1971 Hemi Charger: Details of the king of unrestored original Mopars on the planet.
Story and photos by Cliff Gromer
Jim Thomas, a mechanic in Williamsport, PA used to amuse himself watching the service guys at Van Campen Dodge–the dealership across the street–drive the new Hemicars that came off the transporter into the dealership. It seemed to be a contest of who could leave the most rubber, and get the cars the most sideways. Jim would just shake his head and go back to changing oil or repacking wheel bearings. Jim would buy himself a new car every 10 years or so, whether he needed one or not.
So, when Jim walked across the street and signed on the dotted line for a new 1971 Hemi Charger, he made sure the dealer understood that the car would roll off the hauler and into his shop—not the dealer’s service department. Hey, if anyone was going to violate the virgin rubber on the rear wheels, it sure as heck wasn’t gonna be those crazed burnout junkies in the service department.
By the looks of things, Jim was more of a neat freak than a rubber rapist. A real neat freak. Jim had rolled up over 10,000 dent-, ding-, dirt-, scratch- and lint-free miles when he bought the car to sell at the Carlisle Mopar meet back in 1984. One of the tire kickers (Jim bought along an old tire that he set up for potential buyers to kick so they wouldn’t scuff up the original Goodyears) was noted restoration expert, Frank Badalson. Frank knew what he was looking at—an unmolested original in pristine shape. But the asking price—15 grand–was $1,500 more than Frank wanted to spend. They haggled and haggled, but Jim wouldn’t budge. Frank kicked the tire and walked away (in retrospect, he probably kicked himself).
A mailman, spotted the Charger as a special delivery (get it? This is why we’re worth the six bucks) and bought it. The car basically sat in his climate-controlled garage and saw virtually no mileage. But the guy did do one thing to this absolutely-untouched-factory-original-in-every-respect Hemicar: he spray-painted around the thermostat housing area because the original paint was peeling off, and it didn’t look nice. Way to go, mailman!
In 1992, the Charger was put up for sale once again. Rich Dobbins, accompanied by his friend, Steve Juliano, showed up at the mailman’s door. Rich is a Mopar survivor freak, and he instantly fell in love with the Charger. He looked at Steve who told him that if Rich didn’t buy the Charger, he would. Rich made the deal and brought the car home to his own climate controlled garage. He did take it out a few times and he did put his foot into it (how could he resist?) But basically, the Dodge just sat. An easy life.
In 1997, Rich was looking to buy a home, and the Charger would make a nice down payment. He called Steve and said the car was for sale, but he had promised someone else the right of first refusal. Steve told him it was simple. “I respect the other guy’s first refusal rights, but if he hesitates for an instant, forget it. I am ready to pull the trigger.” Rich called the guy. “Gee, now’s not a really good time, let me get back to you, I’m still very interested…yadda…yadda…” Click!
Steve picked up the Charger the next day and drove it home (about 30 miles). Going over the car, Steve couldn’t believe its condition. He says the original owner was even crazier than he is (and Steve is pretty anal about the cars and memorabilia in his amazing collection). Jim had never put anything in the trunk. It doesn’t look like Jim even opened the trunk. It appears that no one ever sat in the rear seat. The wipers have never been turned on, and original wiper blades have never even traveled over the stainless steel trim at the bottom of the glass. The inside of the wheelwells were even more pristine than those on Steve’s restored cars. Jim must’ve spent most of his time just wiping down the Dodge with a diaper.
‘Course the first thing we wanted to do after photographing Steve’s car was to bounce up and down in the rear seat, rip off the factory plastic wrap from the seatbelt buckles, try out the windshield washer and wipers, and toss an old oily, greasy tranny bellhousing in the trunk to take to the dump over a rutted, potholed, muddy road. But we ran out of time. Maybe on the next go-round.
The non-dealer-prepped Charger shows the trunk with the factory paper packing behind the spare tire and the “vehicle traveler” sheet still taped to the left of the spare. According to Frank Badalson, the “B” over the G 60 (tire size) on the inside of the trunk lid is, in his opinion, a peculiarity to the Lynch Rd assembly plant. He’s inspected a good number of original cars from Lynch, and they all seem to be consistent with this marking on the lid. His guess is the “B” signifies B-body, as only a ‘71 B-body could have G 60 tires. All factory markings and jack instruction decal are original and pristine. Trunk mat bears date of April 14, 1971. The factory dated all this stuff just to give future collectors something to make a fuss over.
