November 7, 2018

From Modest Driver to Mopar Dream Car: Building the 1970 Charger R/T 440

This 1970 Dodge Charger 500 parts car with a barely running 318 under the hood and a van seat for an interior, arrived at Driven Restorations to be re-born as a "Plum Crazy Purple" R/T 440-6

 October, 2014

1970 Mopar Charger
1970 Charger arrived at Driven Restorations LLC
✯The Dream✯
This project started as a harmless conversation after we met the owner at an unrelated networking event. We said "classic cars", they said "Plum Crazy 70 Charger" and before you could say "R/T" the wheels were spinning and a build plan was in the works.

It took months to locate a '70 Charger within a day's drive of WI, needless to say there weren't very many Plum Crazy 440-6 Mopar's on the market. So when the owner's found a Charger in Arkansas, they moved quickly to get their shot at starting a MAJOR Mopar transformation. 

How major? 

The highlights include 318c.i. to 440 6-pack. Column shift to floor shift. Bare interior (with a van cargo seat) to an original interior with Leather bucket seats, console, A/C, and tic tock tach. Flat black 500 SE to Plum Crazy R/T package complete with a Dana 60 rear axle and black vinyl top
1970 Charger grill
1970 Charger 500 with a 318

In anticipation of the car's future form and anxious to get behind the wheel, the owner got the brakes working enough to trust them (most of the time). After a new battery, airing up the leaky tire and replacing a few parts under the hood the 318's carb was tuned to get it running. 

Only one thing was missing... 

custom seat for 1970 Charger
1970 Charger arrived with a custom seat but almost 
all of the interior had been stripped for parts 
A place to sit.

With almost no interior to speak of, this Charger required a little ingenuity before being driven. The owner installed a  "double"seat, removed from a conversion van.  The seat provided just enough room for 2 people to enjoy short drives before the start date for the classic Mopar's major overhaul. And it has since been tranformed into a shop a memento of the car's former life.

✮Future powerhouse✮

The 440 Mopar arrived along side the car. Purchased from an engine builder by the owner, the freshly re-built 440 will be quite a change from the tired 318. Add the Six Pack, Hooker headers, Quick Time Performance electronic exhaust cut outs plus the Dana 60 to the mix...This Mopar will never be the same.
Mopar 440 6 Pack charger
Future 440-6 Mopar

✮Tear Down: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly✮

We often find interesting things when stripping cars. This time around was no exception. There were trinkets hidden in the depths of the cowl (assorted pocket change, hardware and a toy car). The paint colors varied from orange to dark blue, a few areas of red, and of course the flat black that covered most of the car. 
The good news: the structure was mostly solid 
The bad news: there were far more missing parts than we had hoped. Somebody knew what was worth selling off this car and took full advantage of doing so.

While mildly annoying, we wouldn't call the rusted sheet metal and missing parts "ugly" per se...but wait. There's more...

The 318 was removed from the car and quickly sold

The Charger body placed on the rotisserie

The Ugly: Somebody fancied themselves a sculptor in a past life, and took the liberty to repair(or would it be sculpt?) the one year only, not available aftermarket, NOTORIOUS for rusting out and extremely expensive to replace 1970 Charger fenders. The hack job on these fenders was enough to make us cringe in disgust and would likely bring any Mopar lover to tears. 

1970 Charger Fender repair  1970_charger_fender_bad_patch
A combination of fiberglass, layers of body filler as well as a generous amount of household screen was hiding in the fenders and a couple locations in the quarter panels. 

To add to the fun, a few key structural parts were removed to allow room for the assorted patch materials.

