Your next Mopar may be just...
Your next Mopar may be just a second look away. Finding a numbers matching Roadrunner, Demon, or 'Cuda will probably cost you more coin than you can spend. Don't let that deter you-alternative options do exist. You just have to be willing to get into it for the fun, not the money.
If you're looking for a Mopar to buy, build, and enjoy but don't have the budget for a muscle-era Charger, Roadrunner, Challenger, or 'Cuda, don't fret-there are plenty of Mopars that are either project-ready, or turnkey cruiser-ready.
We scanned the available vehicle ad sources to see which Plymouths, Dodges, and Chryslers fell in a range peaking at around $10,000 for one that's more project-ready than road-ready, or $15,000 for a turnkey vehicle-but our research found plenty of Mopars well under those peak prices.
So, here are our picks . . . remember to look out for rust, collision damage, and missing parts when you search, whether online or in person:
An ultra-rare C-Body to look...
An ultra-rare C-Body to look for is the Hurst '70 Chrysler 300H, of which about 500 were built. Still, the base Newports that shared this body style are no slouches, either! They normally come with big-block availability, and can be fixed up to look really cool. Not only that, but you can haul the entire family and fry the tires with them in the back seat.
1 - '65-'78 C-Body
Big, huge . . . and surprisingly affordable, especially the turnkey ones advertised for sale for well under ten grand. They all have a 727 Torqueflite automatic, an engine no smaller than a 318- or 360-inch LA small-block, front torsion bar/rear leaf spring suspension, lots of features (especially on the high-end VIPs, Monacos, and New Yorkers), and a trunk roomier than many big-city apartments.
Thanks to that trunk, its surrounding sheetmetal and what you can put in it, C-Bodies are serious competitors in burnout contests. Just light up the rear tires and the engine's torque-and the weight of the body's rear overhang-does the rest.
Keep an eye out for ones with factory bucket seats and console shifters, including Plymouth Sport Furys, Dodge Polara 500s, and Chrysler 300s. As for C-Bodies with the factory police package . . . ask Elwood Blues sometime!
Non-muscle A-Bodies have been...
Non-muscle A-Bodies have been overlooked for years. The usual suspects have a Slant Six engine and a 904 or three-speed manual transmission. That doesn't mean you can't make it a muscle car. That's what we did with our Dart Sport; it now has a 340 Six Pack and four-speed with 4.10 gears-how much more muscle do you need?
2 - Non-muscle '61-'76 A-Body two-doors
A lot of people think Dodge and Chrysler-Plymouth dealers' lots were filled with only Duster 340s, Roadrunners, GTXs, Dart GTSs, Super Bees, Coronets, and Charger R/Ts way back when. Outside of "Mr. Norm's" Grand Spaulding Dodge in Chicago, and some other dealers that specialized in high-performance cars, most Mopar stores had lots of "Civilian" cars, especially those on Ma Mopar's smallest domestic platform: the A-Body.
Many were built with option packages that included a Torqueflite at no extra cost-think Gold Duster, White Hat Special Darts and any car with an A06 code (the Easy Order Package) on its fender tag. Once these cars arrived at a dealer, they didn't stay long, as buyers snapped them up ASAP.
Other A-Bodies to look for include the base Duster/Demon/Dart Sport and the Dart Swinger/Valiant Scamp hardtops, all ideal for adding big power under the hood. You want an upscale A-Body? Check out the '74-'76 Valiant Brougham and Dart Special Edition, which included velour seats, cut-pile carpeting, and more acoutic insulation among their standard features.
Cars like the post-70 Chargers...
Cars like the post-70 Chargers have often been looked at as merely demolition derby cars, or parts donors. Now however, they are finally gaining the respect that rightfully deserve.
3 - Non-muscle '62-'79 B-Body two-doors
Same deal here with the midsize Mopars. Dealers' lots and showrooms had plenty of Slant Six or 318-powered Belvederes, Coronets, and Satellites equipped with White Hat Special, A06 Easy Order or A08 Luxury Equipment option packages back then, which included a Torqueflite at no extra charge. '68-'74 Chargers were in on the package deals too, with 318, 360, or two-barrel-equipped 383s/400s under the hood.
Though base-trim Savoys, Belvederes, and Coronets have been discovered by the "Hemi tribute" builders, you can still find Slant Six or 318-powered ones if you keep looking. A mid-'60s Belvedere, Satellite, or Coronet with a 361 makes a great RB or 426 Hemi swap candidate, thanks to the B/RB K-member that the original engine sat on.
Also worth looking for: Luxo versions, including the Plymouth Satellite Sebring Plus, Dodge Charger SE (especially the '73-'74 ones with the triple-glass "opera windows" in the C-pillars), and "the new small Chrysler" introduced in '75, the Cordoba.
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.
With the demise of the A-Body...
With the demise of the A-Body platform, the F-Body would make its debut. These were some rough years for Chrysler, as these cars were prone to rust problems. If you can find a nice one to start with, they make great show, cruise in, or dragstrip cars.
