“What the hell am I thinking?” I muttered to myself as I finally slid between the fenders and the shed’s opening. A thick layer of dust, spider webs and grime caked the entirely of the car. Yet, the ’70 Dodge Super Bee was more “together” than I had expected; the window molding, drip rail trim, and even interior door panels were all present. The dash, although the frame itself was rotted, had all of its hard plastic padding, gauges and switches. The only piece missing was the factory AM radio and bezel. A muddy red headliner and opaque dome light hung overhead. Again, it was more complete than I had originally thought.
Hailing from the Lynch Road, Michigan factory the ‘Bee was built as one of 3,966 coupes in 1970. The new controversial design was that of Chrysler stylist Diran Yazejian, whose twin bumpers looped around quad-headlights. The peak of the hood ran the length, cascading between the twin grilles. Standard for the Super Bee’s in 1970 was its “power-bulge hood” with two forward-facing, non-functional scoops.
This particular ‘Bee was optioned in L1 Beige, with its white reversed C-stripes running the length of the car’s rotted and dented quarter panels. Visibly apparent was the presence of A48 Dress Up package that garnered a remote driver’s mirror and polished trim inset into the B-pillar. Inside were the remnants of its Burnt Orange interior, and the standard faux-wood Rallye instrument panel (found on every 1970 Super Bee), but no tachometer. Not even a clock. In fact, it was the lack of optioned equipment that endeared it to me.
Although vacant now, the engine compartment once housed the standard four-barrel 383-cui V8 making a respectable 335-horsepower. Coupled with a 727 TorqueFlite – shifted via the steering column – the ‘Bee rolled to a halt thanks to manually-operated four-wheel-drums. And muggy summer days saw no relief from a factory air conditioner – this ‘Bee came only with a heater. By the looks of the canted rear wheels, I knew the 8.75’s center chunk was missing, letting the axles clank loosely.
Word of this abandoned ‘Bee came to me through fellow Mopar Connection Magazine staffer Gavin Wollenburg, telling me of a “pretty rough” ’70 Super Bee parked in a barn in Hebron, Ohio. Corrosion had claimed almost all evidence of a floor pan, trunk and lower quarters yet, remarkably, the frame rails remained intact. Moreover, cancer had all but eaten away the rear valance, the lower Dutchman panel below the rear window and the entirety of the deck lid, two pieces inconveniently difficult to find.
Amid a farm littered with Road Runners, Super Bees, a Duster and a surprisingly original ’56 Dodge Suburban two-door wagon, this ‘Bee had fallen out of favor with the owner and he mentioned to Gavin his willingness to off-load it. The deal was made, the payment was exchanged and hands were shook. Yet, it still needed to travel three states south and I wasn’t going to be up in Ohio until August and it was January. Gavin assured me that the car was in safe keeping and no surprises would spring up before the fateful day I came to claim it.
“So…what next?” I had the car (more or less). What was I going to do with it? Unlike so many other Mopar enthusiasts, I’m rather monogamous. Besides a ’05 Ram 1500 and ’04 Grand Cherokee that serve as the family’s daily drivers, my ’69 Dodge Charger R/T (which many will know as “Project Brazen”) has been my only classic that I’ve held on to. A brief affair with a ’69 Coronet wannabe-A12 clone was fun, but fleeting. A ’68 Dart project never got off the ground and while a ’70 Chrysler 300 or Newport tickles the imagination, I’ve never found the right C-body. No, I was a one-car-kinda-guy and just couldn’t imagine a second project.
Then I started paying attention to the guys at Ratty Musclecars. While they might not be most people’s cup of tea, there is something endearing about a bunch of dudes just wanting to drive the snot out of their classics barring the fancy paint, big dollar dyno engines and rotisserie restorations. And unlike the goofballs at “Roadkill” their junk runs – and hard. Next, came a sweltering June day when I drove the last leg of the Hot Rod Power Tour in the Charger. It ran great, and its A41 overdrive split the low 4.56s by a quarter percent; but the 30-inch tall slicks, Dick Landy-era Super Stock leaf springs and growling 535ci stroker just wasn’t happy – particularly as we idled in Bowling Green’s bumper-to-bumper Friday traffic.
Power Tour has always been a bucket list item for me, and that day I knew Brazen just wasn’t the right car to do it in. Something more streetable, more highway friendly was going to be my pass to the Tour. So the idea was hatched as I drove back home to Nashville past the Corvette museum: a ratty pro-touring build…a rat-touring Super Bee. The visual was enticing enough: a clapped out, partially primered, rotted and dented ’70 Dodge blowing past Mustangs and Corvettes on the highway, gliding comfortably on modern suspension and stopping with deft precision.
The first to step up was Silver Sport Transmissions. Owner Jack Silver quite literally demanded that a PerfectFit Magnum 6-speed be used, and we graciously accepted his insistence. Although the initial idea was for a Gen III 392 Hemi, Mopar wasn’t keen on handing them out so freely, so we opted instead to drop in a 550-600hp 498ci. stroker 440 wedge we had previously planned as a dyno mule. Edelbrock‘s August Cederstrand has cooked up a pretty unique EFI induction system for us, so stay tuned as that will be coming shortly. Brian Shepard at Currie Enterprises cheered at the idea and we’ll be working together to build a Dana 60 with an Eaton TrueTrac and some freeway flyer gears (well, maybe not that high).
Of course, prior to any go-fast parts, we’re honored to be working with our friends at Classic Muscle Metal for all of our sheetmetal needs. Again, the skin is remaining as-is, but new floors and a trunk pan will be going in with help from Rod & Custom Machine in Dickson, TN. There, we’ll also be installing a mini-tub kit so we can fit some serious meat beneath it. From there, our Super Bee (now officially christened “ZomBEE”) will go to Hotchkis Suspension‘s east coast facility to receive their complete TVS Suspension system, which builds upon the factory engineering but uses better sway bars, springs, control arms and shocks to improve the B-Body’s ride.
Obviously, there’s quite a bit left to making this monstrosity even remotely street-worthy and we’ll be working with some of the industry’s best minds including Baer Brakes, Borgeson and Flaming River just to name a few. And because Power Tour is always held in June, we’re even giving a strong consideration to installing some aftermarket air conditioning. Hey, if we’re going with Edelbrock fuel injection, modern Baer Brakes, Hotchkis suspension and a SST 6-speed, why not enjoy some cool air while we’re at it? Right now, we’re targeting the 2019 Power Tour, so don’t expect us to slapdash this thing together in record time – but we won’t be sitting on our laurels either. So make sure to stay tuned to Mopar Connection Magazine for all the latest updates on ZomBEE!