To say Mike Plunkett of Oklahoma loves 1971 Dodge Charger R/Ts is an understatement. As the owner of www.1971chargerrt.com, Mike has a strong passion for everything to do with ’71 R/Ts. “In the past, I’ve owned three other 1971 Charger R/Ts. I had a beautiful red one with a black vinyl top that I showed in the mid 1980’s, a brown one with a black vinyl top and a white one with a white vinyl top. Unfortunately while I have vivid memories of them, only few pictures exist of the cars when I owned them,” says Mike.
In the early 1980’s, Mike came across a 1971 Challenger convertible for sale in the local paper. Having owned a 1973 Challenger in the past, Mike decided to drive out to take a look at it. “It was a driver and had a working top. I bought the car for $800 (I think they were asking $1,100). Now that seems like a total steal but back then, it was just another used car. It had a 318 and a flat hood. When I bought it, the guy said that he had the original cassette player that mounted on the console that he would give to me with the car if I wanted it. Funny enough that the cassette player is now worth more than I paid for the whole car! When I decided to restore it, I added an R/T hood, side stripes and repainted it in its original FC7 Plum Crazy Purple. When it rolled out of the paint booth, I was instantly in love with the color!” Mike tells us.
Over the years, cars came and went. In 2001, Mike decided he wanted to find and purchase another ’71 Charger R/T but this time, it had to be a factory Plum Crazy car. He says, “I had previously owned the ‘71 Challenger convertible that was this color and I really liked it. Because I had already owned a brown, white and red ‘71 R/T, this one was going to be Plum Crazy. During my hunt, I found two R/Ts that had originally been a different color and someone had painted them Plum Crazy at some point but I wanted an original factory painted one. Even though I was going to repaint the car, it was important to me to have a factory original FC7 car.” After looking for a few weeks with no luck, a friend of Mike told him that one reason he was having trouble finding one was because they didn’t make very many. “It seems that this color was popular in the E-body cars; but not as many 1971 B-bodies were painted in the color. According to Galen Govier, only about 203 1971 Charger R/T’s were painted this color but that hasn’t been confirmed,” says Mike.
Not ready to give up his search, Mike kept hunting. After searching the internet a few more weeks, he found a driver condition 1971 Charger R/T that was purple in Detroit. The car was numbers matching with only 81,000 original miles. It appeared to be amazingly complete so after exchanging pictures via email, Mike flew to Detroit in November 2001. “I drove the car for two hours, crawled around inside and out and after confirming that it was indeed a factory original Plum Crazy car, I bought it. I had it trucked home to Oklahoma City one week later,” says Mike. The Charger was for the most part all there; something important when restoring a Third Generation Charger like this one being as reproduction parts aren’t as commonly made like the Second Generation ones. Mike’s Charger even had a 1970 Goodyear Polyglas date coded spare tire in the trunk; one Mike thinks might actually be the original! The underside of the trunk lid even still had the original grease pencil marks on it! It’s an early built car with a production number of August 18th, 1970.
Mike tells us, “Back in the early 1980’s when I was restoring my other 1971 Charger R/T’s, I do not ever recall people mentioning the phrase “numbers matching”. Most folks never thought twice about replacing a transmission or an engine in a car. Don’t get me wrong, I know real collectors probably talked about it but the average guy at the local car show never talked about it. It was quite that bonus that mine remained numbers matching over the years.” Once Mike got the Charger home, he decided it needed a full restoration to get to the quality he desired. Once he stripped the car apart, he sent the body off to his friend Buddy Hooper at Hooper Enterprises in Oklahoma City for the body work and paint. While the body was there, Mike took advantage of their large blasting cabinets to strip a whole bunch of various parts for the Charger. With them clean, Mike spent hours restoring parts such as the front suspension components, exhaust manifolds and intake manifold to original condition.
When Mike removed the dash from the Charger, he came across quite the surprise. “When I removed the dash, it was obvious it had never been out since it was put in back in August 1970. Hanging from the top of the firewall was a blank “fender tag” hanging on a paperclip with Plum Crazy overspray on it. I have since been told of others who have also found these, but it is rare. Apparently the fender tags were hung there and at some point, the workers on the assembly line would punch them. While some cars needed two tags because of the number of options, Lynch Road cars like mine are notorious for not having many options listed. I figure since my car did not need the other tag, someone simply forgot to remove it. Needless to say, there it hung for 30 years! “ says Mike.
Once the body work was complete, Mike and Buddy spent a good amount of time spraying test chips to make sure they had the correct shade of Plum Crazy. From what we’ve experienced over the years, there are quite a few different manufacturers that make Plum Crazy paint however a number of them are incorrect and off just a shade. Using some original purple bolts from an area that wouldn’t have faded over the years along with the original mirror mount off his old Plum Crazy 1971 Challenger, Mike and Buddy were able to match the new paint perfectly.
“I have a word of advice to anyone wanting to do a car restoration; don’t rush your paint and body guy. You will never forget a bad paint job. I am convinced that just about anyone can do bad body work, but it is rare to run across an everyday body shop that will even consider taking on a restoration project. They make a lot more money per hour replacing a fender on a newer car than they ever will doing a total restoration of an old muscle car. Unfortunately the general public will only notice the top 1/64 of an inch of paint and clear coat on top but what really counts is the prep work underneath that shell of a paint job,” says Mike.
Once he got the Charger home from the body shop, Mike quickly went to work reassembling it. The engine was completely rebuilt in his garage and the transmission was treated to a cleanup and new fluids and filter. The interior is all brand new pieces from Legendary and YearOne; with the exception of the dash pad. Surprisingly, it was still in brand new condition which is very uncommon as they are usually the first thing to go! The re-assembly of the Charger didn’t take very long as he was itching to drive it again. “You see, I had only driven the car a total of 59 miles before I started tearing it apart. When you drive a car 59 miles in 5 years, you are pretty anxious to get in and drive!
The day I got it running, I drove it to the corner to gas her up and I almost killed myself. I should have bled those brakes a little better but I got a lot of thumbs up during that short first drive!” In closing, Mike says “I never realized until now but I have owned it since 2001 and bought it with 81,460 miles on it. Now, in 2018, it has 82,300 miles; so in the 16 or 17 years I have owned the car, I have driven it less than 800 miles! Maybe it is time I consider moving it along to someone who might enjoy it a little more. I am not as young as I was but we shall see!”