68 Charger R/T Clone refurb

Member's Projects & Restorations

  1. funknut

    funknut Well-Known Member

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    This will be the story of my 1968 Charger going from a somewhat-unreliable and temperamental driver to hopefully something very reliable and capable of more spirited driving.

    I'm taking the opportunity to write it up here for planning and documentation purposes.

    It's not a restoration or even a resto-mod (at least not yet, anyway, we'll see where this all heads), so for now I'm calling it a refurbishment. I always had an eye for cars but never the time, skills, tools or space to tinker with or build one. I was able to grab some space, but I definitely don't have the skills, am slowly collecting the tools, and can squeak out some time here and there.

    The plan is to keep most of the aesthetics and spirit of the 1960s while upgrading to improve the driving experience.

    When I bought the car in late 2015 and it had some issues. Some are typical age-related things, and some were larger. Collision damage in the driver's front was mostly repaired, but there were some things that needed further correction. The car has an older (mid-90s?) repaint/color change job when the R/T badging and butt stripe were added, but the surface wasn't well prepped and the topcoat isn't aging well. It looks good from 10 feet (the sound is amazing), but get any closer and it doesn't take long to discover it has some issues.

    Here it is the day I brought it home:

    IMG_1037.jpg



    And with my future co-pilot:

    IMG_1051.jpg

    Fender tag:

    IMG_1135.jpg

    Some work has already been done and I'll try to catch up with all of that in the first few posts.

    The goal was to tackle things a bit at a time but to make sure it was drivable during the good weather months, which around here is realistically April through Oct. I drove it the last few years with a few bolt-on changes as time and skills allowed, but now it's coming apart for some more significant work.
     
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    • Bob Sawyer

      Bob Sawyer FBBO Gold Member FBBO Gold Member

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      Good luck! Sounds like you have a good plan.
      BTW, your co-pilot is a cutie pie!
       
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      • 66383

        66383 FBBO Gold Member FBBO Gold Member

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        Wishing you well with the refurb. I love the 68's Go for it!!:thumbsup::thumbsup:
         
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        • 68Moparmaniac

          68Moparmaniac Well-Known Member

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          Good luck with your refurbishment, 68 Charger's a great platform to start with! :thumbsup:
           
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          • The Rebel

            The Rebel Well-Known Member

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            • Jessejames

              Jessejames Well-Known Member

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              For a minute there... I thought this was my old car! Actually my first car I bought when I was 15yrs old in 1993. So your time line was adding up. Same paint color, interior and tail stripe. Mine was a R/T tho.. Nice Car
               
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              • funknut

                funknut Well-Known Member

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                Current status

                The previous owner had done some work to get it ready for more strip duty, so some of what I plan to do is undo some of that and build on some of his unfinished work.

                Drivetrain
                :

                It was originally a 383 column-shift car.

                - The drivetrain is pretty stout. The previous owner recently rebuilt the 440 and claimed fewer than 500 miles. Based on what I've seen and what others have mentioned, I have no reason to doubt him.
                - Currently has a 727 with manual valve-body and B&M floor-mounted shifter.
                - Motor is .030 over, forged crank, not sure on pistons, but compression is supposed to be between 10.25:1 and 10.5:1
                - 440 Source CNC ported heads
                - Comp XE285HL cam
                - It originally had Crane Gold roller tip rockers and 3/8 pushrods, but the pushrods were fouling on the heads and one of the rods on #7 was enough of a problem that it knocked the rocker adjuster loose and tore it up.
                - I had a local shop do some clearance work and replaced with Mancini 5/16 pushrods and their Harland Sharp roller tip rockers.
                - Valve springs are standard 440 source units, which are not recommended above .510 lift. I have some Comp 811 dual springs and associated goodies that I plan to install.
                - Edelbrock Performer RPM intake and 800 CFM carb. E-choke with manual secondaries. Even with a drop-base air cleaner, the fitment with the hood is very tight. No changes planned for now, but port EFI is on the roadmap so a replacement intake manifold is in my future.
                - Carb was very temperamental to tune, so I threw a fuel pressure gauge on it. Pressure was running high (9-10 PSI). I have a regulator ready for service.
                - Rear was 8 3/4" with 4.10 gears and a spool. Replaced the spool and gears with 3.55s and an Eaton TrueTrac.