1970 Charger sandblasted
Blasting complete: un-blasted areas 
will be replaced with new metal
With the car on the rotisserie, it was sent out to our blasting shed and the paint was removed from the majority of the sheet metal. Knowing we would be replacing both quarters and the roof with fresh metal, we didn't waste our time (and the customer's budget) on removing paint or rust where it didn't need to be removed. Overall the body looks about as we anticipated with only one or two areas with hidden surprises in need of repair. 
Paint removed from 1970 Charger Mopar
Blasting complete: un-blasted 
areas will be replaced with new metal

✮Metal work✮ 

Major surgery is in order for the Charger, and there are no short cuts if you're going to do it right. The new sheet metal will be fitted, trimmed, prepped, fitted again, aligned with surrounding panels, trimmed, fitted (again) and then finally welded in place. Some parts are not available in aftermarket stamped metal(especially stamped metal that will fit correctly), so we will be making our own patches where needed.  OEM used panels will replace the missing or too badly damaged parts like the front valance and fender light openings as well.

Charger floor pan replacement
Original floor pan and rear cross rail are removed

1970 Charger sheet metal fit
New, full floor pan, rear cross rail and rear valance are "mocked" into place. They are held secure via screws and clamps to ensure proper fit, spacing, and alignment before being welded.

1970 charger sheet metal
Outer wheel housings and trunk extensions were also replaced. Shown here is the right side, ready for the new wheel house, then the quarter panel.

Left quarter is being fitted and "mocked up"
Some of the most critical steps to this build are pictured above. If you've heard the saying "measure twice, cut once" you can appreciate the meticulous process of panel replacement, which would more accurately be described as "measure 3,4 or 5 times and trim 1, 2 or 3 times then weld". Each body panel must align properly with the ones next to it. Ensuring proper placement, spacing, and alignment is essential to a #1 restoration and, more importantly, the future functionality of the car. We have a few tricks to accomplish this but if we told you, we'd have to kill you.

Trim inspection and selection
This car arrived with some trim, but not all of it. We needed to take a complete inventory and determine what to re-plate or polish, and what parts to purchase aftermarket. We ended up with 1 complete set of trim and a few extra pieces to re-sell at a later date. We'll be using the trim during panel fit and alignment to check mount locations and proper fit before we weld the panels in place.

Inspection of the doors reveals a few extra trouble areas, including holes for a mirror that someone installed nowhere near the correct location.

1970 Charger quarter panel skin being prepped for fit and installation
1970 Charger metal replacement continues with the tail panel being welded in place

Quarter panel replacement complete. 
We removed the roof skin and are prepping the new panel for fit and installation

1970 Charger roof skin has been fitted and is spot welded into place

The floor pans are removed and the structure was sandblasted and prepped for rustproofing. A few repairs were required to the structure, then the floor pans will be fitted and welded in place
Floor pans welded in place and the interior of the body is scuffed and prepped for epoxy primer

Metal work continues. Rusted areas like the one pictured here will be replaced with panels shaped by hand.

Steve, welding a small patch panel in place

Small replacement panel spot welded

The Charger body is still on the rotisserie, which allows us easy access to prep the bottom of the car's body for epoxy primer and seam sealer. We did a lot of metal work, and now we have to protect that metal for decades of enjoyment.

The bottom of the Charger body after epoxy and spray on seam sealer(black seam sealer) is applied to the bottom of the car. 

Seam Sealer is applied in the engine bay

Seam sealer is also applied to the interior panels

Plum Crazy Purple, the most infamous of the Mopar colors, applied to the bottom of the body, the interior of the car, trunk area and engine bay

Plum Crazy Purple, the most infamous of the Mopar colors, was applied to the bottom of the body, the interior of the car, trunk area and engine bay

Plum Crazy Purple, the most infamous of the Mopar colors, was applied to the bottom of the body, the interior of the car, trunk area and engine bay
We will be adding the R/T door scoops to these doors. Holes are drilled in the proper location and now the panel is ready for metal work

1970 Charger door metal work in progress. This door had several problem areas requiring patches and straightening

Steve straightening the rear deck panel on the Charger

Quarter panels were stripped of e-coat to ensure proper adhesion of our materials to be applied to the body. There were several imperfections and a few rust spots on the these panels that were quite obvious after stripping the e-coat, which is why, when you want a perfect body, you have to put in the time and remove the factory e-coat.

