My apologies to Yogi Berra, but I couldn’t resist. In a previous post, I told the story of my 1967 Plymouth Valiant. In 1978, I was working for Chrysler Defense Engineering. This was a period of time where this division was profitable whereas the corporate parent was not. The sales bank was filling up every vacant lot as well as the state fair grounds with cars and trucks that no one wanted. To get rid of the backlog, Chrysler was offering its employees some very generous incentives to help reduce the inventory.
After listening to my co-workers talk endlessly about the new cars they were going to buy, I decided to have some fun. I went to personnel and got one of the employee rebate forms, then put it in my inbox and let it sit. Since we were all sitting in close quarters, some of them noticed the form and asked me what I was going to buy. I danced around the question as I talked about what was available. Never committed to a specific model. Of course, I had an ulterior motive in mind.
One of my co-workers was driving a hooptie 1967 Dodge Dart GT that had originally been his wife’s 16th birthday present. Of course, by 1978 it was showing its age. Heavily bondoed left front fender, major rust on the rear quarter panels, and a transmission that was starting to slip. He told me that he was going to keep driving it until it was time for the tomb phase of auto ownership. I offered him $50 for it and he said fine. Although I purchased it to practice my automotive restoration skills, it also offered and opportunity for revenge.
I made a paper replica of a Dodge Omni 024 decal and taped it to the left front bondo fender. Telling my co-workers that I had decided on the Omni 024, they were intrigued that I had made a purchase. One day after work, one of the co-workers kept asking me when he could see the car. After all, I was single and already had a 2 year old Aspen. OK, come with me. I then arranged for the buddy whom I had bought the car from to drive it past the front door of the building as myself and the nosy co-worker stood and chatted. When the co-worker saw the car drive up, he looked at me and said “I should have known you two were up to no good” and walked away in a huff. It took him two weeks to get over the shock. A few months later, he told me that after the initial shock, he had a good laugh over it.
Note: None of the pictures in this post are of the actual car.
Actually, I bought the Dart as a project car. It was dark green, and had a 225 slant six engine, automatic transmission, AM radio, bucket seats, a vinyl roof, and a console with compartment. The interior was in decent shape, except for the driver’s seat back, which had a split on one side. My buddy’s wife covered it with a croched black cover which didn’t look too bad.
In my spare time, which was infrequent due to working 60 to 70 hour weeks, I proceeded to start fixing up the Dart. The transmission slippage was a simple band adjustment. The engine got a needed tune-up and it ran smoothly. The floor boards were surprisingly in good shape, so nothing to be done there. I repaired the quarter panels with sheet metal and alum-a-lead filler to a pretty decent condition. The left front fender, however, was a lost cause. It had more bondo waves than the ocean. I came across a 1969 Dodge Dart in a local junkyard with good sheet metal. So I bought the fender and installed it. Only repair I had to make to the fender was the elimination of the front marker reflector. Just applied more sheet metal and alum-a-lead to make it look like new.
To minimize the extensive body work on the sides, I decided to paint the car in two tones. The horizontal surfaces were kept dark green and the sides were painted silver metallic. You didn’t notice the bodywork after the car was painted. A new set of bias ply tires and I was ready to roll.
Other than frequent brake adjustments since the self-adjusters never seemed to work, the Dart was relatively trouble free. Same problems with the windshield and back light leaking water as with the Valiant. About three years after restoration, a newspaper delivery truck backed into the loving replaced left front fender. Scouring the local junk yards failed to yield a decent left fender, but I did find one that was rotted at the bottom, good at the top and front. My fender was dented at the front, so I took my blue wrench (oxy-acetylene torch) and cut the two fenders vertically over the wheel, then joined the two good parts together with brazing. After some alum-a-lead and paint, the fender really looked good.
The next major repair involved the torsion bar anchor that was welded to the sub-frame. There is no way to tell that rust has weakened this joint until it fails. Fail it did, making a large “clunk” sound at a stop light and dropping the right front of the car down about 3 inches. I could still drive it home, but the suspension jiggled like it was Jell-O. Now, what to do? Fix it or scrap it? I asked around if anyone knew anyone who could fix it and the answer came back no.
Note: This is a replacement cross-member for B-bodies that I found on line. Not available when I needed it.
I put the car up on jack stands and made an assessment. Since I had some angle iron, I decided to fabricate my own anchors. The two holes you see to the right and left of the anchors are for mounting the transmission rear cross-member. Using some heavy poster board, I made templates of both sides and then marked the angle iron for shape. Then, I cut the angle iron to form the part, arc welded the parts together, and drilled two holes for the transmission cross-member. I used the transmission cross-member bolts to fasten it to the frame. Drilling another hole on the other side of the anchor allowed me to fasten it to the car’s frame. It worked like a charm. I kept the templates and wound up using them many times to do the same repair on several Darts that I bought to fix and flip. Of course, you get the cars really cheap when the anchor has torn out! Trying to repair the anchor on the car required you to remove the carpet and seats, as the heat from the arc welding would start to burn the carpet.
After the torsion bar repair, I drove the car for a couple more years. In 1985, I decided that maybe it was time to go and sold it. Another car from the X-Files had entered my vision and I had to have it.