                Suspension:

                Front:

                - Front shocks were shot, upgraded to Bilsteins
                - Due to the front end damage, the k-member and strut rod on the driver's side were bent. Only discovered this when fitting new wheels and tires, the driver's side tire fouled on the fender. Measured and the spindle was approx. 1/2" out of position. Replaced with QA1 k-member, LCAs and adjustable strut rods.
                - UCAs were replaced with RMS tubular units to allow for more adjustment, with a target of 5 deg caster and -1 deg camber.
                - Torsion bars replaced with the heavier Hotchkis units.
                - Power steering gearbox leaked badly, no doubt a result of the collision. Had it rebuilt by Firm Feel, but was never happy with the play at center. Finally took out the steering column and the steering coupler had been assembled incorrectly. The shoes were rotated 90 degrees leaving quite a bit of play. Unfortunately, I only found this after I had ordered the Borgeson unit, which I still plan to install, so hopefully the FF box can find a new home in the future.
                - Car was 4 wheel drums brakes and they were terrifying. I knew I'd be replacing the flex lines at least, along with rebuilding the brakes, so I went ahead with a disc brake conversion up front. Splurged and got a hydroboost setup as an early Christmas present. ;)

                Rear:

                - Previous owner had installed Caltracs. They're on there for now, though I'm sure I'll never need them.
                - Previous owner replaced the rear springs but they're swapped L to R so the rear end sits a little cock-eyed. Haven't decided if I'll remove the Caltracs when I switch the springs. I think they look kinda cool even if they are totally unnecessary for me. :)
                - Shocks are shot, Bilstein's on order.

                Electrical:

                Needs help, bad! Electrical is actually what started me on this refurb project in the first place. My first clue was the engine bay wiring was quite an interesting layout. The PO added MSD ignition, but the wiring didn't make any sense. The firewall bulkhead connector had been temperamental since the get-go, and I've had it apart a number of times to clean it out, grease it up and that got me down the road each time. I knew I'd need to tackle it before long as the bulkhead connector had had a rough life. It had very clearly gotten hot at least once, a couple wires were epoxied into the engine compartment connector, and one of the locking tabs was broken. The last straw was when I was trying to get to an alignment appointment and I just couldn't get it going. In a fit of irritation I took out the cluster with the intent of just replacing the bulkhead connectors, but, as they say, that's when the wheels came off.

                I found lots of splices, extra grounds and enough bare wires that I knew I wasn't going to feel good about putting it back together without redoing at least a decent chunk of the dash wiring. I ordered an American Autowire Classic Update kit and set about what I thought was going to be a 2-3 week project to get it rewired...
                 
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                • funknut

                  funknut Well-Known Member

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                  On to the body...

                  Body:

                  The trunk was rusty and there were signs of fiberglass mat laid in there, so I knew it was going to be worse than it looked. The car spent many years outside, and I knew it was a Florida car, so humid and rainy weather had taken their toll. PO said he had the rear quarter skins replaced below the body line, and they did a good job with that, but the trunk pan was going to need replacing eventually.

                  When I set out on the rewire I started removing the interior and found more trouble than I hoped. I knew there would at least be some pinholes in the floors since you could see from the underside that it was pretty crusty. Came to find the front floors were pretty shot, and more fiberglass mat was laid in as a quick fix to fill in the holes. Rear floor pan looks solid. Oddly, lots of body plugs were missing and as a result, tons of debris between the carpet and floor.

                  Trans tunnel looks pretty ok except for where it was cut open for the shifter linkage.

