Second Time Around: Lyndon Lyons’ 1971 Dodge Charger R/T


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In the summer of 2001, Lyndon Lyons and his ten-year-old son built model kits of various old Mopars to line the shelves of his room. One of the models they built was a 1971 Charger R/T. This one held a special place in Lyndon’s heart as he owned a 318-powered, column-shift automatic 1971 Charger in high school. Receiving the car from his older brother, it was originally B5 blue with the “Topper” canopy vinyl top. Over the years, his brother added Rallye gauges, bucket seats, a power bulge hood, R/T tail lamps and swapped the drivetrain for a 340 4-speed. Lyndon says he was fond of the car but sold it to buy a Shelby Charger.

One day he decided to put model cars aside in search of a life-size project; a father-and-son project car to work on together with his boy. So the quest began; he opened up the newest issue of Mopar Collector’s Guide and began searching through the classifieds. Of course his first interest was the 1971 Chargers. In the Charger section, he found the following ad: 1971 Charger R/T: 440, 4-bbl, console, a/t, 3.23, 8-3/4 rear, GB5 Bright Blue w/White int & top, stripe delete, optioned w/ps, pb, pw, a/c, cruise, 6-way seat, am/fm/cass, 1 owner, #s matching eng/tran w/matching broadcast sheet, needs resto, $4500

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He was very interested because the description sounded very similar to his old car. He called the number and was told, “Sorry, I sold that about a month ago.” So, the hunt continued. The next ad he found was for a red 1971 Super Bee with a 383 bench seat, 4-speed. He began to dial the number and noticed the number looked familiar. It was the same one he had just got called with the R/T! Lyndon explained that he had just called and had talked to him about the R/T but thought it was the only car he was selling. He told him the ‘Bee had also sold a week ago. Frustrated, he tucked the piece of paper with the seller’s name and number into the magazine and closed it.

Over the next few months, Lyndon started to consider other Mopars, and a 1968 GTX convertible caught his eye. He called the owner and the guy painted a pretty good picture of the car. They negotiated a price and off he went to Michigan; a 12-hour drive from his home. When he got there, he discovered it was nothing like the seller had said. It was a complete rust bucket with a 440 that poured oil out. He decided to pass and left empty handed. When he got back, his son, excited to see their new project, was devastated when he saw dad’s empty trailer. Lyndon told him that it just wasn’t the right car for them and that the right one would come along with some patience.

 

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Lyndon decided to turn to eBay and almost instantly, came across an ad for a rough but pretty complete B5 Blue 1971 Charger R/T. The auction had one bid of $1,500 and had the “Buy It Now” feature, but displayed no price. Lyndon contacted the seller by phone and asked why he was selling it. The seller explained that he was an “Oldsmobile guy” and had bought it on a whim four months prior but hadn’t touched it since getting it home. He hadn’t even transferred the name of ownership on the title yet! Since winter was coming, the seller’s wife wanted her van in the garage and something had to go (and it certainly wasn’t going to be his Hurst Olds 442). When he asked what the “Buy It Now” price was, he said $3,500.

“Oh! I’d pay that right now!” he exclaimed. “Will you end the auction?” Lyndon told the seller that he used to own a car in high school that looked very similar to this one and how he kicked himself for selling it. He explained that he was looking for a project to work on with his son and how the GTX incident a few days prior turned out and how upset his boy was about it. The seller was silent for a few moments and then said I’ll tell you what, cut me a check for $2,500 and it’s yours.”

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A couple of days later, Lyndon made the trip to Indiana and picked up the Charger. Once he got the car back home to Minnesota, he started to search for parts for the project. One night while looking through old magazines for parts, a piece of paper fell out of it. His wife picked it up and inquired as to what it was. He told her how he had called this guy in Oklahoma about a 1971 R/T and then paged back in the magazine to show her the ad of it. As he read the ad off and options listed, it started to dawn on him that it sounded a lot like the car in his garage. He took a look at the piece of paper again and then looked at the title to the Charger. Lo and behold, the name on the title matched the name on the paper! He was amazed that he had ended up with the very car that he had found in the beginning of his search and not only that, but he paid $2,000 less than the first seller wanted!

While going through the car one day, he opened up the ashtray and found a dental appointment slip from Cocoa Beach, FL. He decided to track down the name on the slip, figuring it may lead to the original owner of the car. Sure enough, it was the original owner of the Charger! In discussion with him, Lyndon got the story of how he came to order the car. When ordering it, he checked off “426 Hemi” on the order form as well as “air conditioning” but the dealer told him he had to choose one or the other. Living in Oklahoma at the time, he determined A/C was more important over the elephant engine. He also wanted the canopy style vinyl roof like he had seen on a SE model but was told he couldn’t get that on an R/T so he ordered it without a vinyl roof and had the dealer install one for him when it showed up.

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Since buying it, Lyndon and his son have fully restored the car back to its original factory condition including the dealer-added canopy roof. The car is all numbers matching with its original 440 4-barrel, console-shift 727 automatic. It’s optioned very nicely with a 3.23 Sure Grip 8.75 rear end, A/C, power disc brakes, power windows, power steering, six-way driver seat, cruise control, AM/FM stereo and a rare console mounted cassette player. When Lyndon got the car, the engine was seized, the carb was missing and the hood had been stolen at some point. When he attempted to free up the motor, he pulled the distributor and saw oil right up to the top of the lifter valley. He thought, “Oh, good, someone filled it with oil in an attempt to help free it,” but when he pulled the drain plug on the pan, five gallons of water poured out before finally a little oil started to dribble out. One cylinder turned out to be cracked so he brought it to the machine shop to sleeve the cylinder.

Lyndon says he ended up leaving the block, crank and heads at the machine shop for about three years as life intervened with raising three kids and quitting his job of 16 years to buy an auto repair business with his brother. One year, for Father’s Day, his wife and kids surprised him with the news that they had seen to it that the machine work was all done and secretly brought the block, crank, heads, all the reconditioned rods with new pistons and gasket set to his brother’s garage and set everything up on the engine stand for him! The radiator was sent out and re-cored and the transmission was rebuilt by a friend who worked as a transmission tech at a Chrysler dealership.

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In 2008, he started to pick away at the Charger again. To get the body work dealt with, Lyndon put the car on a home-built rotisserie to replace the driver’s floor pan and do some small patches on the underside. The Charger’s roof and dutchman panel were both considerably rusty so he bought a 1974 Charger parts car, which donated its roof skin and dutchman panel to the R/T. Once all the welding and body work was complete, he primed the Charger and let the primer cure for a few months before finally block sanding the entire car in preparation for paint.

With some help with funding from his 81-year old mother and oldest brother, Lyndon masked off and painted the Charger a fresh coat of B5 Blue in his garage. For the hood black-out R/T decal, his brother made an exact duplicate on his vinyl cutting machine based off dimensions from a spare FC7 R/T hood that Lyndon had. Once the body and paint was complete, the Charger was fully reassembled and brand new white interior was installed. Finally, it was ready to enjoy by both father and son!

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Cody Krueger

Car Feature Editor – cody.krueger@shawgroupmedia.com 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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