My '69 Charger R/T Story

Magnes

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I bought this '69 Charger R/T at the end of last August and since then have been able to put together the entire history of the car and begin to get it back on the road. I figured you guys might like to see this. It is the only time I've been able to get the complete story of a car like this and I found it all very interesting, so I thought I'd share. If you're on facebook you may have seen me post about some of this in a couple of the groups there but if not, here goes....

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The car was bought new just a stone's throw from where I live now and as it turns out, it has been within 20 miles of that now defunct dealership damn near every day of every year ever since.

Unfortunately, the original owner has passed away but I was able to use the title that I was given by the 2nd owner to track down the original owner's family. According to his wife, her husband worked at the Buick dealership that used to be across the street from the Dodge dealer. When he saw the new '69 Charger he went over and ordered his. He wanted the 440 and a bench seat but the R/T came with buckets so he ordered it with the "buddy seat" so it has no console and a column shift automatic. He wanted it that way so his wife could sit next to him. He also had to have A/C because... well.... Texas.... not to mention this was the everyday car for him, his wife, and little girl.

The original owners kept all the paperwork all these years including the original dealer invoice with the options he had requested and they had the original window sticker. They had even saved receipts from payments and registration through the years.

This is the invoice. I have blocked the name and address of the original owner simply out of respect. I don't want to put their names out there but everyone involved said it was OK to share the pictures.

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And this is the original window sticker, mostly intact but some areas are tough to read. Still lots of good info there even if you have to decipher it a bit.

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So when the car came in on the delivery truck to the Dodge dealer, the owner saw it arrive, clocked out of the Buick dealer and went over and waited as they unloaded his new car. He immediately left the Dodge dealer with it and went back to the Buick dealer to perform all the dealer stuff to it himself. His widow (who has become a dear friend) has been so excited to hear that the car is still around and loved that she provided photos of her family and the car when it was still new. These are all labeled May of 69 as you can see.

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And then there's this one of their cute daughter posing next to it. She will become an integral part of the cars history as the story continues.

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The wife told me that this car was her husband's pride and joy. He had planned to keep the car forever because he just knew that these cars were the epitome of a muscle car. Unfortunately, to them the car seemed cursed. She said he picked her up in it the first day and took her and their daughter into town and by a series of department stores that had glass window walls out front so they could look at their reflection as they drove by. They then drove it to her parent's home to show her Dad. As they pulled up, they saw her Dad replacing a vent on the roof of his house. They parked the car and the Dad stumbled, dropped the vent and it bounced off the roof of the house and banged right into the center of the hood. The hood had to be repaired and repainted. That's some bad luck. She said the bad luck continued as it seemed like someone was always bumping into the car and they kept repairing to keep it looking pristine. Once a motorcycle rider ran a red light and smacked into the passenger fender which threw the rider off the bike and over the hood, breaking his leg. The motorcyclist was ticketed and carried to the hospital and again they repaired the car.

Over the next decade he had become protective of the car and since the luck with other drivers had been so bad he used his tow truck to commute back and forth to the mechanic shop he had opened in town. By this time his daughter was a teenager and had her license, but they hadn't gotten her her own car. He told his wife to never let the daughter drive the Charger, but she was a good girl and when she bugged the mom to let her use the car to go to her boyfriend's house the mom decided it would be ok to do so if she promised to be very careful with it and go straight there, then straight home. She never made it to the boyfriend's house. She got to town, waited at a red light, when it went green, she took off carefully, but an illegal immigrant ran the red light and smacked right into the driver's side. The door was crushed and the front half of that 1/4 panel took a nasty hit as well.

The man was devastated. She said he was so sick over it that he put it off to the side of his shop and covered it up so he wouldn't have to see it. He believed it to be too badly damaged to be repaired properly with what was available at the time and his skill set as far as body work and paint.

So there it sat for a year or so....

Until it was spotted by a high school kid who had a high school buddy named Cliff that was looking to replace his 1st car (a 69 Charger RT/SE) that had been completely totaled out when they hit a tree. So these kids go over to the shop and inquire about the car that had been spotted. Cliff asked if the car was for sale and the original owner decided he'd go ahead and let it go since he couldn't fix it himself. He sold the car to Cliff for $100 in 1979 (I believe was the year).

Cliff was convinced he knew a body shop that could use what was left of his RT/SE car to fix this RT. He had this car towed down to the body shop and they looked at it. They told him if his parts were good they could repair and repaint the car for $1500. They used the driver's door and half of the driver's 1/4 panel. Cliff's RT/SE had hit the tree on the passenger side so the driver side parts were good enough. He was still in high school and had to pay it out over time but eventually he paid them in full and got this car back. He said it wasn't perfect but most people couldn't tell.

Cliff says he felt like he was king of the street in that car with the big R/T badges on the 1/4 panels. He used to cruise Westheimer in Houston which was the biggest cruise spot and was a miles long party on Friday and Saturday nights. He'd park at a certain convenience store with his buddies and drink beer while waiting on someone to race. And race he did. He blew the original 3.23 rear end up (I still have the pieces) and swapped in a 3.91 suregrip. Here's some pics Cliff took back in his heyday. You can clearly see they did a pretty decent job on that driver's side.

