One thing to watch out for: Electronic Lean Burn-equipped 400 and 440 engines in the '76-'79s. Those early attempts at computerized engine management weren't up to the job, and in many cases were swapped out for conventional ignition/carburetor setups.
Who says that a four-door...
Who says that a four-door isn't worth fixing up! This little Valiant won the Gold at the 2010 Mopar Nationals. Don't limit yourself to a car that only has two doors. If you can't afford a two-door version, the four doors are usually a little cheaper to buy, and they take all the performance goodies that a two door will take.
4 - Any four-door A-Body, B-Body, or C-Body, including wagons
Nowadays, when you go to shows and cruise-ins, you see more four-doors and wagons than ever before. That's because Mopar folks saw that the ones with the extra doors are reasonably available, they respond to powertrain updates like their two-door siblings do, plus they draw show-goers over to them saying, "We used to have one like that . . . " at any event it's participating in.
Keep your eyes open for an A35 on the fender tag. That's Ma Mopar's code for a factory trailer-towing package, with upgraded cooling, suspension, brakes and electrics installed at the factory.
See what a set of American...
See what a set of American Racing Torq-Thrust wheels do to a late B-Body like this Chrysler Cordoba?
One big item to watch for: Mopar-exclusive "dual air" air conditioning systems in C-Body wagons. Along with the H52 (manual) or H54 (automatic temperature control) option codes, you can spot wagons with it by the round ducts in a crossmember that's above and behind the back (or second-row) seat.
Not only are the rare D-Series...
Not only are the rare D-Series trucks like the Lil' Red Express worth looking for, just about any '72-'93 D-Series or Ram is project-worthy. The Lil' Red will cost you more coin than a standard series truck, but who says you can't build your own Muscle truck?
5 - '72-'80 Dodge D/W-Series and '81-'93 Dodge Ram trucks
These full-size trucks preceded the '94-'01 Rams, and many folks still call them D-Series, even though that name, (and the W-Series tag for 4WD models) was replaced by the Ram nameplate for 1981. It's also the first generation of Dodge trucks to have more car-like cab appointments, and was the first one with an extended-cab pickup (the Club Cab, which arrived in '73), and it also included the Little Red Express and Warlock models in the late '70s as part of Dodge's Adult Toys trucks.
Sport-ute versions-the Dodge Ramcharger and Plymouth Trail Duster-arrived in '74 in either 2WD or 4WD with available soft or hard tops. The removability of the steel hard top is questionable, as it takes about a half-dozen people to handle one. (The steel top was welded on at the factory starting in '81.)
Imagine if The Brady Bunch...
Imagine if The Brady Bunch had a '71 Dodge Coronet wagon like this one!
Under the hood, you're likely to find an LA-series small-block (318 or 360), with the B/RB big-blocks on the option list through '78. Downstream, transmissions and rear ends included the 727s and 83/4s like those in the passenger cars, plus extra-heavy-duty stuff (i.e. Dana 60 rear ends on the D250s and D350s) you didn't see anywhere else but in trucks after '71. The Cummins Turbo Diesel made its first Ram appearance in '89, a rare factory option.
One more thing to look for: '75-'78 pickups without factory catalytic converters. Back then, Federal emission-control regs required them on all trucks with a GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) rating of 6,000 pounds or less. In mid-'75, D100s got an optional heavy-duty package that boosted the GVW rating to 6,100 pounds, meaning no factory cat. (A lot of farmers and people who worked off-pavement or "up country" back then had real concerns about overheated cats starting brush fires.) Thanks to that loophole, the '78 Little Red Express pickups had no cats between their E58 360 four-barrel V-8s and their chrome exhaust stacks. The Feds upped the GVW cutoff to 8,500 pounds for '79, so that year's LREs were catalyst-equipped.
Trucks are cool, and the early...
Trucks are cool, and the early Dakota was even available as a convertible.
6 - First-generation ('87-'96) Dodge Dakota pickups
Ma Mopar slotted these between the full size Ram and the Mitsubishi-built D50 starting in '87. A V-8 didn't make the option list until '91-the venerable 318, which got the Magnum re-engineering treatment in '92.
Notable Dakotas include the Club Cab (new in '90), the 318-powered Shelby Dakota, and the '89-'91 convertible.