DIAMANTE – Mopar Action Article Extra

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Built from a 1970 Hemi Challenger convertible, the Diamante would have been a Corvette killer.
It is now the world’s most valuable Mopar.

When black Hemi Challenger convertible VIN JS27ROB100022 was born for model year 1970, the car was destined to become something special—ultimately the world’s most valuable Mopar. Instead of being ferried into a dealer’s showroom, it was snagged by Dodge’s public relations dept. and hustled off to custom car builder Syntex Inc. in Dearborn. They converted the stock black Challenger into a show-circuit trotter named the Yellow Jacket, replete with a candy pearl-yellow hue.

While the car was the first Mopar ever equipped with cool shaker hood, sidepipes, mag wheels and a targa roof—a concept borrowed from an earlier concept—the Duster I, the Yellow Jacket wasn’t all that different from the new ’70 Challengers that were appearing on the street, so it was far from a home-run—maybe a single or a sacrifice fly.

The candy paintjob soon began to fade, and Chrysler pulled the Yellow Jacket off the show circuit and sent it back to Syntex for a redo. This time it was a big show hit. A radical nose job dismissed the shaker which by now was old hat, and the car sported a sloping, pointed hood that smacked a bit of Corvette. It had more of a ’70 Vette appearance when you popped on the removable hardtop. Had this show car been produced, with the Hemi under the hood, it would have blown the bow-tie’s plastic fantastic’s doors off. But the bean counters figured it would have cost too much to build.

The rebodied Yellow Jacket was now covered in a heavily pearled white, and a new name—“Diamante”– adorned the targa bar when it arrived for the ’71 show season. The car was ahead of its time with its rectangular French Cibie pop-up headlights and faux “crush zone” front bumper.

The Diamante toured the show circuit from 1971 through 1974—a record for any show car to date. By ’74, the paint was started to show its age, and it was badly scratched during transport. Due for a badly needed freshening, it was trucked over to George Busti of Creative Customs in Detroit. For some odd reason, George repainted the car a candy orange. Maybe he just didn’t like white. An orange Diamante (Spanish for Diamond) did not make sense, and Chrysler put the car in storage. It was never seen in public with its orange paint.

When Chrysler decided it could put its money to better use than paying storage fees on old concept cars that it no longer had any use for, the storage folks auctioned them off. The Diamante went through the hands of several collectors before it was purchased by noted high-end Mopar collector, Steven Juliano. Steve found the car to be totally unmolested original with some 650 miles. Removing the windshield molding, he sanded through the paint layers revealing the pearlescent white (which he computer matched), the candy yellow and the original factory black.

Steve’s restoration was basically a faithful repaint of the Diamante’s white exterior. The rest of the car required just a light cleaning. It was all there just the way Syntex had put it together. The car now resides in Steve’s warehouse as the crown jewel of his amazing Mopar collection.

Nothing on the car was ever replaced after it was built as the Diamante.
This the now super-rare assembly line positive battery cable still in brand-new condition.

The ’70 Hemi engine in all its originality with some exceptions: The power brake booster had to be removed because of the Diamante’s wider fenders, but the booster bracket was left in place. The radiator was cut down to fit the sloping hood, but the shroud wasn’t. So the upper rad hose was fitted through a hole in the shroud. A sheetmetal cover hides with wiring and such for the electric pop-up headlights. A ’69 Hemi air cleaner was needed to clear the hood after the shaker was scrapped for the new lower hood. The Diamante was always displayed with the hood closed. Steve popped it open for a Mopar Action exclusive. Four-gang power window switch controlled the windows, pop-up headlights and power adjustable rear spoiler.

Original assembly line fan belt and fan with factory part numbers plainly visible.

VIN tag plainly reveals the Diamante’s DNA.

Wedges in the door jambs were factory installed in convertibles to keep the doors from rattling.

Except for the fiberglass panel between the seatbacks, the interior is all original 1970 Challenger. Car was loaded with options including the 8-track player. Challenger came through as a 4-speed 4.10 Dana car.

What makes the car so valuable? First E-body Hemi convertible ever built. Highest optioned Hemi Challenger convertible ever built. First Shaker car ever built. Only Hemi E-body ever converted to a concept car—and they did it twice. Longest show career ever—even up to today. The last 2G Hemi sold by the factory. Lowest mileage 2G Hemi E-body known to exist. That’s what.

Ventilation pulled air in through cowl vents, and extracted the air through vents on the rear deck. Targa roof incorporated hidden chrome rollbar.

Rear featured elastomeric bumper and custom taillights that bear no Pentastar logo or part number. Note adjustable rear wing in the “up” position.

Fuel filler cap on rear deck is a dummy as the real filler, with locking gas cap, is located inside the trunk.

Press photos of the car in its “Yellow Jacket” incarnation. Dodge tried to boost the car’s draw by hiring a model that showfans could body paint. It created a crowd even though no one was looking at the car.

The Diamante car show display.

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