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Cliff drove the car for a couple years and raced it on the weekends pretty successfully until the Fox body Mustangs started to take over and Westheimer cruising was shut down. So Cliff decided it was time to do something. He parked it and spent the next few years going through the engine and upgrading it to what he figured would be about as bad ass of a 440 as possible. It was an expensive project and he had a wife and kid by now so slowly the Charger hit the back burner. It sat until the late 80's in his mom's garage until he had finished the engine and bought a new upgraded 727. He took it out only a few times and maybe put 20 miles on the car after he had that engine built. He said it was wild. When he describes the way it was set up, the car was a bit much and he didn't have the money to do anymore to it to get it right. It got away from him when he was showing off to the local Hi-Lo autoparts guys, he looped it 360 in the middle of a busy Houston street but managed to not hit anything. He just parked it, figuring he could get back on it little by little as his kids got older. And he was able to do some more upgrades to it like SSBC front brakes and better wheels/tires, plus an upgraded front sway bar to name a few.

But they years passed and unfortunately his mom passed so he lost the garage. He kept it in storage for a while and he kept it in a friend's garage for some time but eventually he didn't really have a place to keep it other than outside at a mutual friend's house. It was under a shed the first time I saw it. As I walked up to look at it a big ass snake shot out of it and I took off, admiring it only from a distance. I met Cliff about 7-8 years ago and started making offers to buy the car shortly after. He laughed in my face. It was like trying to buy his son. Not happening.

We started working together at our friend's shop and I made offers to this man that were pretty damn good offers. Each time I offered more and more. Each time he shot me down like I was an idiot for even asking. Every time I'd go out there I'd look at the car, eventually getting the courage to brave the snakes and really look at it close

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He laughs because once I made the biggest cash offer yet with my wife standing there and he shot me down but I shot back that I'd pay him the cash and my wife would even flash her boobs at him, LOL! She agreed and that shocked him, he turned red and his jaw fell open. Still turned it down but the man knew I was serious.

He had watched me build my car over the years and appreciated my work and sacrifice for it. It had won a bunch of awards, been on an award and some T-shirts, and even had been in Chrysler Power mag as a centerfold.

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So I changed my tune and started offering to help him build his car. I stopped offering cash and continued offering help but it never happened. He didn't take me up on it and the car just sat for more years. He just couldn't come up with the money and past that he didn't have a place to keep it other than at our friend's place.

Eventually one day I was tipped off that he had been talking about buying a new truck as his commuter car Camry was taking a piss and he was sick of working on it. I went straight up there to him and this time I took 10 grand cash. I shot the shit with him for a while and he said something about that shitty Camry so I whipped out the 10 grand and said "I'll give every bit of this to you plus however much more is needed tomorrow if you will sell me that Charger". He was shocked. Stared at the cash and said no almost as quick as ever. So I said "well the offer stands" and shook his hand and left. He called me that night pissed off. He said "You really F'ed me up today showing me that money. All I could think about was that money and I broke and lost so much shit the rest of the day because it was all I could think about!". Then Cliff did what I thought he never would. He said his price. This time I was shocked. Not for the reason YOU think but because this man named a price that was less than my biggest offer. In fact it was less than I had ever offered. I offered more but he declined. I paid him his cash the next day and that weekend we went out there and I got the car.

It was bittersweet. I had finally, after many years working to get this particular car and after wanting one my whole life, I got it... But I also had to see my friend give up on his dream. I swore I'd make him proud and that if I ever sold it, I'd make sure him or his kids would get another chunk of cash.

(At this point I can't add more pics to the post so I will follow up with more pictures and progress pics of the work I've been doing)
 

Magnes

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This is a pic of Cliff and the car the day I picked it up. The man had kept it for 40 years. He's a cool dude and a good friend.

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They had moved it to this spot to keep people from seeing it from the road but the ground was soft and it had sunk in a bit. This was the first time I'd seen it in a year.


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Now you may or may not believe this but the car ALWAYS ran. We walked over, he put a fresh battery in, turned on the fuel pump, cranked a few seconds and off it went. Started right up and idled fine.


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In its new home. It was at this point, the amount of work I had just loaded myself with is just setting in :D


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Jerry Hall

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That's a lot of work you put in over the years to just get the car. It's well deserved.
 

Magnes

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The original owners were not the only ones who were meticulous paperwork savers. Cliff handed me a folder with damn near every receipt where he had spent even a few bucks on something for the car. I even have one for those $55 anodized blue Direct Connection valve covers that you can kinda see there and every penny he spent at the machine shop. It may seem silly to some but I bought a laminating machine just to laminate old mid 1980's receipts from places like Houston Speed & Sport as well as machine shops like MachineHead but they kept all this stuff and it's history so I got to protect it all as best I can.

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Fender tag

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A close inspection for rust turned up rust. Go figure. It was really solid other than the center of the trunk floor that had pinholes but my 200lb ass didnt fall through it when I stood in there so there's that. The main issues in back were that trunk floor, the tail panel was chewed up, the pass side trunk gutter was goners and had eaten into the top of the pass 1/4 panel, and the top of the rear valance had rust holes on each side about 2" round behind the bumper.


