BF Exclusive: Jim’s 1970 Dodge Charger

1970 Dodge Charger 500

If you’ve been following us regularly for the past few months, I’m sure you remember seeing Jim B’s sweet little Datsun Roadster that we helped him find a new home for. Shortly after sending his Datsun off to it’s new home, he told us he was thinking about letting go of his Dodge Charger too. Well, the day has come and he has decided to list it right here on Barn Finds! Guys, this Charger is one sweet ride and he’s done a lot of work to make it a nice driver! It still has some flaws that need to be addressed, but his asking price of $16,000 seems reasonable and he is a stellar guy to deal with. If you are interested in giving his Charger a new home, he has created a site here just for it, where you can see more photos and contact him directly.

Jim's Charger

One of the best selling points of Jim’s Datsun was his superb write up and his writeup for this Charger is no different, so I’ll let him tell you about his Charger in his own words: I had previously owned a 1970 Charger 500 (383/727) in the 1980s and wanted another one. I found it on eBay and bid, winning it for $7,601 from a seller in Salem, Oregon who had owned it for a number of years. The car’s backstory was he purchased it after it had been mostly abandoned (hence the floor rust), and at the time it had a 400 in it. Still had the 8-1/4 rear end from the car’s original 318 configuration. He and his son bought a 1968 440/727 combination from a Chrysler Town & Country wagon in a junkyard and put it into the car. That’s how I purchased it; with this configuration. The original 318 was long gone. I shipped the car down from Oregon for about $800 and took possession.

1970 Dodge Charger Interior

It was rougher than I thought; floor rust, rear quarter rust on the driver’s side, trunk floor had a gaping hole in it. And it didn’t run very well. The vacuum brake system was super touchy – so bad that when you braked, the car slammed to a halt. I had this repaired immediately to make the car drivable, but the four drum brakes all around were downright scary – you had to plan ahead to stop this car, period. It would NOT stop in an emergency. The cosmetics were largely what you see today; faded Top Banana Yellow with a redone vinyl top with rust bubbles showing through. The interior had been redone by the previous owner; he did a nice job on the seats, with fabric inset panels. The carpet kit is pretty run of the mill. I never changed any of this. I loved it but it needed a lot of work. Here’s where the money started flying out the door!

1970 Dodge Charger Engine

My brother-in-law was working with a restorer in Upland, California, and he referred me to him, along with a motor rebuilder in the same town. I had the engine/transmission rebuilt by Don Freedle, a former race engine builder (now retired). He did a moderate performance upgrade on the car, a lobe-y cam for some rumble, and all quality parts with American-made bolts, hardware, etc. everywhere. He sent out the 727 transmission to be rebuilt. My engine bay and underbody repair work was done at the same time. All rust on the floors was removed and replaced with Year One replacement panels. The trunk floor was completely removed and replaced with Year One parts. The engine bay was painted GM Corvette Yellow (for now), as that was on-hand. I wasn’t sure if/when I would ever do the cosmetics on the car, but it made sense to do the bay at this time.

Jim's Dodge Charger

The engine / transmission went back in; new custom-built drive shaft installed; new Ford-style locking 9-inch rear end installed; new Wilwood braking system (all discs) installed; all new brake / fluid / gasoline lines, of course; all new suspension, including NOS Dodge leaf springs in the back; completely rebuilt front end (the only thing we didn’t rebuild, as I recall, was the steering box, which is fine for my driving style). The 22-inch radiator had another row added, with a fan shroud from Year One, and so on. The carburetor was rebuilt (a few times) by Fuel Curve West in Upland; it’s an old Carter AFB, which probably came with the Town & Country Wagon from which the drive train was plucked. It works well enough, but you may want to replace it; it’s older and gives me a small hot-start problem (along with the small radiator – to be discussed later).

1970 Dodge Charger

When it was all done, the car was reassembled and still looked worn out on the outside, but ran and drove like NEW! One thing we did was spray the entire underside before reassembly with Linex, the truck bed liner stuff. It really tightened up the car and made it ride like a million bucks. We also did the inside of the trunk compartment with it. So it’s got a pretty solid seal all around now, particularly on the underside. The car is more or less in the same condition today as it was in 2009, though I did find a correct 1970-style steering wheel and added some horns so those are functional. We put on 16- and 17-inch vintage style, new Magnum 500 Rallye wheels all around with genuine BF Goodrich T/A Radials. It runs and drives fantastic, still to this day.

The Problem Areas

The car is pretty much in the same condition today as it was when it was “completed” in 2009. It runs and drives great, starts right up (well, if it’s been sitting, it will crank quite a few times until gas gets to the carb, of course), and is super solid as a driver. I LOVE to drive this car; its sound is truly music to my ears, with that big 440 and the cam rumbling and the Flowmaster exhaust just perfectly tuned. But like all cars, this one has its issues.  I’ll try to summarize them as best I can.

Hot Start: the car has long had a hot start problem. That is, when you drive the car for a while, then shut it down / park it, and come back a few minutes later, it will turn over but not start right up. You can get it to start by dumping the carb / flooring the accelerator, and it will rumble to life. All good after that. Might be related to the old Carter AFB carburetor, or it may be related to the next issue. I’ve learned to live with it; it’s not horrible but it should be fixed by the next owner.

