The year 1971 was both bad and good for the Dodge Charger-depending on what B-Body Dodge you preferred. With all-new sheetmetal above the rocker panels and an expanded model lineup, 1971 was a good year for those into style, while burning regular gas. For Dodge dealers, it was a great year-the total Charger production of just under 74,000 beat 1970's full-year total by around 50 percent. But if you loved big-block B-Body performance, 1971 marked the beginning of the end of the "good stuff." Factory horsepower ratings for the four-barrel 383 lost 30 hp, while high insurance rates and surcharges on all high-performance engines began to finish off musclecar sales for good.
Mopar's new midsize program for 1971 meant only three body styles: a two-door, a four-door sedan, and a four-door wagon. That meant no more separate Dodge Charger/Coronet body styles, no more B-Body convertibles, and the Super Bee joining the five-series Charger lineup.
It also meant the Super Bee kept its "budget muscle" slot in the lineup, as evidenced by Doug and Karen Gerlitzki's car that you see here. Unlike so many other Mopar lovers whose dream rides were found in well-used and well-rusted condition, theirs was a drivable survivor when they took it home to New Holland, Pennsylvania. "It was in pretty good shape, but we wanted to take it back to original," says Karen. Though the car wasn't trashed, its previous owners had modified it a lot. The Gerlitzkis wanted it back in original condition, so that's the direction their 5-year project took.
The Charger's dash got a makeover...
The Charger's dash got a makeover for 1971. The 150-mph speedometer was standard, but the tach was optional, as were the bucket seats and the Ramcharger hood (controls for it are under the dash, to the left of the optional Tuff steering wheel).
That meant getting it totally correct, down to each standard feature and factory option. Their car, as built by Chrysler, was well-optioned for a "budget musclecar." Base price was around $3,271, and options such as the Ramcharger hood, Hurst-shifted four-speed, Sure-Grip rearend, bucket seats, AM/FM radio with cassette deck on the transmission tunnel, tachometer, rear window defogger, and Rallye wheels/raised-white-letter tires bumped the bottom-line figure on the sticker to around $4,450.
During the time the project was in the works, the Gerlitzkis relied on nearby talent. Lancaster, Pennsylvania's Race Krafters built the 383, while Auto Interior Plus in Holtwood, Pennsylvania, brought the cabin back to stock, thanks to YearOne. Outside, PPG Guards Red went on the Charger's cold-rolled sheetmetal, sprayed on by Custom Classics in Conestoga, Pennsylvania.
what took the longest on this project? "Finding the hood," Karen says. That not only meant locating a correct hood-with-a-hole, but also the scoop workings that fit on the underside of the hood (and kept an air-conditioner compressor from fitting, so that option wasn't offered with A/C), as well as the correct open-element air cleaner and rubber collar that sealed it against the hood.
Once the project was complete, the 5-year time span was well worth it. the Gerlitzkis now had a red, two-ton time capsule that shares garage space with a current-model, Charger-based '07 Super Bee. What's it like to drive the '71? "Oh, it's hot! I love driving it because it's fun," says Karen. "We both enjoy driving it." She says that leads to some occasional conflicts over who drives which because they both want to drive the older Bee.
It's likely by the time their '71 was built, Dodge had decided to kill off the Super Bee and Charger R/T models for 1972. Replacing both would be a Rallye package that offered a 400 in place of the 383, a detuned 440, and no Hemi. Total '71 Charger Super Bee production added up to just over 5,000 cars, out of a '71 Charger total of 73,785. The 383/four-speed combo went into 766 of them, including Doug and Karen's car, making it the second most-popular version behind the 383/727. (What was the rarest of the '71 Super Bees? There was one Hemi-powered Bee built for export to Canada, and nine Hemi/four-speed ones for the States.)