                  Small crack in the front frame rail on the driver's side, but forward of where the k-member connects. Important to fix, but luckily not bearing the load of the drivetrain.

                  Rear window corners look pretty good. I need to get underneath them and do a proper inspection, though.

                  Paint looks like it could be a $99 Earl Scheib special, except they used some pretty decent materials. PO gave me a can of the leftover Deltron. Typical scuff and shoot, just short on the scuff. The paint looks good, but it's not adhering well. Any dings usually cause some chips and flakes to come off as well. Not sure how/when I'm going to address that. The car was originally 331, but repainted in a brighter red. PO said it was a Viper color.

                  Lots of dust/dirt in the frame rails. Mud wasps loved this thing!

                  Interior:

                  Interior was fine but worn. Needs new seat covers front and rear, probably new foam for the fronts. Carpet will get replaced.

                  Nearly everything on the gauge cluster works, it just looks dull, worn and pretty dirty. Needs a good clean, repaint and some new decals. Some questionable wiring needs to be investigated.

                  Factory A/C car, but the PO had removed any A/C bits from the engine bay. Plastic vent components are pretty beat up. A/C controls have a couple missing pieces.

                  No stereo in the car when I got it, also missing stereo bezel.

                  Turn signal cam is broken, horn button falling apart. Had been repaired once with some epoxy but finally gave up the ghost.

                  Door cards are in quite good shape, but the driver's side could use to be reglued. Vinyl is fine, cardboard backing saw a bit too much water.

                  Driver's armrest needs replacing, the rest of the soft parts are in decent shape. Maybe could use a coat of dye to even out the color.

                  Bezels will need some plastic repair and paint work.

                  Most of the dash fasteners were missing.

                  --------------

                  That's where she sits as of about a month ago. In the next few posts I'll go over what I've done since.

                  Some pics of what I've done so far.

                  Bent k-member:

                  IMG_1987.jpg

                  Front disc upgrade. A member here sells brackets that adapts late-model (2010) Mustang GT discs/calipers. These are the 13.2" 2-piston units.

                  IMG_2092.jpg

                  Wheels and tires. Original Magnum 500s vs the new Torq Thrust Ds. New tires are 295/45R18 in the back, 255/45R18 in the front.

                  IMG_1688.jpg

                  Here's how she sat as of a couple months ago.

                  IMG_1790.jpg
                   
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                  • funknut

                    funknut Well-Known Member

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                    Thanks guys! My co-pilot is very eager, she's a bit bigger now but still loves to hop in and honk the horn.

                    Thanks! Hopefully I can execute and get back to driving. Won't be this year, but I'm looking forward to the work. Should be fun to feel like I'm making it my own.

                    Thanks! I love a lot of cars but 68s are my favorite for sure, I was lucky to find this one when I did.
                    Thanks! This one is fortunately very solid where it counts.

                    Thanks! I bought this car knowing I was going to be in way over my head, but I was lucky I found something that ran and I could enjoy for a while as I picked up some skills and tools. I have really enjoyed learning along the way. More than a few people have told me I have more determination than sense, so hopefully I'll get it figured out eventually. :)

                    I appreciate the link, I'll need all the help I can get!

                    Thanks! That must've been a blast to have as a first car, here's what I drove as my first car.

                    Also red, but definitely not as cool. :lol:

                    038_zpsihhixcpo-940x705.jpg
                     
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                    • funknut

                      funknut Well-Known Member

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                      The Plan

                      Now that I've assessed it from stem to stern I can start getting my plan together. I'm going to try and do this in chunks to keep the changes manageable and give me the best chance of being able to put it to running/driving condition quickly, but I have a bad case of 'while I'm in there'-itis. I went from fixing a couple dodgy connectors to replacing floor pans and redoing the dash and interior...

