in Las Vegas- and there was a camera crew going around taking pictures of Volkswagens and everything else. When he was done he looked over at the Challenger. I can imagine what he thought. Some clown painted this car pink and put this goofy stripe on it. Okay, that’s at an all-make show. But, when you go to a Mopar show like “Mopars At The Strip,” everybody knows what it is and how rare it is.”
Ken has more experience to back up these reactions. The car’s first showing after the restoration was the “2008 Belvedere Mopar Happening” in Belvedere, Illinois, a couple miles from the Chrysler plant.
Ken said, “It took Best of Show out of 248 cars. I got first in the judged class. Mr. Norm picked the RT/SE as the best Challenger. I was on the local TV station Friday at 6:30 am in the morning.”
All the pink Challengers were built either in Los Angeles, California or Hamtramck, Michigan assembly plants. The Belvedere employees were impressed with the car.
“I had people come up to me and say I’m sure glad you brought this car here because we have never seen a factory pink car let alone a factory pink car with a pink stripe.”
According to Ken, in total, Galen Govier has 97 pink Challengers in “Galen’s Chrysler Registry,” which include Los Angeles and Hamtramck assembly plants and take in the RT’s, the T/A’s, convertibles, coupes and hardtops with all engine and transmission combinations. In the 1970 Challenger RT/SE 383/4-speed, Dodge built exactly 7 pink cars. Three of those 7 pink cars came with the Magenta stripe. The only one of those three known to exist is Ken’s car seen here.