In the OE Certification judging...
In the OE Certification judging tent at the Mopar Nationals, this ’70 Duster (restored by Mike Mancini’s American Muscle Car Restorations, Inc. shop in North Kingston, Rhode Island) is ready for the judges’ scrutiny.
To win OE Gold Certification at the Mopar Nationals, a restored car must be just as it was built back in the day. That doesn’t mean restoring everything perfectly. “You have to build and restore a car to exactly the way it rolled off the assembly line,” says Mike Mancini of American Muscle Car Restorations, Inc. in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. “You have to use all assembly-line parts, or identical N.O.S. parts.”
After four-decades-plus, the supply of new original parts isn’t getting any bigger. “The correct parts are getting really tough to find, if parts have been replaced on your car, or if they’re in too bad a condition to restore,” Mike adds.
This 318/904 combination is...
This 318/904 combination is just like the ones that went into LA-built Dusters late in the 1970 model run, down to the engine paint color and OEM oil filter.
Does pre-restoration condition matter? Mike says that, realistically, it doesn’t. “However, it certainly will make your life a lot easier if you’re trying to do a high-level OE car,” he says. “If you have something that’s relatively preserved and untouched, that car will present clues like inspection markings, and the way things were assembled.” He adds, “The more unmolested a car you start with, the better final product you’ll come out with.”
If you can find documentation of when it was built, and what went on it when it was built, all the better. That means the original fender tag, broadcast sheets, window sticker, plus items from the original selling dealer like an order form, bill of sale, warranty booklet and Certicard help to document the car before you start.
Under the hood, a car’s original...
Under the hood, a car’s original fender tag, plus the correct paint color (and texture) can determine whether a car will score enough points for Gold, Silver, or Bronze.
Doing your homework before your project even starts will pay off. That’s because the judges that go over your car will have done theirs before your ride rolls into the judging tent. “I make a synopsis sheet for these cars,” says Keith Rohm, the chief judge on the Nats’ OE Certification judging panel. “I take its manufacture date and introduction date, and give everything a ‘window,’ because some parts used to build it might have been sitting in a basket, or on the shelf, for a very short period of time.”
Parts and assembly techniques come under scrutiny by the judges, who—in many cases—were there then when these cars were built. “I am retired out of the UAW,” says Keith, “which gives me a lot of access to the retirees from different plants. This helps, because there are variances in the assembly of cars from plant to plant.” In the case of the ’70 Duster seen here, it was built at Mopar’s Los Angeles Assembly Plant, one of four that turned out the Duster that year (along with Newark, Delaware, St. Louis, and Hamtramck).
Codes, codes, and more codes....
Codes, codes, and more codes. Part numbers, date codes—if they were there (like on this 318’s fan assembly), they’ve got to be there on an OE-quality restoration. It’s minute details like this that will make a break and OE-style restoration.
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.
Not just part numbers and...
Not just part numbers and date codes, but inspector’s marks must be where they put them back then. Once the wheel is installed, this paint mark and the drum retaining clip will never be seen, until the judges try to verify that they are there.
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.
Interior details count as...
Interior details count as much as those under the hood. Items like a correct steering wheel that matches the one on the car’s broadcast sheet are a must. Period-correct service department paper floor mats don’t hurt, either.
Not only must coded parts...
Not only must coded parts like rubber tubing have the correct codes on them, they’ve got to be installed the same way that the folks on the line put them in.
Note the non-orange engine...
Note the non-orange engine color, bolt markings, and painted Champion spark plugs, typical of a late-year-built ’70 Duster from Mopar’s Los Angeles Assembly Plant.
It takes a level of restoration...
It takes a level of restoration that few have the patience or finances to achieve. Mike Mancini’s American Muscle Car Restorations brought this LA-built ’70 Duster to the Nats, and received OEM Gold certification, along with Best In Show.
If sealer was sprayed on at...
If sealer was sprayed on at the factory after a body came out of the paint shop, then it’s got to go on the same way, on the same places (like inside the left front fender). Having before-disassembly pictures of items like this are essential in verifying each individual car’s build process.
Keith Rohm and his judging...
Keith Rohm and his judging team can take up to four hours or more to give a car the scrutiny needed for Gold Certification.
Answered by OE Certification Chief Judge Keith Rohm
How original does the car have to be?
As original as you can get it. Belts, hoses, clamps, filters, lamps/bulbs, tires etc., are all expected to be original style/make/model. Obviously, in some instances, the original part is difficult or near impossible to find. The closer you can get the part to original, the fewer points you will lose. Example: tires. No point deductions for original make/model/size tire. As you stray from this, the point deductions rise (i.e. not original make, a few points off, not original size is more points off, different construction--changed to radials from bias belted, etc., even more points off.) Apply this type of deduction to all other wear components.
Do you deduct points for a non-numbers-matching engine or transmission?
Yes, but the point subtraction will not necessarily knock the car out of Gold running.
Does the vehicle have to match the body code tag?
Yes, points will be deducted for deletions or additions, as well as changes.
Do you check for date coded parts?
How do you handle the over-restoration of components?
Points are deducted slightly for finishes that are too shiny or not correct, or for improper markings.
What paperwork/documentation do I need to bring or have with me for the judging process?
You don’t need it, but it sure helps, and it can offset point losses in other areas to help achieve Gold.
What surprises should I be aware of?
Everything needs to function! Brake lamps, turn signals, horn, wipers, emergency flashers, cigar lighter, emergency brake lamp, all the gauges, clock, etc.
Do you look at the bottom of the vehicle and inside the trunk?
Yes, we look at every aspect of the vehicle.
What about dealer-installed options?
If your vehicle came with anything out of the ordinary, you should have documentation to prove it. These cars are 35-45 years old, and there has been ample opportunity for people to add or subtract items from the vehicle. Saying it came this way from the dealer has to be proven—obviously, it depends on the option or deletion, but proof is the best standard to follow and not loose points.
What about dust or dirt?
We obviously will not deduct points for some dust, as the environment at the track is not crystal clean, but we expect in this type of competition that you have spent the time and effort to clean your vehicle to the nth degree. Any dust that might fall on the vehicle while it is outside being judged will not be deducted for, but we don’t expect any signs of oil buildup on the sides of parts.
How long does it take for my car to get judged?
It takes about four hours, or longer, to judge a vehicle in the OE Certification process.
What will help with my car being judged?
Send in copies all of all your documentation with your entry. We research your vehicle long before it ever sets foot on the show field grounds. The judging staff will know exactly what the vehicle should look like, and be equipped with, before they even see it for the first time. This is a requirement with any OE entry.
What are the requirements for Gold, Silver, or Bronze?
Gold requires the car to achieve 95 percent of the possible points, 90 for Silver and 85 for Bronze. A score below 85 percent of the total points will not earn a certificate. Currently there are 2,250 possible points to be awarded, so it would take 2137.5 points to win Gold.
How do I enter?
Fill out, and then submit an entry form from the Mopar Nationals website. There is usually a one year or more wait—unless there is a cancellation. Due to the length of time and the amount of research it takes on the vehicles, only up to five vehicles can be judged in any single year. The car has its best chance of winning Gold the closer it is done to being freshly restored, but, we’ve had vehicles that had restorations done years ago that scored Gold.