Radiator too small: the car was originally a 318 car, so of course, it came with a 22-inch Mopar radiator. It’s too small for a 440, particularly in Southern California, even though when we had it rebuilt, we added another row (I think it’s a 3-row?). Bottom line is, it needs a 26-inch radiator at least, and probably an aluminum one with an electric fan to assist the one coming from the engine. I never got around to doing this, as I drive the car infrequently, and as a weekend car around the area. I don’t really drive it to places and leave it; too much money in it! I just drive it for an hour or two, then come home. So it’s never overheated, of course, and I’ve always been very careful and protective of it.

Occasional transmission issue: I’ve noticed recently that on certain occasions, usually after driving for 45-60 minutes or more, the 727 will not shift itself back into first at a stop. That is, when I apply the gas after stopping, the car remains in 3rd gear. This has happened only a few times, but I wanted to be up front about this; also, the car does not automatically downshift when rounding a corner; it usually (nearly always) remains in 3rd. This may be a function of the rebuild that took place in 2009, or something else. Not sure. Just wanted to disclose. In addition, since I first got the car back after re-assembly, the stall converter that was put in is too low – it shifts far too early out of first and second and into third. You can hear it on the video on this page. It’s not a bit deal, but again, something you can probably adjust to your liking.

Wiring system is elderly: the wiring is 1970 original. I purchased probably close to $1,000 worth of harnesses from Year One, intending to redo the wiring system at some point, but I did not. So all those harnesses come with the car. I cannot remember if it’s all the harnesses you need, or if it’s missing a couple elements. I’d guess it’s missing a few things.

Rust: the car has rust in the driver’s rear quarter panel that’s pretty bad. It will need a patch panel replacement done to it. The roof has rust bubbles underneath the vinyl top; these will require repair after peeling the roof. Otherwise, that’s the only rust I know of on the car; the rest of the car was cleaned and repaired, including floor pans and trunk floor, as previously noted.

Headlight doors don’t rotate open at present: this just began as an issue recently; I don’t know if it’s wiring related or if the motor is burned out. The headlamps illuminate, but the doors do not rotate open.

The clock in the instrument cluster doesn’t keep time: the previous owner put it in; it’s never really worked properly.

The radio doesn’t work: it’s the original Chrysler AM, so who cares? Besides, the car sounds fantastic; that’s my sound system.

The headliner has an unsightly separation in it: And right over the driver’s head! I’ve learned to live with it; the previous owner used (gasp) zip-ties to attempt to stitch it back together. Needs replacement.

The door panels could use replacement: especially the one behind the driver’s seat, in the rear – see the images.

The driver door seems to have been replaced at one point: as you can see in one of the photos, it was from an originally orange car. I did not replace it.

The door locks do not work: I never leave it anywhere so it wasn’t an issue for me.

Dodge Charger 500

I truly love this car, more so than my original 70 that I owned back in the 1980s when my kids were babies. So why am I selling it? The truth is, I’ve run out of time to devote to this project. I did a lot, as you can see from the images and the write-up. The entire drive train has been redone. The entire suspension has been redone. Most of the rust has been repaired. The cosmetics are pretty atrocious, in an “arrested decay” kind of way. It still has its mostly gone Top Banana Yellow finish, which I assume is original but could be a respray (who knows). Cosmetics were never a priority for me; I wanted a Charger that ran and drove great. Other than a few small issues as noted earlier, that’s what I did with this car. And now it’s your opportunity to enjoy it as is, or take it to the next level. Thank you for taking the time to read all of this. I’ve tried to include everything I know about it. I’m not a mechanic, so it’s probably not a complete list. If you have any questions, please ask.

Thank you – Jim

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Comments

  1. Barzini

    I wish more ads were this thorough, honest and well written. You get a vivid description of the car that is lacking in so many other ads.

    As an aside, I lived in Upland in the 1980s before moving back east. I returned there a few years ago and the place was unrecognizable to me. So much had changed in 25 years.

  2. shawn z

    For that hot start issue, check wiring harness connection on firewall. Had a 69 1/2 roadrunner that did same thing. Drove me crazy.

  3. randy

    Nice car, nice write up, best of luck on the sale.

  4. Ed P

    My 1970 Plymouth Fury had a 383/727 and did not downshift to 2nd. It would shift to 1st if almost stopped. The part throttle downshift feature was not added to the 727 until 1971. This car also was hard to start when hot. The carb would overheat and drip gas into the intake manifold. Placing a heat insulator gasket under the carb cured the problem.

  5. Jerry

    Looks like a joke with its small wheels. Just like a toy.

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Looks like the way it was built, instead of the “Hot Wheels” appearance many go for these days…
      YMMV

  6. Richard Prokopchuk

    The bubbles showing through the vinyl top are sick. This will need the roof replaced

  7. Chris

    The close to over heating issue is common with the Charger 440s. I have an original 440 R/T from 1968. The only fix to make the temperature stay at 190 was to block off the exhaust cross overs in the intake manifold. I added a Phenolic carb spacer for insurance. It is not a good feeling to hear gas boiling in your carb.

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