When a car accident in 1999 left me unable to ride motorcycles, I sold my bikes. I was sitting around moping because I couldn't ride anymore, and my wife suggested, "Hey, why don't we look for a car?" We decided to look into musclecars, and of course, a Mopar was my first choice. For sentimental reasons, my wife was interested in having a Charger again. However, I wanted to get something special.
The Dodge Super Bee was a direct competitor to Plymouth's Road Runner. It was a budget musclecar but was never as successful [in sales] as the Road Runner. In 1970, the Dodge boys were dropping the Super Bee from the Coronet-model lineup, but they felt they still needed something to compete with that little bird, so they pushed for the Super Bee to become a separate Charger model.
In 1971, the Charger had a totally new body style, with ventless side windows, concealed windshield wipers, a split front-bumper design, and a semi-fastback roof. Although it looked longer than before, it was actually shorter by a few inches. The '71 Super Bee still represented a low-cost, high-performance package priced under $3,000. The 383 Magnum with a single four-barrel carb rated at 300 bhp (down 35 bhp from the year before due to de-tuning) was standard, along with the three-speed floor shifter, power bulge hood (blacked out), tape stripes, Bee decals, and a Charger 500 interior. The Super Bee also came with a heavy-duty suspension, (fat for the time) F70-14 tires, and a long list of optional equipment. The 440 Six Pack and the mighty 426 Hemi were still optional.
Of all Super Bees produced from 1969 to 1971, the Charger Super Bee was the lowest in total production, with less than 4,500. It was the last year for the true high-performance cars, as all the high-performance engines were dropped in 1972.
I e-mailed Golden Classics in Clearwater, Florida, and told them I wanted a Charger Super Bee. They went to an auction in Indiana, picked up an FY1 Super Bee, and called to let me know what they had found. I drove over to examine the car, and I liked what I saw. The body and interior of the car needed little work, but the engine and drivetrain needed much more. We made a deal and I bought the car. I drove it from Clearwater to Cocoa (trailers are for boats; drive your car), but I had a few problems along the way. The fuel line was the first thing to go. Then it overheated, and the transmission was screaming for fluid. That was followed by a meltdown of the wiring harness, all of which turned a two-hour drive into five hours-but I made it home.
I pulled the engine, and it checked out fine. It only needed new gaskets. Andy Caldwell rebuilt the Carter carburetor. Everything electrical was replaced, and I upgraded to an electronic ICU. I also installed a clutch fan to keep it a little cooler. I even found the correct intake-manifold insulation and HP exhaust-manifold heat stove. I spent two years restoring and detailing the car to what it is now. The Bee has the SE interior although, according to the buildsheet, it is not supposed to. It could be that the car's interior wasn't ready to be installed when it came down the assembly line, so an SE interior was substituted.
When we drive it to shows, so many people comment that Dodge never made a Charger Super Bee. Since it was the first year for Bee badging on a Charger and the last year for the Bee, I can understand why they think that. However, it is sweet to know we have one of the few Bees that punched the last sting.