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Jerry S's 1970 Dodge Charger 500

1970 Dodge Charger

500 318/5.2L V8

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Build Points

28

  • Color: GoManGo Orange
  • Horsepower: 230
  • Drivetrain: RWD

Vehicle Overview

In 2007, my son was 15, and we saw at a local supermarket near us, an orange 1970 Dodge Charger 500 sitting in the parking lot. We had seen it once or twice there before, and once in a great while, on the road driving. It was somewhat rusty but otherwise seemed in pretty decent condition. We only ever saw it a few times, and we got super excited when we did. I always wanted to get a muscle car, to work on, etc., but finances never seemed to work out. With 2 kids, school, clothes, sports, and eventually building an in-law-suite for my mother in law to move in, all sucked up any “fun" money. But it was nice to dream. So, little did I know, on the last day we would ever see the Charger in the “wild", we saw two older white-haired ladies near the car, one was sitting on a bench, looking a little frail and wearing big Cataract style sunglasses, and, the other one seemed to be returning from the car. My son and I approached and greeted them, and asked the younger of the two, If that was her car. She said no, it was her mothers car, sitting next to her with the big sunglasses, who I suppose was in her mid-70s, and she looked every year of it. I was initially surprised that this bright orange Charger was “her" car, but regrouped myself, eager to at least discuss the car a little. It was a bit of an awkward conversation. I said that my son and I would be interested in the Charger if they ever sold it, as I was always looking to find a father-son project car. (Not entirely true financially, but what the heck). So, I left my name and number, and a little note, and gave it to them. I had zero hopes that they would keep it, as the conversation seemed to be one sided, with me doing all the talking, and getting a lot of blank stares. Also, we never saw the Charger again at the supermarket. 10 years pass by. Never saw the Charger again, and completely forgot about it. Flash Forward to October 2017. Kids were done college, pretty much, and I had gotten some extra money to me and thought I could try to find a Mopar to get as a little fun weekend project car. No total wrecks, but a car that needed a little TLC would be fine. I KNEW I could not afford any B-Bodies, Chargers, Cuda’s, which is what I really wanted, but I knew from going to Carlisle Mopar Shows, and general knowledge that those were priced out of my budget. I found an ad online for a 1968 Dart GT with a 273 V8 about 2 hours away. The fam and I went on a road trip to see it, stopping at some antique stores, and generally making a day out of it. So, we saw the Dart. Medium Gold with a black vinyl roof, bucket seats and an automatic console on the floor. Really nice. Took it for a ride, and while no barn burner, it was fine. The seller wanted $18,000 for it. I told him I would think about it and left, figuring I’d probably offer a bit less. We also had an argument about the color on the way home, as my wife and future daughter-in-law swore it was green, where as it was clearly gold, so that went on a while. My wife also was not on board with this car. She didn’t like it at all. Not a fan of Darts, as she called it an 'old mans car'. So that was going to be an issue moving forward with my car selection, as I was primarily focused on Darts & Dusters, for budgetary reasons. So, later the next day, I was home, at my desk working and the phone rang. I heard the machine pick it up, as we still have our landline. Most people don’t, and we all have cell phones, of course, but for some reason, we still have a landline. The only people who call the landline are CVS and spammers, but we still have it. Well, I hear the machine pick up, and I hear the recording come on, a female voice that I didn’t recognize leaving a message…. I was pretty much ignoring it, until I heard the words “ you left a note about my mothers’ Charger and I was calling to”….I leapt out of my chair and grabbed the phone, and to my surprise, it was the daughter I had spoken to 10 years ago. 10 YEARS AGO! This was the old woman with the cataract sunglasses’ daughter, Nancy. Her mother, who was the original owner of the charger, had recently died at the age of 85, and they were going through her estate, and her house, etc. The Charger was the last thing to go. Though these people lived in the same town as me, I hadn’t physically seen the Charger for 10 years, because I discovered upon talking to Nancy, the Charger had been put away in their garage a decade ago, as it started to need too much work to be inspected. So there it sat. And, her mother had kept 16 notes from different people over the years who expressed interest in the Charger. But apparently, when they tried to contact them, none of those phone numbers were viable anymore, except mine, because I guess everybody got rid of their land lines, and that was the number I had put down back in 2007. So, we decided to meet up. I brought my wife and daughter, with my son, and me. You see, I knew the original owners' daughter who was selling the Charger, was older and I felt that it would look better if a “family” came to see the car, and not just my 6’2” self, and my 6’5” son. I didn’t want to intimidate her or make her feel uncomfortable. There’s a tip for you, if you are going to see a car. My wife immediately struck up a conversation and friendship with the 2 sisters, that probably would not have happened in the same fashion if I and my son were there alone. So, we all met the 2 sisters, Karen & Nancy, who said that they themselves were handling their mother's affairs, and selling the Charger. Not really knowing what else to do, they decided to try to reach out to 'local people’ instead of posting it on Craigslist, because they didn’t want to have a bunch of strangers show up to their house and try to intimidate them or strong-arm them on the car. They didn’t know how to “sell a car”. Remember, this was just 2 single women, a bit older, and trying to sell a car they really knew nothing about. They were afraid to have a bunch of strangers showing up at their house, so they figured they would reach out to the local people who had left their names and numbers. And luckily that was us. So, we quickly struck up a great rapport and a real friendship with the 2 sisters. They told us this was the first new car their family ever bought. Their father had told her mother back in 1970, when they got the car, that he was picking the car, but she could pick whatever color she wanted. So, she picked the Dodge High-Impact color GoManGo Orange. Of course, 1970 was the first year that Dodge produced these super-bright colors. So, their mother must have been around 35 when she bought it. A mother with 2 young kids, and she buys a bright orange Dodge Charger? Not