Finders Keepers: Factory FM3 Panther Pink 1970 Dodge Charger 500

From as early as he can remember, Mark Korpal has always been in love with the 1970 Dodge Charger. Where most people’s love of the Charger stems from the “Dukes of Hazzard” TV show, Mark’s comes from first-hand experience. “It was my brother’s first big investment from a dealership. I was six years old when he and my father took me along to pick up the car. It was a used 1970 Dodge Charger that was FY1 Top Banana in color,” recalls Mark.

He continued, “I rode in the back seat the entire way home; as I sat there in the back seat I was in awe. Ever since that day I had dreamed of that car to one day be mine. Seventeen years ago my wish came true.” Over time, the Charger had been stored in a shed on his brother’s property and the passing years had taken its toll on the car. One day, the original owner of the car paid a visit to Mark’s brother wanting to buy it back. It was then that Mark’s brother decided to finally offer it to Mark. “He knew how much I loved the car and he could not see selling it to anyone else. He offered me the car and it was an easy decision on my part. I knew there was a lot of work ahead of me, but I was ready,” says Mark.

During the restoration of the car, Mark says he was getting antsy to have a Charger in driving shape. Around this time, he heard of two green 1970 Chargers that could be for sale; one was a good parts car and the other had a better body. Mark bought one dragged it home. Being as it was in better shape and could be turned into a solid driver rather quickly, Mark turned his focus to that one over the next few years and put the Top Banana Charger on the back burner while he searched for parts for both. About six years ago, while hunting a few junkyards for Charger parts, Mark came across a rusty and banged up 1970 Charger that looked like it was wearing a coat of black or dark gray primer.

Under the primer though, Mark spotted something very special; FM3 Panther Pink paint and it looked to be original. “I have always been a big believer in sentiment and preserving history; it is in history and the development of the past that leads to where we are at today. This can be easily seen in automotive development,” says Mark. At the time, although he really wanted the FM3 Charger, he had a lot of different projects going on so it wasn’t an investment he says he was ready to make. From time to time, he would find himself thinking about the car; wondering if he had made the right decision passing it up. That was until three months ago. One night, Mark woke up from a dead sleep thinking about the car again. It was then he decided he was ready and needed the car. At this point, he was very close to getting the green Charger on the road so he could justify dragging home another project car.

Two months later, Mark finally returned to the junkyard hoping the FM3 Panther Pink Charger was still sitting there. He decided if it was still there, it was meant to be. Sure enough, when he walked over to where the car was sitting, there it was. Over the time since he had seen it last, a small tree had starting growing out of the center of the car but otherwise, it was exactly the same. When he approached the owner of the junk yard, Mark says the guy told him to come back as it was getting late in the day. “I’m not entirely sure if he thought I was a serious buyer or what,” says Mark.

Two weeks later, he returned with a trailer in tow and cash in hand; this time hoping to show the owner that he was serious and wouldn’t take no for an answer. This time, he finally got a price. Much to his dismay, the price was about three times more than he was willing to pay for the hunk of a Charger. However, Mark was hooked and knew he needed it. “I had my daughter with me that day and she was hooked just as bad as I was. I gave it some thought and decided it pay the price and load the car up. My daughter wants to help with the work on it so we are looking forward to starting the project together,” shares Mark.

Now that he has it home, Mark is working on figuring out the next step. While it was sitting in the junk yard, both the VIN and fender tag were removed. Mark says thanks to the help of the original owner of the car, he has strong leads on both and is working to reunite them with the car so he can continue forward with the restoration; legally. He is very firm in saying there will be no re-bodying or tag swapping here. Until he can track down and reunite the tags with the car, he plans to wash it and store it in his shop. When he sent the partial VIN from the various stampings on the car to the 1970 Dodge Charger Registry, he was pleased to find they had full records on the car.

It turns out Mark’s Charger is a legit FM3 Panther Pink car; and a 383-4bbl 500 model to boot. It’s a very rare example too; with only fifty-four ever built in the color! In the records that the registry had for the car, Mark was given a copy of the original dealer invoice which included the major options the car came with and the original owner’s name. The original cost of the Charger was $3,496.00. Now that Mark knows the full VIN number, he said it should be easier to find the original tags so he and his daughter can bring this once beautiful Charger back to life.

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Cody Krueger

Car Feature Editor – Since the age of 4, Cody has been obsessed with everything Mopar. On Christmas of 1998, Cody's parents gave him a rusty '69 Charger shell that his father saved from a field. Cody's garage still features that '69 Charger as well as the additions of a '70 Coronet, '71 Charger R/T, '71 Super Bee, '04 SRT-4, '06 Grand Cherokee SRT8, '08 Challenger SRT8 and a '17 Ram 1500 Rebel. Cody can truly and proudly say him and his wife are true Mopar nuts in love with all types of Mopars!

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