The factory used wheel opening molding screws to hold the fender tags in place, and they ignored the pre-drilled holes in the fender. Also, you can see that one tag was on top of the other tag when it hung in the interior up near the mirror when the cars came down the paint line. Here’s an example of the paper clip that the tags hung from on the B-bodies. This one was found under the carpeting on Steve’s 1970 Rapid Transit System Road Runner.
The Gates hoses are dated. If you don’t have these hoses on your car from day one, you can’t find them because they were never serviced. The Corbin clamp that holds the booster hose to the check valve has a reddish color. Behind that the part no. tag is still is visible on the wiring. On non-Hemi cars the PCV valve and grommet were already on the valve covers before the engine was painted so they have paint on them, Not so with the Hemis. The early ’71 Hemis still had the ’70 3-rib PCV valve, but by April all production line Hemis were fitted with the barrel type shown here. Original heater hose isn’t even reproduced with that font and the stripe between the numbers. Note original KV hose going to the breather cap. The ’71 breather cap has three ports (note the original KV hose) unlike a ’70 which has one–unless the ’70 was a CA car which had 3 ports, because ’70 CA cars are national ’71 cars.
(Photos: Steve Juliano)
Frank Badalson stepped up to the plate once again to decode the markings on the rear end. On the bottom rib of the 3rd member/carrier, the 3 white dabs signify 3.55. The orange dab signifies Sure-Grip. The yellow “423M” signifies build date of the carrier–April 23. “M” is an inspector or maybe the build person. The orange “426” near the center of the left tube is the assembly date of the rear–April 26. Over on the left side of the tube, the yellow “G046” signifies “G” series (1971), the “046” is the internal engineering number for the entire assembly—’71, B-body, 3.55 SG with 11-inch rear drums. On the rear of the housing center, the “BG” signifies B-body, and of course once again “G” means G series. The other markings he believes are various inspectors. The “22” Frank believes is an inspector. Many times there is a letter in that spot. The orange dab signifies the fluid has been checked.
What The Experts Say
Roger Gibson, one of the top Mopar restorers in the hobby has stated that Steve’s Hemi Charger is the best example of an original unrestored Hemicar car that he has ever seen. He notes the original paint, perfect interior, virgin engine compartment with original belts, hoses and wires, and the extremely well-preserved undercarriage.
Frank Badalson, a respected Mopar restoration authority and producer of top-quality reproduction parts states: “I saw this car at a show in Maryland in ’86 and took a few rolls of film there. But it was not until ’94 that I had a chance to go over the car thoroughly. I have about 400 photos of this car and a good quantity of notes. This is an exceptional original car and very exceptionally preserved. The undercarriage, suspension and rear end are incredible for the detail. There is virtually no deterioration. I recall the original owner telling me that he always kept the car in a garage that was under his house. The garage was always heated and cooled—no moisture! The second owner had the same set up–stored in a completely neutral environment. Once again, no moisture! I am quite certain (and we know some big collections and collectors of ‘71 B-bodies) there is not another car as good and as original as this one. There certainly are some other low-mile nice ‘71 Hemi B-bodies out there, no question. But overall, there’s nothing on the order of the quality of this car. It is truly incredible in the way it has been preserved. If you put this car on a lift and just spend some time taking in what it has to offer underneath, then check the trunk and the original, dated trunk mat, spare, jack, then the interior, then the engine compartment, then the original tires, wheels and lug nuts, then the paperwork, there’s nothing that compares. Now if only I could find an AAR or TA in this condition!”
Galen Govier, noted Mopar authority and gumbers nuru states: “I’ve seen a lot of cars over the years, but when you take everything in consideration–even non-Hemi cars–it’s got to be the most original unmolested untouched (no nicks no scratches—like brand new) car. Of all the cars I’ve seen, including some little old lady cars that come close, there’s nothing that’s comparable to Steve’s Charger.”
TheBruntBros, dubious Mopar photographers (non-English-speaking): “potrzebujemy używać łazienkę.”
Sometime after these photos were taken, an event occurred that put this whole thing into perspective. Steve and a group of very, very serious Mopar originality nuts went over this Charger, and they spent hours drooling over its originality. They all wore white microfiber gloves and sweats with no metal anywhere, no phones, no pens, nothing. It was like they were at an orgy trying not to scratch anything. When they finished their inspection and oohhing and ahhing, Steve’s beagle walked into the garage, pissed on the tire—and left.