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.
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.)
Whether the Mopar of your dreams is a rare-optioned one like Doug and Karen's Bee or a more common Dodge or Plymouth, the research you do before getting your project underway will pay off in the long run, according to Karen. "Talk to a lot of people. there are a lot of people out there who are wiling to help you out."
Total '71 Dodge Charger production: 73,785 Total '71 Dodge Charger Super Bee production: 5,054 Total '71 Dodge Charger Super Bee production (383/four-speed): 766
'71 Dodge Charger Super Bee
Doug and Karen Gerlitzki
New Holland, Pa
Mopar Power Engine: Race Krafters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, took a date-coded 383 block and went to town with it-giving it a good cleaning, an .040-inch overbore, deck-squaring, and honing with a torque plate attached. The low-deck B engine then got Speed Pro 8.8:1 pistons on stock forged-steel rods, a stock forged-steel crank, a Lunati hydraulic flat-tappet cam, plus a set of 383 heads that got the full super mod porting job and a set of Manley 2.14-inch intake/1.81-inch exhaust valves. Going the resto route meant an original Holley 4190 four-barrel on a stock iron intake, plus stock ignition and exhaust parts. Transmission: A-833 with a pistol-grip Hurst shifter.
Sure Grip Suspension: Restored Rallye suspension package with front torsion bars/rear leafs, heavy-duty shocks, and front antisway bar. Rearend: The OEM 3.23-geared, Sure Grip-equipped, 8-3/4-inch rear got the full-on resto treatment. Brakes: Original power front disc (with 11-inch rotors); rear drum setup restored to showroom-new. >Wheels: This is one serious restoration-no substituting larger, fenderwell-filling rolling stock. Here you see factory optional, OEM-size (14 x 5-1/2-inch) Rallyes on F70-14 Goodyear Polyglas bias-belted tires.
High Impact Body: Original '71 Dodge Charger with an N96 Air Grabber hood. No fiberglass parts were used during restoration. Bodywork and paint prep by Custom Classics, Conestoga, Pennsylvania. Paint: PPG Urethane Guards Red basecoat/clearcoat was applied by Custom Classics, Myerstown, Pennsylvania. Interior: Restored by Rodge Hoover at Auto Interior Plus, Holtwood, Pennsylvania. Carpets and seat covers by YearOne. Stock front buckets/rear bench, Tuff steering wheel, rear defroster, Air Grabber switch, 150-mph speedometer, and dash-mounted amber reverse indicator light were replaced or restored to their original functions. Sound system: AM/FM radio with floor-mounted cassette player and front/rear speakers.
Dodge dropped the advertised horsepower rating for the Super Bee's 383 down to 300 for 197
Graphics were still a big part of Dodge's Scat Pack in 1971. The Super Bee and Charger bot