a station wagon? This woman must have been really something. They also told us tales of her mother driving them to school in the car, and eventually the two of them driving it to high school themselves. They said, when they drove it to high school, all the boys looked at the car, just not at them.:) So I opened this garage, and looked at the car. After the giddyness wore off, I could see this car needed a lot of work. While at first glance, the body looked pretty good, but I could see the rear was entirely rusted. • The rear quarter panels had a lot of cancer on them. • The frame rails were rusted through. • The trunk floor, the trunk extenders, were done, and you could see the garage floor through the trunk floor, and they would have to be totally replaced. • The front quarters were also rusted & dented a bit. I knew there was easily about $5,000 - $8,000 worth of man-hours in bodywork, and that was just what I could see - and probably the same amount in parts. But, it was a 1970 Charger. A car I NEVER thought I could afford, as the day before, I was looking at the infamous green/gold dart. The VIN was an XP29, It was a 1970 Charger 500 in GoMango Orange, Automatic Console on the floor, 318 V8, 1 owner car. The original vinyl roof was in excellent condition. Aside from the usual worn carpet, worn headliner & 2 tired interior front door panels, the interior was in fantastic condition. The 1970 Charger 500 is different from the 1969 Charger 500. The 69 of course has the flat rear window, and the flush grill, for racing aerodynamics. By the time the 1970 Charger came out, Dodge already had the famed Winged Daytona, so not “flush mounted 500’s were needed. So, in 1970 the 500 denomination was a trim level package, noted by the XP in the vin for “Premium”. That meant the Charger 500 was an upgrade between the base and the R/T. The 500 came with upgraded interior, Power Steering, Power Brakes with Disc Brakes up front, and drum rears. It had AM/FM, with a cool fader knob, Air Conditioning, and all the upgrades like center floor mounted console, Drivers side adjustable mirror, and the like. So we made a deal. It was easy to see how much the car meant to the 2 sisters, and the memories it had. They really wanted the car to go to someone who would appreciate it and drive it and love it like they and their mother did. We bought the car for $16,000, with the promise that we were not going to "flip it", we weren’t going to "sell it", we were not going do anything to it but restore it, to a look that it would have in the 70s. It took 2 years to partially restore. As I mentioned before, the entire rear was replaced, including the sail panel, • the quarters were cut off, new skins bought, then welded back on, • the entire trunk floor was replaced, with all the miscellaneous brackets. • And once you got in there, of course, more was discovered. • Both sides inner/outer wheel housings were replaced. • The rear frame rails were cut and replaced. • The gas tank was replaced, • the rear sail panel and lower valence and the rear bumper was replaced. My garage was literally bursting with enormous boxes from Classic Industries and Auto Metal Direct boxes. After all the parts were bolted on, then onward to my friend’s son in law, who did the bodywork, blocking, sanding, and eventually painting it PPG GoMango Orange. Then we put the interior back together, with new carpet & headliner. We also took the seats, console and plastic parts and refreshed them as well. It’s far from concours perfect, but it looks really good, and is meant to be a driver, not a “show car". So, here's the bad part. The 318 engine is the stock engine, with 155,000, and is very, very tired. Replaced the: • Starter, the coil, all plugs & wires • The 2bb carb was rebuilt. • We replaced 2 freeze plugs, and I think one is still leaking a bit, along with a hefty oil leak, too. • The water pump had gone bad as of July 2020, vomiting all antifreeze out, but luckily it happened in my garage. The 318 runs well, but it has a tired 155,000 miles on it, and as of this writing in July 2020, the car is not moving because the Water Pump crapped out, and I need to take a financial break from this restore! And, when we bought the car, we also promised the sisters that once done, we would bring the Charger back to them, so they could see their mother's car, restored to its prior glory. So we did. We got it done in two years, and brought it back to the sisters this past November, and we did take them out for a ride in it. It was awesome. The car now is a permanent part of our family, we enjoy it here and there, and drives and we can now take it to a close car show. I didn't really 'trust' the engine to take it anywhere farther than a few miles. It will eventually get running, and it's such a great car to have around the area, because nobody has a 1970 charger around here, especially an orange one. ** Also, upon tearing the Charger’s interior apart in our restoration, we found 2 intact build sheets, in really great condition, that I have stored in a plastic sleeve in our binder. ***But, the most amazing l thing that we found as we stripped the interior, was a hand written note we found, that was left by one of the assemblers. It was written in pencil on the cardboard insert/trunk separator, that was behind the rear seat. The note was a little capsule of that night, to his 2 daughters, I think. The note said, “Today is the 12th of December, 1969. Night is going by pretty good. Want to get home to see my girls. Barbie, I love you. Bonnie, I love you.” So this was an actual note from the actual worker who assembled that part of the car. It not only was an awesome thing to find, it also verified a close build date! My build sheet had the car scheduled for a Dec 15th, 1969 build date, but that note conflicts with that now. That was an absolutely thrilling find. I often think of trying to track down this worker’s name, but I’d have no idea where to start. My Charger does have an Instagram page, it’s 70_gomango and I’d love some new followers, if you want to see some of the pictures documenting our journey. So, that’s my story. I got the Charger I never thought I would, all because of a random note I left a decade ago, and hanging onto a land line and a little luck.

Future Plans

I hope to, over the winter on 2020 / 2021 to be able to take the old 318 out, and have my guy, who did much of the restore put in a 360 crate engine if I can $$$wing it, and maybe a Holley Sniper EFI. ( I have a son getting married this fall and a daughter a year behind him) $$ . But, budgetarily, that's my plan. I figured I would put the biggest small block in there, because it has the 904 trans, and I can't go big block unless I change the trans and the rear. So that's my plan! The interior is great and the exterior is great - I just need to concentrate on the engine, so I can get this dependable and enjoy it.

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