Sandblasted parts ready for cleaning and primer
Suspension and other small parts ready in epoxy primer

727 Transmission to be installed

Final cleaning before we prep and mask the body for epoxy primer after the majority of the metal work on has been completed

Epoxy Primer applied to the bare metal on the Charger body after most of the metal work has been completed. 

Primer surfacer applied to the charger body over the epoxy primer

Charger door in primer surfacer, ready for fitting and panel alignment

Molly Preps the engine for re-paint

Mopar 440 Re-painted and ready for assembly

Dana 60 Rear axle to be installed


Chrome plated gas filler cap and opening trim
Plated and polished trim

1970 Charger body in primer/surfacer

✮Engine, Steering and Suspension✮
Suspension installation begins

Suspension and steering installation in progress
Suspension and steering installation in progress, rear axle in place and the car is being prepped for coming down off the lift for final tightening of the suspension parts and engine installation
Off the lift and ready for the engine, right after we finish the dyno testing

1970 Charger Dyno test day! The guys at Advanced Engine Concepts in Green Lake WI did a great job to tuning the 6 pack system and gathering the data on the engine. 

VIDEO: 440-6 on the Dyno at Advanced Engine Concepts

440 6 Pack Mopar engine is ready for installation
The 440 is in place in the engine bay

Black ceramic coated Hooker Headers will be a great addition to the 440 and the styling of the engine bay

Exhaust Installation in Progress

Steve mocked up the exhaust using a stainless steel Pypes exhaust system with Hooker Aerochamber mufflers, Quick Time Performance exhaust cut-outs and OEM style tailpipes.

✮Interior and Trim✮

To start the interior work, we had to locate a set of donor seats and purchase the seat covers and foam. The upholstery work was sent to United Auto Trim to be installed to ensure a perfect fit and finish for the black leather bucket seats.



Rallye gauges, switches and accessory wiring installed in the dash

Dash assembly, light installation and interior parts restoration is in progress
With the exterior of this Mopar moving along smoothly, a a head start on the interior assembly, it was time to tackle a daunting job. Restoring the MOST iconic feature of the '70 Charger. The original grill with hideaway headlights.  

Disassembly of the original grill


Structural restoration complete, just the finishing touches remain for the grill assembly
✮Body, Mechanical and Interior Assembly✮

Choosing to build this particular '70 Charger meant that parts hunting was going to become a second job for her owner. He rescued it from a life as a B-Body "organ donor" for that was stripped of every part that had any monetary value and could be shipped to an eager E-bay buyer.  PILLAGED for every valuable part, when it arrived at our shop, we had a lot of work ahead to find the RIGHT parts for the best price possible. Needless to say, it has been a lengthy process of gathering all the pieces to build this former base model Charger into an R/T. 

Although the process or locating parts and re-furbishing every last one of them is seemingly endless, we were thrilled to begin assembly!

The 1970 Charger has transformed from flat black (and boring) to a Plum Crazy Purple powerhouse of a Mopar!
With the black vinyl top in place, trim and exterior assembly moved right along, including new wheels and tires.

Front bumper and grill installed
Assembly continued with the rear bumper and glass
Wiring continues with making harnesses for the engine bay and installing accessories for the dash and interior

The completed 1970 Charger R/T engine bay including A/C with the 6 pack!

1970 Charger R/T Grill, fully restored. What. A. VIEW!

A look at the completed interior of the Charger with Leather front seats and correct radio and dash set up for A/C
Here's a sneak peak at the underside of the car after every single nut and bolt has been refurbished or replaced
A closer look at the under body assembly of the 1970 Charger R/T with correct K-member for it's 440 powerhouse!

New glass, package tray, vinyl top and polished OEM trim finish off the transformation
Fully assembled trunk with spare tire and period correct jack in the driver side corner of the trunk. The tail panel was fully re-furbished and repaired to allow the R/T emblem to fit where the base model emblem once was. 

Preparing for her first test drive!
Test drives are complete! 


REVEAL VIDEO of the "Purple People Eater" 

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