                      Chunk 1) Main Cabin - firewall to rear seat

                      I currently have everything stripped out except for the dash frame. Debating whether or not to remove the windshield and dash frame. Windshield doesn't leak and the dash frame is in good shape, though I'm sure a coat of paint wouldn't hurt, and the upper dash pad is loose in spots. I'm pretty sure I can glue it back down without pulling the dash, though.

                      a) Cut out and replace floor pans. I own a MIG welder now and am not afraid to try using it. Debating the wisdom of splicing in floor pans or just getting the full one-piece pan. Plug welding it in at the front seam looks a lot easier for a novice than butt welding individual pans along both sides of the tunnel, plus the tunnel already has a pretty savage looking hole in it from the PO trying to fit the shifter.

                      b) I plan to rust protect/prime/paint/undercoat everything I can while I have the floors out.

                      c) Since I'm replacing the floors and have the interior out, now's the time to stiffen things up. I'll be ordering the US Car Tool stiffening kit with frame connectors and torque boxes

                      d) I plan to add sound deadening and some kind of insulation to the floors and firewall. I've had good luck with Dynamat in the past but have been eyeing the Lizardskin products too.

                      e) With the interior out I'll remove the door cards and quarter trim and inspect and grease/repair the regulators as needed.

                      f) Inspect/clean/rust protect the inner doors, quarters and rockers. This will be a combination of Eastwood products and Chassis Saver.

                      g) Seats need new covers. The vinyl material isn't actually in bad shape, but the seams are coming apart in a number of places. I have a buddy trying to sell some Mustang bucket seats that I'm considering as an upgrade over the stock seats. The added bolstering is a big selling point, and because they're coupe seats they fold forward to allow access to the back seat. Hmmm....

                      h) PO installed 4-point harnesses, but I plan to go back to seat belts. Preferably 3-pointers.

                      i) Detail the dash cluster. May upgrade to a tic-toc-tach too, undecided at this point.

                      j) Heat and A/C. I've removed the stock unit and it's in pretty grim shape. I doubt I could rebuild it successfully myself. Not sure what do do here. I like the VintageAir idea but that's not in the current budget. Heat and A/C haven't worked since I bought the car, so maybe I just block off the holes in the firewall for now and run without.

                      k) Stereo isn't a high priority but it makes sense to at least install some speakers and wire while it's apart. Since I don't have an original receiver, the RetroSound units look like a pretty cool option. Or maybe go cheap for now and throw a low-end head unit in there that does Bluetooth and USB.

                      l) Detail and repair steering column - turn signal cams are broken and it could use a coat of paint.

                      m) Replace ignition switch.

                      n) Install new American Autowire harness.

                      o) New carpet.

                      p) Celebrate!

                      --------

                      Man, that's a lot of crap to do!
                       
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                      • funknut

                        funknut Well-Known Member

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                        Chunk 2) Firewall forward

                        The engine compartment is in pretty good shape, but I want to clean it up while I have the motor and trans out. The headlight assembly/grill needs some plastic repairs and paint, and if the wiring kit doesn't include headlight relays then I'll add those as well. Chunk 2 is lower priority, and realistically except for the rewire and vacuum hoses I could go several years before I needed to tackle this.

                        a) Remove motor and trans - makes replacing the floor pans easier anyhow.

                        b) Detail engine compartment and repair several extra holes in the firewall.

                        c) Install Borgeson p/s box

                        d) Repair crack in driver's front frame rail

                        e) Remove bumper and grille

                        f) Clean/inspect/repair/paint grille and headlight assembly.

                        g) Replace vacuum hoses - at least a couple have split at the ends. A fresh set is in order.

                        h) See about installing electric puller fans. Currently undecided on this but will need to think it over.


                        Chunk 3) Rear

                        Nothing super urgent here except swapping the springs L to R, but most of this will probably get done if/when I upgrade to EFI as I'll need to pull the fuel tank.

                        a) Swap springs L to R.

                        b) Trunk pan will need to be replaced. Trunk extensions look pretty good, but won't know for sure until I start stripping paint.

