George Dulcich always liked '71 Chargers. He drove one while in college. That particular car got away nearly 15 years ago, but the love of Chargers stuck with him. According to George, the '71 models were the pinnacle of pure performance style-the final punctuation of the muscle car era. One look at his current '71 R/T pictured here and it's hard to contemplate an argument. High Impact Paint, bold graphics, factory front and rear spoilers, Rallye wheels, radical louvered power bulge hood...the list goes on.
When George came across this R/T it was already an older restoration, having been used as a daily driver in the Los Angeles area for some time. The car was solid, functionally, and priced to sell, so George made a deal.
Although clean, the R/T's paint was faded, dinged and chipped. George knew how to handle a Binks spray gun, so he worked the flaws and blended-in the needed repairs to the lacquer paint. The bumpers, showing the worst of the existing paint, were pulled, blasted and resprayed in the matching Green Go paint, which the seller graciously provided in the deal. Finishing with a cut and machine buff job, George brought the finish back to its fresh-shot glory, for less than the cost of a pro car grooming.
With appearances back to showfield standards, making the car usable for open road touring was next on the agenda. The transmission was upgraded with B&M components and fitted with a Gear Vendors' overdrive for relaxed high-speed cruising. To add to the utility of the 29-year-old beast, a four-row core was fitted to the stock radiator, and a Mopar electronic ignition found its way onto the 440. All in all, the Charger does everything a great driver should.
The one unknown quantity is the 440 Magnum under the hood. The heavy rods, backed by the correct serial numbers up top and below, confirm that this is the original numbers-matching mill. The engine had obviously been detailed, and the seller confirmed that it had been rebuilt. The good compression and lack of blow-by would support that claim.
We set a dial indicator to the intake side of the camshaft and read 0.299-inch lifter rise, which gives 0.4485 inches at the valve, or within 111/42 thousandths of stock. On the exhaust side, the cam checked at 0.305 inches for .4575-inches of valve lift, again right at stock 440 Magnum specs. With this we can be fairly sure we are dealing with a stock-cammed 440. Up top is the original 440 AVS, feeding the stock iron intake manifold which rests on stock #346 heads. Likewise, the exhaust system is the stock cast iron manifold/dual exhaust set-up. Even the mufflers are stock O.E. 440 resto pieces.
The things we didn't know about were the mileage since the rebuild, compression ratio, cam phasing, and the other little things that are impossible to get a handle on unless you've turned the wrenches yourself. Judging from the normal carbon build-up under the heads of the intake valves, visible from down the ports, the engine has clearly turned some street miles since being pulled apart. That said, the engine pulled just about what we'd expect from an average stock 440 street engine.
What, if anything, we thought, could be done to improve the performance of this stock engine without having to go deep inside? Headers would be a huge performance boost, but the installation and subsequent pipe hook-up is not the kind of thing we had in mind. No, we wanted to look at simple bolt-ons which most anyone could accomplish in under two hours, and change back just as quickly if so desired.