In today’s current times, many can only dream of finding a rare Mopar hidden away. Everybody has heard the term “barn find” thousands of times and quite frankly; the term is over used and often wrongly used. For Bob Jennings, his most recent purchase is truly a “barn find” to the absolute tee. With both an Alpine White 1970 Plymouth Superbird and an Y2 Yellow 1969 Dodge Daytona in his garage, Bob is a diehard wing car enthusiast to say the least.
When he told us about his recent purchase, we couldn’t believe it until he told us more about it and sent us the pictures you’ll see in this feature. While many dream of coming across that forgotten and neglected rare Mopar sitting in a barn or garage, most will say those dreams usually don’t end up resulting in much. If they do, you are usually lucky to find a Slant 6 Plymouth Valiant or something along those lines. Many people think rare Mopars hidden away don’t exist in today’s times. We however truly believe they do and Bob’s find really is proof that they are still indeed out there and you should keep searching.
In mid-July 2017, Bob was contacted by a fellow named Charlie regarding a FJ5 Limelight Green 1970 Plymouth Superbird his wife’s uncle Randy owned in Elkhart, Indiana. See, Charlie worked with a fellow named Dave whose son Matt worked with Bob and had heard Bob was into wing cars. You with us still? Upon speaking to Charlie on the phone, Bob was told that the Superbird in particular had been bought brand new by Randy. Charlie told Bob that the car had been parked since the mid-1970’s in a garage and was Limelight Green with a 440 4-barrel and 4-speed with a bench seat. Not much else was known about the car. Charlie sent Bob five poor quality pictures showing a lot of dirt, some quarter panel rust and a flat tire; descriptive right? Bob’s attention was quickly caught when Charlie mentioned Randy wanted to sell the car.
“Charlie thought the car was worth ‘around $30,000’ but I told him it was worth more than ‘around.’ I said somewhere between $50-60,000 was more accurate. I told him I would buy the car at that price point unless it was a rust heap. In reply, Charlie said his uncle was quite eccentric and that he was waffling about really wanting to sell it,” says Bob. For the next six weeks, Bob gently pestered Charlie to see if Randy was ready to sell it yet. Finally on September 5th, 2017, Charlie phoned Bob and told him the news he had been waiting for; Randy was ready to sell and agreed to take $60,000 for the Superbird. Around a week later, Bob and some friends made the five hour drive to Elkhart to pick up the car.
Upon arriving, Bob quickly started looking over the car. Bob and his friend Matt verified the VIN matched with the title, dash pad, radiator support, trunk lip, door tag, engine block and transmission; all important information with a car of this caliber. Randy told Bob he had bought the car brand new on March 12th, 1970 from Vernon M. Ball Plymouth in Elkhart and he simply purchased it because it was different and that he drove it to cruises and as a daily driver for four years. In late 1974, Randy parked the car because of a bad voltage regulator. In October 1975, he got it running and inspected with 65,346 miles on the odometer. After that, it was last licensed on February 2nd, 1975 and expired in May of 1976. The odometer on the day that Bob pulled it out of the garage back in September of this year read 65,548.9 miles; incredible!
“When we first walked up to the car, we all immediately noticed the trailer hitch and the two original jacking instruction stickers on the trunk lid. When Randy parked the car, he had done so without washing it so over the years, the salt residue destroyed the chrome on the rear bumper. All four tires were flat but we had brought four wheels and tires from home to move it with. The old wheels were difficult to remove but after some penetrating oil, our electric impact wrench and a sledge hammer, the wheels broke free off of the hubs. We put the other wheels on it and easily rolled the car into the sunlight for the first time in forty-three years,” recalls Bob.
Randy told Bob that he had moved the car once in the past when he sold his house. He had a tow truck haul it to his new house (the one Bob bought it from) during the night so no one would see it or know it was there. Unfortunately, during that process, the tow truck ripped off and bent the front spoiler, however Randy made sure to keep it. Thankfully, it was quickly found lying on the back seat along with the original radio and alternator. When the guys got the car into the sunlight, the forty-three years of dirt showed, as did the weathering from parking the car without removing the accumulated road salt way back when. The interior had some damage from mice and the trunk was full of trash, but all-in-all the car was in excellent shape with the exception of the damage and rust on the body panels.
Bob says, “We determined before we even winched the car onto the trailer that both of the quarter panels would need to be replaced, the top portion of both fenders behind the scoops need repair and the nose would have to be repaired as it has a dent in it. However, the vinyl top was perfect and the interior was beautiful besides needing to have the bench seat repaired and new carpet installed.” Upon arriving home to Southern Indiana with the car, Bob snapped a few more pictures and proceeded to wash the car. After that, he vacuumed and cleaned out the interior. “We found several dollars’ worth of change and deep cleaned and conditioned the vinyl top and dash pad. There was absolutely zero rust around the windshield or dash pad; inside or out. The back window and moldings were great too and the car had absolutely no leaks when we washed it. We attribute this to the forty-three years of darkness leaving all the rubber in excellent condition,” shares Bob.
Once the Superbird was cleaned up, Bob very carefully hooked up a 12 volt battery just to see what was going on electrically and to his surprise, everything with a fuse still worked perfectly. He then pushed the car into the garage and put it on the lift for examination. Bob continued, “We found some surface rust underneath the car, but nowhere was it serious. The bell housing was missing the inspection plate and the starter was gone. The brakes did not show any leakage, but the emergency brake cable was badly corroded and we felt like there was no fluid in the master cylinder. The transmission showed no leaks, but the front seal of the Dana read end yoke was leaking. The engine was pretty grimy and for some reason the driver’s side valve cover had been unscrewed but we could see no issues. Overall, this was very, very minor stuff.”
After getting it home, Bob worked hard to get the Superbird running. First, he pulled the spark plugs and filled the cylinders with Marvel Mystery Oil and let it sit for a few weeks. Unfortunately, it looks like the engine is frozen as he didn’t have any luck trying to get it turn over by hand, so it looks like it will need to come out and be rebuilt. When inspecting the radiator, it was determined that is was full of mouse droppings and had rotten out so it was re-cored while saving the top and bottoms for originality.
Bob says his plans for the Superbird have changed since bringing it home. “Between now and Thanksgiving, we are going to sand down the surface rust on the floor pans and seal it, reinstall the interior and check everything there while cleaning it all really good. Over Christmas, we will do a complete brake rebuild and then decide whether to go forward. At that point, I will probably be selling the car as the engine rebuild and body work is just more than I want to do, and more than my boys and I have time to do.”