                        c) Trunk lid drip rail/gutter has a rot hole in the driver's side. Need to cut out and replace.

                        d) New trunk seal

                        e) Install rear disc brakes - I have the components, just need to install.

                        f) Figure out what to do with the package tray. PO cut some enlarged holes for bigger speakers.

                        g) Prime/paint/soundproof/insulate as appropriate.
                         
                        Last edited: Jun 14, 2019
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                        • funknut

                          funknut Well-Known Member

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                          Chunk 4) Someday I'll...

                          This is my list of nice-to-haves and is longer-term work as time and funds allow.

                          a) EFI - from an ease of ownership and drivability standpoint I want this in my life.

                          b) Manual transmission conversion

                          c) Rear 4-link conversion

                          d) VintageAir
                           
                          Last edited: Jun 14, 2019
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                          • mopar_chuck

                            mopar_chuck Well-Known Member

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                            Great project and nice that you have a game plan to reach your goals with the car. With the work that’s done to the engine, it must haul the mail!
                             
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                            • 70B5Cuda

                              70B5Cuda Well-Known Member

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                              Looks good! Don't waste your time splicing in partial floor pans. Having done it both ways, It's easier to buy the one piece forward pan (from AMD) then to splice in.

                              I've never owned a Merkur but I've owned about a dozen 2.3T powered T-bird turbo coupes, SVO's, and Mustang 2.3T conversions. That is a fun/cheap engine with lots of potential.
                               
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                              • funknut

                                funknut Well-Known Member

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                                Catching up

                                Updating with some of the work I've attempted over the last couple months:

                                1) Disassemble gauge cluster, strip plastic parts of paint to prepare for repairs/repaint. It was pretty loaded with dust and dirt. Cleaning was done with a combination of running them through the top rack of the dishwasher and soaking in ZEP Purple degreaser. Highly caustic, nasty stuff. Basic cleaners won't damage the plastic the way acids or organic solvents will. Scrubbed with a brass wire detailing brush to get the chunks off. It's not perfect, as you can see from the pics, and I probably didn't need to strip them all the way down to the plastic, but I did.

                                I'll need to fill some nicks and dings and epoxy one of the standoffs back on the main gauge bezel. The passenger bezel has 2 broken mounting posts that are missing, I'll need to find some 1/4" ABS round stick to repair those.

                                Ordered new gauge face decals from Performance Car Graphics and whitegauges.net. WhiteGauges conveniently sells a volt gauge decal in the correct font to match the others for the ammeter->voltmeter conversion.

                                http://www.whitegauges.net/products/1968%2d1970-Dodge-Charger-Volts-Overlay.html

                                IMG_1898.jpg

                                Painted the metal gauge frame with Rustoleum white appliance enamel and it came out a really close match.

                                Cleaned and polished the plastic lens with Meguiar's PlastX and it came out really nice. I used a sponge attachment on a low-speed drill on the front of the lens. Did the best I could on the back with a detailing brush.

                                IMG_1900.jpg

                                2) Repaired a broken trace on the circuit board. Previous owner added several grounds to the cluster trying to get things working. Hopefully this fixes it.

                                IMG_1901.jpg

                                Also, I ordered a solid state cluster voltage regulator from rt-eng.com
                                 
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                                • funknut

                                  funknut Well-Known Member

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                                  Steering column repairs

                                  Turn signals were sketchy and one of the cams/tabs was clearly broken, so I disassembled it and cleaned it up pretty well. I give it an 8/10. It's a column-shift column but the gear selector is long gone, and I don't need it anyway since it's floor shift now. Replacement turn signal switch is here and ready to go.

                                  I cleaned out all the old grease. The top and bottom bearings are in good shape so I'll just grease them up and put it back together. I did rattle can the hard parts. Not sure what you call them, but it came out pretty good. I also did the exterior column and the wire guard. I wire stripped them, etched, primed and then hit them with 3 coats of Rustoleum Textured black and 2 coats of Rustoleum satin clear.