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The floors up front had issues of their own but it was confined to the front where water had sat and ate from the inside out.


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I replaced the front floor sections instead of pulling the entire car apart to replace the full floor. I tried to be smart about the way I cut and also tried to get as much of those frame rails as I could and por15'ed all inside the frame rails as far as I could get. Then I welded in the new floor pans and took the rest of the floor to bare metal. I treated the surface rust in the rear footwell area to ensure that shit doesn't come back and then I shot epoxy primer then Lizard Skin heat barrier over the entire front floor (which has become a habit on all the cars I've been building for the last few years anyway) as it really helps cut down on heat soaking into the car from outside.

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Then I cut out the center of the trunk floor. Again, I wasn't going to cut the car completely apart and tear up even more metal to solve a simple pinhole problem in the center. Everything else was just surface rust or still had paint. Again, I cut it to allow myself as much access to the inside of those frame rails then treated the surface rust inside and POR15'ed all that. Then I fit my patch and welded that puppy in place and moved on to the rear valance which was an easy patch on each side. The trunk gutter was more involved. It was the main reason for the other rust issues that I had already repaired. So I cut out everything affected up there. It had started in on the dutchman panel gutter and I had to fab the end of that by hand. I bought a replacement pass side trunk gutter and used that to figure out what I had to do with the top of that 1/4 panel. I went to a buddy's shop and used his metal break to form a new piece for the 1/4. That was a tough piece to make. Every which way the measurement changes from the front to the back of that piece but I figured it out and made it work in one shot. I did minimal bodywork up there and treated all the surface rust in the trunk area then I shot it all with epoxy primer.

I need to finish up back there but I ordered a new tail panel close to a year ago and have yet to receive that. I think I am going to paint this when I jamb the doord and paint the inside of the front fenders. That might be a ways off though... I just need my panel.

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1 Wild R/T

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Awesome! Great Car, Great Story.. Don't know how you'd feel about it but when you get the car finished you might want to take it over to Cliff's & toss him the keys... I did with my Challenger & the guy I bought if from & his wife took it don the street, I expected them to be gone 30 minutes or more... But apparently John was so nervous driving the car he turned around & brought it back...
 

Magnes

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Time to start up front. Strip it. This is still the original engine.
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You can't use too many bags.


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Powerwash the sheeeeit out of it.

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Now it's down to the nitty gritty. Get it bare. A big PITA but it was perfecto up front.


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Magnes

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Epoxy primed the front end and moved on to taking the bottom of the car to bare metal. There was minimal surprises... other than how thick that undercoat got in places... Yikes.
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As you can see, I have a little AC unit to blow on me while I'm trying not to die of heat exhaustion in my 105 degree garage


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I looked like a coal miner every day after I'd climb out from under there. I used a propane torch to soften up the undercoat then scraped it off and after it was all off I spent days hitting the entire bottom with wire wheels on a die grinder.
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Then I epoxy primed the bottom laying on my back. Not easy.

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And the next day I scuffed up the front end that I had primed already and shot the front end and the entire bottom of the car back to B7 blue while laying on my back. I just went with a single stage but it turned out nice.


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There's the teaser. I'll show more but for now I gtg. Getting late.
 

hunt2elk

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Great story and a great car. And the best part is that your wife ended up not having to show Cliff her stuff, lol.
 

moparedtn

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Wonderful story and a perfect example of a true steward in every sense of the word.
Looking forward to seeing more updates! :thumbsup:
 

QOTHL

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Glad you saved it! Great story. I have one of my own to tell and this post is inspirational.
Thank you very much for sharing this project.
 

Cheapsunglasses

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Awesome car, and an awesome story!
I vote you put keystones back on it.
:thumbsup:
 

BeepBeepRR

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Glad you saved it. Its sad to see a bunch of old cars sitting because someone just cant let go. Found a 69 GTX one time and it was under a big tree. I stopped by one day and the old man was on the porch. I asked him if the GTX was for sale he said nope. My son bought it while in Vietnam and he died there. He never got to drive it and noone else ever will. I swear the car had sat there so long that the rims were rusted in half. Sad to see these things sit and rot. Glad you could save this one.
 

OKDart

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This is an awesome story, I get goosebumps when I see a running/driving unrestored car with that much documentation and history! However when I see a restored car with the same documentation I start to lose interest. It just feels like it’s not the same car anymore, its personality is gone.
BTW, I ordered an AMD tail panel for my ‘70 Charger in March and it came in early June. AMD told me that a batch of 120 or so came in and a large portion were already spoken for.
 

barbee6043

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Great story and cool ride!!!!!!

My rule of thumb for me I've found over the decades, that works for me, is get rid of rust and make it solid, make it as straight as YOU want, make it safe and drive it..it is a CAR!!!!
 

chargervert

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Great story,awesome car! You saved it getting it off of that damp wet grass! It's days were numbered had it stayed there much longer!
 

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