Illinois' license plates wear the motto: Land of Lincoln. Judging by the many Mopars we've seen on the streets and roads of the Prairie State over the years--whether or not they were sold new by Mr. Norm's Grand Spaulding Dodge--the slogan Land of Mopars might be a better one.
It would go perfectly on the plates that Tyler Harvey's '69 Dodge Charger R/T wears. The Young Gun from Villa Grove, Illinois, got his Charger as a high school graduation present, though it was far from the condition you see here. "It was in pretty rough shape when I got it," he says, but it was a '69 Charger--a car he'd always wanted to build. Though rusted in many places, it was complete, and all the glass was in good shape.
After the non-running 440 and other parts that were bolted on--or in the case of the A-833 four-speed, held on by screwdrivers--came off, it was time to derust the body. The roof, the firewall, the upper quarter-panels, and doors are still used from the original car.
No high-buck exotica here, just a well-built 440 sporting a Street Demon and an Edelbrock
With help from a company in the resto-parts business, as well as a specialty salvage yard, Tyler found the replacement metal to make his Charger's body whole again. "Most of the reproduction parts I got from YearOne," says Tyler. "I also got parts from a Mopar salvage yard north of here, in Oregon, Illinois, called Mopar City." Tyler, his dad, and grandfather--who helped him on the restoration--made several trips to the ten-acre, all-Mopar salvage yard for needed parts. He says, "One was a four-speed crossmember because the original one was eaten away by rust. We also got the rear framerails up there."
The Harveys had the engine machined at G&G Machine Shop in nearby Rantoul, and then assembled by Ebby Bergfield--with Tyler's assistance--at Ebby's Pit Stop in Arcola, Illinois. The 440 was bored .030-inch, zero-decked, then built up with Speed Pro 10.7:1 pistons on stock rods, a polished and balanced stock steel crankshaft, stock heads, a Comp Cams hydraulic roller cam with Mancini valvesprings, plus an Edelbrock RPM intake with a Speed Demon 750 carburetor. Ignition is thanks to a Mopar electronic system with a high-output control box, an Accel super stock coil and wires, and Power Master's chrome alternator and high-torque starter. Also starring on Tyler's 440 are Hooker headers and 40-series Flowmaster mufflers.
A Speed Demon 750 from Barry Grant calls the Edelbrock Performer RPM intake atop Tyler's 4
The four-speed that came with the Charger was replaced by a Keisler five-speed conversion with a Tremec TKO 600 gearbox, hydraulic clutch, pistol-grip floor shifter, and actual fasteners that were up for the job. Speaking of strong hardware, the chassis got its share of it with Master Power brakes (slotted discs up front, drums in back), rebuilt front and rear suspensions, and a manual-steering system that Tyler prefers over power.
The Harvey family, aided by friend Randy French, got the Charger ready for paint, which was also done by an Illinois craftsman. Harold Good at Good's Body Shop in Arcola applied the PPG F8 green paint, and Tyler applied the bumblebee stripe in back (thanks to a Mopar Muscle how-to article).
Four and a half years after Tyler got the Charger, Mopar fans got a good look at it at the '07 Mopar Nationals, where he took home the Young Guns Best in Show trophy as well as a Second Place prize in the Modified Charger class.
Is driving a big car like a B-Body Charger a pain without power steering? Not if you ask Tyler. He says, "I really like the old stock manual steering in it. I wasn't alive back in the day when that car was new, but I wanted it that way. I like having my manual shift, manual steering, and almost the biggest engine block I could have, with none of the goodies. That's what got me into old Mopars; that's how I wanted it. When I'm out on the open road, nothing makes me feel better. I don't know when I've ever passed another car and not gotten a thumbs-up or a double-look. It's a good time!"
American Racing Torq-Thrust IIs on BFG Radial T/As look so good you'd think the Dodge Boys
And better times are ahead for the Young Gun and his Charger. He tells us, "I do have a few upgrades that I'd like to get done before I bring it back to the Mopar Nationals. I'd like to get my dash and gauges repainted so the gauges look cleaner. I'm also looking into putting woodgrain inserts across the dash. I'd have to do a little modifying with my CD player in there, but I've always liked the woodgrained dash look. It wasn't originally on my car, but neither was the five-speed or a lot of stuff that I have on it. Also, I'm looking into putting some new headers on. My old ones are starting to discolor a little bit."
Finally, advice from one Young Gun to potential ones: "Keep holding on to your dream. If you have a car, don't let anyone take that away from you. I've had a lot of people say, 'That car's way past re-doing.' If you really want to do it, keep working at it and don't listen to them. It does get hard sometimes, and sometimes it seems like it will never end. But I'm a firm believer that if you keep working hard, and keep your head on straight, eventually you'll get there. It's a great hobby to be in. It's a good investment, and the results and payback are great after you're done. There is nothing better than driving around in my car because I built the thing back up from where we got it--in bad shape and as rusty. Nothing makes me feel prouder than thinking of the four years of all the sweat, blood, and time that went into it."