                                  IMG_1902.jpg

                                  I cleaned up the steering wheel and horn ring. Will probably paint the center horn button thing/anti-face-smashing pad when I do the other vinyl parts. It looks ok, just a bit worn.
                                   
                                  Last edited: Jun 16, 2019
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                                  • funknut

                                    funknut Well-Known Member

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                                    Battery tray

                                    Super rusty and coated in grime. I initially thought it had been sprayed with some textured bedliner, but no, just a moderate layer of greasy dirt on top of a lot of rust pitting.

                                    I cleaned off the grime and wire wheeled what rust I could and then soaked it in phosphoric acid, scrubbed and back in the soak. Rinsed and it was pretty good. A couple small holes, but it's not at risk of disintegrating.

                                    Coated it with Corroseal, then primer and black Rustoleum Engine Enamel. I've used Corroseal in the past for other jobs and it's an effective product. It works really well but leaves a thick coating. Fine for large parts and flat surfaces, but I don't recommend it for anything delicate or that requires a tolerance.

                                    IMG_1904.jpg
                                     
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                                    • funknut

                                      funknut Well-Known Member

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                                      Rear window regulators and frames

                                      I don't have any before or in-progress pics but here's the finished product after cleaning and some touch-ups.

                                      The whiskers had deteriorated a long time before and there was lots of dirt inside. Plenty of time with a shop vac and compressed air to try and get as much dirt out as possible.

                                      Lots of rust on the L-brackets where they fastened to the aluminum frames, so I stripped and painted them.

                                      2 of the window retaining bolts broke off. Getting them out was a pain. Easy-outs didn't do anything. Once I got a MIG welder I was able to build up enough weld metal on the studs and then welded nuts on them. After the 3rd try I was able to start backing them out.

                                      I replaced the plastic/nylon parts with a kit from PartsMix. Just need to be greased up before reinstalling. That'll happen once I can get the inner quarters painted.

                                      IMG_1903.jpg

                                      Inner Quarters

                                      Here's a pic of progress so far on one side. Once I got all the sand and dirt out I went after the undercoating. I chipped off as much of the loose undercoating as I could with a scraper/screwdriver and then went after the leftover bits with a wire wheel on a small air die grinder. My usual go-to for wire wheeling is my cordless drill, but it was too big to get in behind the metal inner structure piece. Super tedious as I only have a small pancake compressor and did a lot more waiting than wire wheeling.

                                      I still need to try and get off as much of the surface rust as I can, but I'll clean it up pretty well and then hit it with some Eastwood Rust Encapsulator on the exposed parts and then go over the whole inner section with an epoxy primer.

                                      I'll do the same with the doors.

                                      IMG_1915.jpg
                                       
                                      Last edited: Jun 16, 2019
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                                      • funknut

                                        funknut Well-Known Member

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                                        I could use a little help on this part, though. Jumping around to the trunk, the fuel tank filler gasket looks toasted. The trunk seal wasn't glued down correctly and let a lot of water into the trunk on the driver's side. The tank gasket looks totally shot. in the pic it looks to me like there's a metal bracket that goes over the top of it? Is that normal?

                                        IMG_1914.jpg

                                        I was looking for replacements and all the ones I've seen look like this one and just have screws and the gasket, no mention of some top bracket.

                                        https://www.detroitmuscletechnologi...charger-fuel-filler-tube-to-trunk-floor-seal/

                                        [​IMG]
                                         
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                                        • GetX'd

                                          GetX'd Making Life Great Again!

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                                          That’s a sweet ride you have there and a great project car. You’re quite obviously going about a resto in a organized, systematic way. There’s several excellent build threads that you could use for suggestions, ideas and direction if desired. Moparnation74 has a particularly detailed one for his 69 GTX. There are a number of other to use as reference. This - you probably know. Love the 68 Charger model and I see you have a doll for a co-pilot. You’re a lucky man in many ways. Good luck with your project.
                                           
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