Gut Buster

My ongoing project is a ’72 Dart Hardtop. The car has been in my possession for about three years now. When I purchased this car, it was a clean, older restoration, with nice white paint, a stock 360 engine, a four-speed transmission, and a re-done black interior. I have never had any interest in drag racing, but I love a fast road car that does what it should.

I began the modifications last year with sticky oversized tires, going to 17-inch (front) and 18-inch (rear) wheels. I then decided with the improved traction, I could upgrade the suspension and really get this car to stick. I found a set of Super Stock springs, and what was advertised as autocross torsion bars that I figured would be just the thing for my Dart. These springs and bars were used parts, all from the same vendor, along with a set of KYB heavy duty gas shocks.

I bought this setup and installed it in my otherwise stock suspension. Now my problem is that the car rides like a buck-board wagon. It is so stiff, that it jars and shocks the car when going over pot-holes and rough roads. I used to like getting in my Dart and just cruising, but not anymore. Is there any way that I can get a good ride quality and improve handling at the same time? I live in Detroit and some of the roads are in poor condition.

Greg Olivar - Via

Well Greg, buying unknown springs a-la-carte from an unknown vendor is always taking a chance, and as you noted, your hometown of Detroit isn’t exactly known for its silky-smooth thoroughfares. That said, I think the best plan here is to lick your wounds and move on with another alternative in suspension. There are many suppliers of well-engineered suspensions if you want to take a full package approach.

The other way to go, is to work with the basic factory suspension. Of course the first step here is to make sure everything is rebuilt and in good condition, including all of the bushing, ball joints and steering links. Poly bushings are a plus in the upper A-arms and struts, but I like factory rubber in the lower arms. Personally, my preference for the street is to be conservative on torsion bar and spring rates, and then upgrade with sway bars at both ends. This provides a compliant suspension, reduces weight, and retains reasonable ride quality. Another note is the shocks. Those KYB shocks are pretty stiff, and some guys find the ride on the harsh side. I would look at alternatives in a higher grade shock, possibly even adjustable shocks to really dial in the ride and handling.

Full-Time Fouling

My Charger 500 has a 383 Magnum engine from the factory. It seems to run good when everything is right, but it fouls the spark plugs in record time. When the plugs foul, I get a misfire, and I can pull the plugs and find them caked with muck, and in need of replacement. From running good to needing another set of plugs can be as quick as a month of regular driving. This is the original engine for the car and I know for a fact that it has never been apart or rebuilt and it has over 230,000 miles. It burns oil at a phenomenal rate, like a quart or more every hundred miles, and I don’t see any serious leaks, or blue smoke out the tailpipe. I know this seems like a worn out motor, but I don’t want to get into rebuilding the engine right now. I can just keep pouring oil in it and changing plugs, but is there anything that will slow the process down? I plan on building a stroker engine for the Charger when I have enough cash on hand. I’m not looking for a miracle, but just to extend the driving time until I can afford to get into the engine.

Phillip Costa - Via email

Philip, I think you are right about needing a rebuild. Normally, I would suggest a good look at the ignition system if the plugs seem to be fouling prematurely, but with the heavy oil consumption, it is pretty clear that oil is just overwhelming the plugs. If you want to put the heavy engine work on hold for now, use higher viscosity oil, like straight 50-weight, and use a plug with an extended electrode. If even the heavy oil and plug change do not really improve the situation, you will probably need to get into the engine to some extent. With the mileage on your engine, I suspect the valve guides are fully worn, and the valve stem seals are gone. Usually, you’ll find the original umbrella style valve stem seals crumbled well before the mileage of your 383. You might be able to get a reprieve from the extreme oil consumption by getting into the top end of the engine and adding a set of umbrella style valve stem seals. This will likely help reduce the oil flow past the guides, and let your Charger limp along until you can pull the engine for a rebuild.

Starter’s Got Me Stumped

I have a ’66 Coronet 500 with a 318 that I have had for 30 years. One day I pulled into my garage, and now it starts but doesn’t stay started. I have replaced everything except the wiring harness. What happened? My dad told me as a teenager take off all that stuff on your keychain; well I guess he was correct. Any suggestions?

Shirley Sheldon - Via

Shirley, when you say it starts but doesn’t stay started, do you mean immediately after the key is released? This is usually a case of the ballast resistor going out. There are two feeds from the ignition switch; a start and a run feed. The start feed bridges right to the coil, while the run feed goes through the ballast. Click the ignition to the on position and check that there are 12 volts at the “run” side of the resistor, and that there is voltage at the other side of the resistor going to the primary ignition system. The voltage at the output will normally be lower, and will vary depending upon the ohm rating of resistor you are using. You can use a test light to make this check. It should be bright at the feed side and dimmer at the output side.

Now, if you are hot on the feed side but you’ve got nothing at the output end, the ballast resistor is dead. If you have nothing on the feed side you may have a bad ignition switch or a bad connection or broken wire somewhere between the ignition switch and the ballast. The “start” ignition feed wire is only hot when the ignition switch is turned all the way to the start position, and is bridged to the output side of the ballast resistor, giving the ignition system full voltage while cranking and bypassing the ballast.

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