Muscle Mopars have some unique build characteristics as Keith notes. “Those were more batch run. Cars like The ’69-1⁄2, A12 cars have a wider window of date-code acceptability, because the A12s, were final-built on a couple of Saturdays. This is when the guys came in and upgraded the base B-Bodies to the 440 Six Barrel and Six Pack.” Special hardware items like their aluminum intake manifolds (sourced from Edelbrock) had longer time spans from fabrication to installation. Final production could have been a lot later, because they picked the cars, set them aside, and then finished them a week or a month later,” Keith says.

“You have to have the correct paint,” says Mike. “You can either use the original acrylic enamel, or some modern paints, but you have to make it look like the original stuff.” That takes some doing in places where old-school paints and spray guns were outlawed by strict volatile-organic-compound laws. But that doesn’t mean an original surface texture is impossible to get with new paints and sprayers. “With different pressures, and the way you spray, you can get the factory ‘orange peel’ on it,” says Mike.

Paint procedures must match the processes the assembly plant did. “Some people can’t wrap their head around that concept, and they’ll paint body panels while they’re off of the car,” Mike says. “That will look okay, but when you look at it from a procedure standpoint, there’ll be a lot of things lacking.” That may include uneven panel gaps, overspray, and details unique to regular-production cars built at plants with final-line speeds of 50-60 cars an hour (or faster). Judges will pick up on over restorations lacking those OEM procedures right away. Keith pointed to the surface textures on the Duster’s body panels and under the hood. “If you look in the engine compartment, the paint is dull, which is correct,” says Keith. “They were never that shiny in the engine bay because they didn’t worry about the engine bay. They worried about making the car pretty and presentable.”

Once your restoration is presentable, the judges may take up to four hours to look at your car. Once finished, they’ll tally their scores, and produce a final mark that’s a percentage of how close your car is to factory original. You get a total amount of points, and the percentage of those points determines the Gold, Silver and Bronze awards,” says Keith.

Bottom line: If you want to build a car that can withstand the judges’ closest scrutiny and come away with any of the OE judging awards at the Mopar Nationals (especially Gold), there’s only one way to restore it.