Many times, Mopar guys and/or gals have sold their beloved B-Body cars, only to wish later that they hadn't. But this isn't a story about one of those times.
Art Handzlik has owned his '69 Dodge Charger R/T for nearly four decades. "I bought it in December of 1974," he recalls. "It was the second car I ever owned. I just never sold it, thank goodness."
Interior: Late-'60s R/Ts...
Interior: Late-'60s R/Ts were known for their style and performance, and the Charger R/T was no exception. Legendary's reproduction covers are on the buckets, while the rear bench wears its original vinyl.
He put plenty of miles on it during the rest of the '70s and early '80s, in one of the worst places for factory sheetmetal: the Great Lakes, where rock salt to de-ice the roads destroyed many a good ride's body and structural members. Eventually, Art took his '69 off the road and stored it for "someday." "The car sat in a garage at my mom's house for a lot of years, and in my garage for several years, before we finally got around to doing the restoration," he says.
Art's Charger was--and still is--an R/T, which came with a 440 Magnum under the hood, backed by a console-shifted 727 TorqueFlite and an 83?4 rear end. Those matching-number powertrain pieces were reason enough to restore it, a project Art entrusted to RJ Cars in Arkport, New York. Art has plenty of good words to say about that shop, proprietor Russell Jacobs, and the job they did on his Charger. "He took it from something that I didn't really care to take out of the garage, to the point where it's so nice that you don't really want to drive it [a lot]!"
Interior: An Auto Meter tach,...
Interior: An Auto Meter tach, auxiliary gauges, and a modern Pioneer-based sound system were the only changes to the cabin. That's the original pad atop the dash, by the way.
One big improvement that RJ Cars made was to the '69's braking system. "The biggest improvement that they did was the disc-brake conversion kit up front," says Art. "From the day that I bought the car, it was an unusual one because it had power drum brakes on it. Those brakes always left a little something to be desired. The car would stop, but there were times when I would say, 'OK, I hope it stops real soon!'" With the discs now providing the bulk of the Charger's stopping power, Art says he's a lot more comfortable driving it than he was before.
Though he's only put about 500 miles on it since completion, Art says driving his R/T is a real pleasure. He adds that it's a big attention-getter whenever he drives it around Western New York. "I'll be driving around, and people will be looking at the car," he notes. "Obviously, in our area, there aren't a lot of older cars around, what with the rock salt used on the roads in the winter."
Whether the B-Body that you're looking to restore is a barn find, basket case, or a well-worn driver, Art says take a good look at any shops that you may choose to do some (or all) of the work. "The biggest thing is picking a shop with people that are good to work with," he says. "Russell and his crew are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. The work they do is flawless--there's never any doubt in your mind. It wasn't inexpensive, but when everything was done, it was done the way it should have been."
Engine: Under the later-vintage...
Engine: Under the later-vintage valve covers and air cleaner is the '69's restored original 440 Magnum.
'69 Dodge Charger R/T
Owned by: Art and Donna Handzlik, Depew, New York
Restored by RJ Cars, Arkport, New York
- Engine: The original 440 Magnum that went in at Hamtramck, was rebuilt by Denner Astyk and then detailed by RJ Cars.
- Transmission: Original 727, restored by Continental Transmissions
- Rearend: Original 8-3/4 albeit it's been rebuilt
- Suspension: Restored original '69 Charger R/T: Reproduction heavy-duty torsion bars, front anti-sway bar and tubular shocks in front; leaf springs and tubular shocks in rear
- Brakes: Originally a power-drum-brake car, it now wears disc brakes up front, and the OEM 11-inch drums in back
- Wheels and Tires: At each corner, Weld wheels wear BFGoodrich Radial TAs
- Body: Original '69 Charger unibody was restored by RJ Cars, reversing the ravages of time and rock salt.
- Paint: R-M Diamonte's modern base/clearcoat version of Ma Mopar's metallic T3 Light Bronze Poly
- Interior: Brought back to its original "Dodge Fever"-inducing condition by RJ Cars, with parts by Legendary Auto Interiors.