It's strange when you think about the dichotomy of praise afforded to top cars in the Mopar hobby. On the one hand you've got the OEM restorations that receive the highest accolades from both judges and interested enthusiasts. Tons of money and often years of research and knuckle-busting wrenching goes into building these exquisite machines. And in the end their praise and notoriety are duly granted to their restorers.
On the other hand we find the unrestored iron. These mysterious specimens seem to have rolled through a time portal. These cars are celebrated not for their pristine paint job or their exquisite undercarriage detailing, but rather for their lack of attention. In fact, their appreciation is exponentially rated by how much their owners have stayed their restoration hand. The more warts, it would seem, the better.
One of these unrestored treasures which has surfaced during the last few years is a Burnt Orange '70 GTX currently owned by Bill and Maria Barnes of Hamler, Ohio. And like all unrestored classics there is a strange story behind its preservation.
Bill and Maria first spotted the GTX at the '96 Mopar Nationals in Indianapolis, and knew right away that they had stumbled across a rare find. One of the giveaways was the cardboard tag which was still attached to the 440's water pump. "I knew of only one other car that's still got that on there," says Bill. Another clue was the paint. "You know all the dirt that's in paint when they are original? It's just unbelievable how much dirt and specs are in the paint. I told my wife I know exactly what I'm looking at here that day we first saw the car."
For an unrestored car, the GTX was in remarkable condition. Although the expected dust and aged veneer was evident, the hardtop could just as easily have been sitting on a new car lot almost three decades earlier. The Burnt Orange vinyl interior was immaculate, as was the paint and uncommon Gator Grain vinyl roof. Only the odometer, sporting around 12,000 miles on the clock, belied the car's limited road exposure over the years.
Intrigued, and hoping to add this unusual piece of Mopar history to a collection that already included two '67 R/T convertibles, a '70 Superbird, a '70 Challenger convertible, and a '64 Polara convertible, Bill queried the owner about the possibility of selling him the car. Fortunately, Bill was the first person to approach the owner, a Minnesota resident, who had picked up the GTX from a collector in Illinois. The owner, Bill explained, had a bunch of GMs and Fords in his collection, but this was his first Mopar. He really wasn't a Mopar guy, but obtained the car because it was an original.
Bill figured his chances were slim that he would be able to take the GTX for his own, but about three months after the show the owner wrote him a letter saying that his wife "was hollering for him to get a 'Vette." After some negotiating, Bill and Maria had the pleasure of bringing the car into their collection.
"I've wiped the dust off. That's about all I've done to the thing," says Bill.
"I've completely left it exactly the way I found it. I got underneath and wiped the dust off. I took the drums off to look at the brakes at all four corners-and the brakes-I've never seen a set of brakes like this. They've got all the markings right on it-on the shoes. The springs and everything are just like new. None of them were leaking, so I blew them off and put the drums back on.
So how did Bill's GTX stay in such remarkable shape over the years? A letter to Bill from the original owner explaining the car's history provides some insight...
I bought the GTX in June or July of 1971 from Barnet Chrysler in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, brand new. I paid $3,500 for it...