My (green) ’71 Charger R/T

I bought this Charger in 1987, which was about a year after I had moved to SoCal. I had been giving out my phone number to lots of car owners, telling them “If you ever want to sell your car, call me first”. Finally my efforts paid off. A guy named Terry Valentine had showed up to our car club meeting once and I gave him my name & number. Soon after that, he had the taste for a 4 speed car and had located a ’69 Road Runner 383 4 speed that he wanted to buy. He called me up and immediately I went to his house.

The Charger was a glossy black though there were some other colors starting to show underneath in the engine compartment. The fendertag confirmed that it was an R/T and originally Sassy Grass Green. The car had some custom work done to the body lines but the oddest thing was a radio delete dash (not original to the car).

Terry & I went for a short test drive in his neighborhood. He mentioned that the car had a rebuilt transmission and I asked if I could see how it kicked down. He said “Sure!” so I stomped the gas pedal to the floor. The 727 downshifted from 3rd to 1st, the 4 barrel carb began to growl, and the rear tires went up in smoke. We were facing the houses to the left as we were traveling up the street to the right and there was a kid riding his bike on the sidewalk. His jaw dropped in amazement as we blazed past him. The trans grabbed 2nd gear, the car straightened up and up the street we went. Looping back around to Terry’s house, I parked the car by the curb, got out, and sat down next to it, visibly shaking. I told him the car was sold, we just needed to talk price. We greed on $2500 which was actually quite expensive (at the time), so I ended up getting a personal loan from my bank to make the purchase.

I drove the car to Spring Fling in 1988 and somehow lucked into getting a trophy for the car. (2nd place ’71-’74 B-Body Restified class)

I knew the engine was tired because it leaked almost as much oil as it burned, but I did not have time for a complete restoration. So I pulled the engine out, stripped it down, and dropped off the pieces at the local machine shop that I was using, At the time, I had no idea who Joe Reath was or the drag racing history of Reath Automotive; I just knew that Joe was a great guy with LOTS of stories about building old Hemis (but that’s another story). Joe said the cylinder bores were worn about 0.022”, but since the wear was concentric (NOT egg-shaped), it would clean up at 0.030” oversize. A week later I picked up my parts and reassembled my engine.

5 months later, I ended up moving cross-country (again) and I used the green Charger to pull my red ’69 Charger R/T on a tow dolly. After getting settled into a new house & job, I decided I wanted to tackle the task of an actual restoration.

My car had an Air Grabber hood which was not original, because it was an original A/C car. I met a guy named Ricky Greer who was also restoring a ’71 Charger R/T and he had the louvered hood that I needed, so we worked a trade for my Air Grabber hood. I drove to his house, we went to a local car show together, then afterwards we unbolted my hood, bolted his hood on, and I drove home.

The engine & trans came back out and I started stripping off many layers of paint (the original green, partial green re-paint, white, orange, and at least 3 layers of black). The vinyl roof was not original, so that trim came off and I welded the holes shut. At some time in the past, the car had fender flares on the rear ¼ panels, so there were dozens of holes back there to weld up. The wheel lips had also been radius-ed in an arc, so I made new wheel lips and welded them back onto the ¼ panels. The front fenders had also been radius-ed in an arc and also had Daytona scoops installed at some time, then removed; which left big holes with lousy patches, so I got another pair of fenders. I made a total of 17 patches to repair all of the rust and previous “customization” that had been performed by previous owners. I painted the engine bay then put the motor & trans back in, so it could move under it’s own power.

Then life got in the way. I got married, my son was born, we moved (locally) several times, then we started migrating west again. My wife was from Northern California, so we ended up in Sacramento. Jump forward 3 years & at least 3 moves and the car still looked as sad as it had for the past decade or so. I was working lots of hours and my marriage, which had never been strong, was faltering quickly. One day my wife said (and I quote): “Why don’t you sell that green piece-of-shit, you’re never going to finish it”. That was the final straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. After I filed for divorce, I put all other projects aside so I could finish my Charger. It took 2 years, but it was worth it.

In 2000, I took the car to every car show I could and even one parade.

Then one day, something terrible happened – someone keyed my car while it was parked. I was devastated but I knew I could fix it. It took 6 long weeks (and lots of crying in between), but I slowly blended out the scratch, re-primed the areas, touched up the paint, wet sanded it, and buffed it all out.

I parked my car in a friend’s garage while I was working on his Challenger convertible in my garage. I ended up selling my green Charger on Ebay in 2001. For a while, I kept track of it through future owners, but a few years ago it was sold again and I lost track of it.


About hemibill

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2 Responses to My (green) ’71 Charger R/T

  1. Pingback: 1969 Charger R/T | Hemibill's Blog

  2. Pingback: Were we abused? | Hemibill's Blog

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