7 - '76-'80 F-Body and '81-'89 M-Body
In the late '70s, Mopar fans knew that-with the same powertrain-the A-Body was faster, but the F-Body Plymouth Volare and Dodge Aspen handled better. They didn't have the A-Body's five-inch difference between front and rear track, but it did have transverse-mounted torsion bars that gave them more of a big-car ride than their A-Body predecessors (or competition) had.
The Road Runner nameplate migrated from the B-Body to the F-Body for 1976, and stayed there through 1980. (Same with the R/T badge, last seen on B-Body Dodges in 1971.)
F-Bodies were also the choice of many cop shops around the country, which picked Volare or Aspen sedans with the A38 police package instead of downsized offerings from the competition. A lot of that chassis hardware, including the slotted "police" wheels, wound up under the '78 and '79 Volare/Aspen Super Coupe and Street Kit Car, along with the E58 360 and heavy-duty 727.
The F-Body morphed into the M-Body (Dodge Diplomat, Chrysler Fifth Avenue, and Plymouth Gran Fury/Caravelle) for '81, but the two-door version is a rarity. After 1983, the 318's Carter Thermoquad four-barrel carburetor went away, replaced by a Rochester Quadrajet. Production carried on through 1989.
The M-Body was a mainstay of municipal and state cop car fleets during the 1980s, and code AHB police package Gran Furys and Diplomats had the E58's heads from 1981 onward on their 318s
Make sure that the one that grabs your eye still has its transverse torsion bar front suspension. That setup is a favorite item for the fat fender (1948-earlier) folks to swap into their cruisers.
And if you find a Street Kit Car, look for the original "43" decals that were shipped in the trunk for dealer installation.
The ideal combination of work...
The ideal combination of work truck, project Mopar, and show-worthy cruiser: the '94-'01 Ram pickups, which you can dress up in any way you can imagine.
8 - '94-'01 Dodge Ram pickups
These are the trucks that changed everything, especially that of pickup buyers' perceptions about Dodges. Ram was now a state-of-the-art rig with more power, towing, and carrying capacity than its competitors-and it looked better. In no time, the aftermarket came up with parts to improve their performance, add to their utility, or dress them up-or all that at the same time.
The 3.9L V-6 was standard in the base Ram 1500s, but most 2WD Rams came with a 5.2L or 5.9L Magnum V-8 that's easily upgraded, as is the Cummins Turbo Diesel that was now a mainstay of the line. The Ram's Club Cab version arrived in 1995, followed by the Quad Cab in 1998.
Not only do the Rams make for great project vehicles in their own right, but they can double as a parts-chaser and hauler for that next Mopar project!
Do not adjust your eyeballs....
Do not adjust your eyeballs. This is a late '70s Dodge B-Series van outfitted in the custom-van style of that time. (Fortunately, not as outlandish as some Bow Tie and Blue Oval vans were!)
9 - '63-'70 Dodge A-Series and '71-'03 B-Series/Ram Vans
Designed to out-work their competition, the A100 and long-wheelbase A108 vans (new for 1967) did that, in cargo van and window van versions, along with a pickup that drag racer Bill "Maverick" Golden made famous as the "Little Red Wagon." Most had Slant Sixes for power, but the 318 Poly was an option in '63 and '64, with the 273-inch LA small-block replacing it in 1965.
Not all A-Series vans were work trucks. The well-appointed Sportsman vans borrowed a lot of interior parts and trim from Dodge's car interiors, and the Travco-converted, pop-top Camper Wagon was a Sportsman ideal for '60s-style "roughing it." Other Travco A-Series conversions to look for include the "Executive Suite" and "Host Wagon," which were like an office-or living room-on wheels.
The van that best fit the "room on wheels" idea was the A-Series' successor: the B-Series that debuted in 1971. Most notable of these is the "Street Van," an option group that included high-back bucket seats, plenty of bright trim, plus templates for the floor, sides, and roof to help buyers customize them.
Though most were powered by the 225 Slant Six, 318, and 360 V-8s, the 400- and 440-inch V-8s were factory options during the late 1970s, so keep an eye out for those.
They've got cop engines, cop...
They've got cop engines, cop suspensions, cop tires . . . and more and more; '06-later Charger cop cars are now coming out of service. Yeah, this one's got a Hemi!
10 - '06-'08 Dodge Charger cop cars
More of these are now coming out of service, though not in the dime-a-dozen quantities of its Blue Oval competition. Still, if you want a car that's a 21st Century version of the original Plymouth RoadRunner and Dodge Super Bee-high performance that's low on the frills-here you go.
Who says you need an R/T or...
Who says you need an R/T or a Super Bee to build into a midsize muscle monster? This '68 Dodge Coronet 440 hard top that we saw in the Young Guns area at the Mopar Nats a few years back shows what you can do with what was once a "low-level" car.
While the V-6 versions offer good fuel mileage, that's not what you really buy a Charger for, now is it? As we've observed with the '07 that's in our Mopar Muscle Home Fleet, the 5.7L Hemi-powered one is a screamer, capable of mid-14-second times in the quarter-mile bone stock, with top speed limited to 149 mph so it doesn't out run its tires.