Donny Lippard, President of the Music City Mopar Club of Nashville, TN, was at the Ardmore Car Show on August 9th, 2014 where he met a fellow car enthusiast. It was raining and his GTO was parked behind him so Donny asked him to come in from the rain and join the club under their tent until the weather cleared. After talking about cars in general and then Mopars in particular, it turned out he was ready to sell portions of his 23 vehicle collection ranging from Lil’ Red Express trucks to an award winning 1971 Road Runner.
In fact, he received a couple calls about some of them during the conversation. Donny met him at his house in northern Alabama the next day to view his vehicles. The 1971 Road Runner and a 1970 Charger R/T (possibly an SE) were on Donny’s radar screen. The Road Runner was “too complete” and out of his budget range, but the Charger was the type of project car he was looking to obtain.
Top left: Here is what the Charger looked like upon arrival, a B5 blue, numbers matching, 1970 Charger R/T with a 440, automatic trans, console, bucket seats, air conditioned, power brakes, power steering, B5 blue interior, white vinyl top and white stripe project car. Top right: As you can see the “restoration” consisted of removing the vinyl top, most of the exterior trim, tail lights, side markers, rear bumper, interior door cards, bucket seats, rear seat and various other interior components. The console, carpet and interior wiring was still intact. The R/T scoops on each side were removed by the restorer’s wife and her riding lawn mower. It had been in the yard for 8+ years and evidently it was important to cut as close to the vehicle as possible … and for good measure, run over the scoops after they were knocked off. Bottom left: Red flag alert! How long has this beast been sitting for it to have sunk this deep into the earth? After some serious digging it could finally move again, with the help of a chain and a tractor. Bottom right: No charge for the leather wrapped steering wheel, buffer and grinder new in the box. What a deal. At least it did have a good console and the air conditioning dash was in complete and remarkable shape.
After digging out the Charger and dragging it home, Donny began the process of seeing what he was up against. He contacted a restoration expert (yours truly) to evaluate the work required to properly restore this numbers matching muscle car. What I found was a very complete project car that had seen years of neglect. Just about every panel of the beast needed to be replaced or repaired. Since this was Donny’s first total restoration and after seeing what would be required to get the car ready for paint he knew he needed to call “9-1-1.”
Located in Cleveland, GA, Auto Metal Direct’s AMD Installation Center has the tools, parts, and expertise to bring back just about any Mopar from the dead! They have a fantastic online-based estimating tool that allowed you to specify what parts you wanted to replace, generate a complete estimate (parts and labor) required to complete the repairs, and a goal to complete the repairs in 30 days. You read that right, 30 days not 3 years!
Top left: After blasting the entire car Donny asked me to inspect the car and help he see what all he needed to do to bring the car back. This is the first area that slapped me in the face. It only got worse from here. Top right: As with most of the Mopars that have been left outside the floors were toast. So was the trunk floor. Repairing and replacing just these floors is a lot to ask for a first time restorer. Bottom left: The owner did his best to make a list of the parts he thought were needed. He bought the AMD parts from Stephens Performance in Alabama. He bought all the parts and wrote the part number and price on tape. He did this before deciding to let AMD Installation do the work, but Craig was able to take these parts and install them on the car. He also added many panels that were needed as the process continued since he uses AMD metal. Bottom right: At least the frame rails were in good shape. These rails are available and can be replaced, but I strongly suggest that you let a professional shop with the ability to put the car, or what is left, on a jig so that everything is lined up correctly and will fit.
Craig Hopkins, the owner of AMD Installation Center was able to guide Donny step-by-step through the complete replacement of every panel and piece that the Charger needed to regain its former glory. Craig and Donny did a thorough inspection and discussed his restoration goal and how the work he was requesting would allow him to meet his goal. Donny wanted a driver that he could drive to local shows and then a long distance show held at the Big Easy Mopar show in 2017.
During the inspection, there were several more issues discovered that would best be served by panel replacement rather than trying to cut out and repair the rotted areas. One of those areas involved the drip rails. Craig was to acquire the additional parts and begin the work the following week. Actually, Craig is an AMD dealer and can provide all parts for the project.
Top left: Just ask yourself, “Can I get a car to this point and get it back together correctly?” This is serious surgery and they are just getting into the car. It involves much more than just chopping off the quarters. You must know what to chop and what to keep. Top right: Frame rails are saved as well as the inner trunk support. The rest, Dutchman panel, trunk opening, and quarter are all needing replacement. Bottom left: AMD Installation Center began to cut all the panels off that were rusted through. If the quarter was all that needed to be replaced a good mechanic or body man could replace it in his garage with a good mig welder. As you can see it was way more involved than a simple quarter replacement. Bottom right: Finally the car is reduced to its most basic existence, the frame rail and inner support structure. Now it is time to get what is left of the Charger on the jig and start to bring it back from the dead.
Craig was communicating with Donny frequently during the entire process sending pictures and updates all along. AMD Installation Center has created a jig table to insure that the panels are installed to meet factory specifications and are aligned properly. They utilize spot welders to duplicate the factory process as much as possible. All weld locations had the black primer ground off, weld through primer applied prior to welding. After welds were complete an additional primer was applied to all of the exposed bare metal.
So now Donny gets to have a great time getting the Charger ready to paint in less than two months with factory new sheet metal and welds. AMD Installation Center is the place to take that terminally ill Mopar to get new life in a reasonable amount of time. You will know up front what it will take to get your project back together, with regular pictures and communications, in a reasonable amount of time, with factory quality workmanship. The only thing that could be better was if you could buy it new!
Top left: After getting all the old sheet metal removed the remaining structure is prepared and treated so it will not rust again. All new AMD metal comes e-coated and the areas that will need to be spot welded are ground to bare metal and then sprayed with weld through primer so the seam will never rust. Can you say “Mega Clamps!” Top right: As you can see in this picture the left front frame rail was damaged and needed to be replaced. The inner fenders were both replaced. Notice the roof skin is also removed but the structure is ready for a new one. Bottom left: After many hours of precise fitment and skillful welding the car begins to show signs of life and the beautiful body lines that made the Charger famous begin to appear. The quarter will be leaded in the same way it was done at the factory. Bottom right: Getting this Charger back to this state of completion is nothing less than amazing. These guys are professionals and can take a basket case back to like new condition and all the panels, door gaps, and trim will fit like new! Now Donny can save several years of work and rest assured that this Charger will be solid and correct from now until…well, forever!