Last year at the Mopar show at Moroso Motorsports Park in West Palm Beach, Florida, John and Ramona Bober of Viera, Florida, had their '71 Charger Super Bee chosen for the Editor's Choice award. The story behind this Bee is as sweet as the ride itself. In fact, we decided to let John (with some help from Ramona) tell the story:
Growing up and living in Buffalo, New York, with Ford and Chevy production plants in my backyard, it was hard to like Mopars. My first ride-the one that must have started it all-was a police car. My father was a New York State trooper, and when I was around 10 years old, he brought home his cruiser and said he had to take me for a ride. He was going around 15 mph and said, "Hang on." He hit the gas, and the car twitched a little and then jumped to about 110 mph. I asked my dad what made this car so fast. He said they were testing some Hemi cars for possible use as new police vehicles. About a week later, I asked him to bring the car home again, and he said he couldn't. He had been given 10 cars to test, but it cost too much to maintain them, so they were all sent back. I can say not all police car rides are bad.
In 1974, my best friend's dad was going to pick up his new Charger SE. They asked me if I wanted to come along. It was Y5 Yellow Blaze with black interior and a black vinyl roof. I loved that body style-I wanted that car.
In the late-'70s, when I was in high school, not many guys had a Dodge or Plymouth. I was driving my sister's boyfriend's 340 four-speed 'Cuda on Friday and Saturday nights. I was hooked. I needed to get myself a car. I was still leaning toward the '74 Charger style, but I wanted one without the emission rubbish, so I looked for a '71 Charger. During that same time, I was an employee at a department store, and I found that a fellow coworker, Ramona, shared an interest in cars-particularly musclecars. She was driving a Hornet at the time, but she was into Corvettes and wanted a '73. I told her I wanted a '71 Dodge Charger, and I knew I would find the right one someday.
Through our friendship, we vowed that whoever acquired their car first would will it to the other person. After that arrangement, I found employment elsewhere and then saw her only occasionally. At age 17, I got my first Charger. It was not the '71, but a '73 Charger SE with a 400. I stopped by to see Ramona to let her know what I had purchased. She was very excited and asked if she could have a ride in it. We went for a ride later that week. That was our first date, and we've been married for 20 years.
In the late-'80s, my friend's dad gave me the '74 Charger that I'd ridden with him to pick up. It had well over 100,000 miles on it when I took ownership. I had a compression test done on it, and it was still within specs. But by 1989, we had sold both cars. We were sad to see them go, but I decided to pursue my motorcycle interests and began competing on the dirt-bike circuit. I've owned several road bikes over the years. When we moved to Florida in 1990, I started to do some road racing as well as motocross.
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.