1973 Dodge Charger SE work log 2009

Work Log 2009

Date 1/1/09

Actually I have been working on collecting parts and getting them ready for Spring.  I have an auxiliary vacuum can.  Perhaps now the power brakes will work a little better with the cam in the Charger.  I have a replacement tail lens for the driver (left) rear of the car.  You can not tell by the pictures but, even though the back up lens area is 'clear', it does have some small stress cracks in it that I wanted to replace.  I found a used one on Ebay and bought it.  It seems to be okay.  It needs a little cleaning, but that is to be expected with used parts.

I have bought a new Mopar Performance distributor with the advance curve.  That should give me a little better response on the throttle.  Since it is cast aluminum, I have decided to polish it and I will have a page dedicated to that process.

I ordered rebuilt door hinges for both doors.  The hinges have been sagging since I bought the Charger and I have not been able to put the weather strip on the door edges since the one on the driver side is so bad that it would just shear off when I closed the door. (yes, the door sags that much).  It has always sounded like I was getting out of an old beat up pick-up truck when I closed the driver side door.  I had found a place in Champlain, NY that rebuilds the door hinges, hood hinges and other parts.  SMS Auto Restoration is the only company that I found that does this and though I have not installed them yet, they look good and are tight.

I am planning on changing the fuel tank and the sender and perhaps re-plumbing the fuel system.  I bought a 3/8" line unit that has a 1/4" return line and I may set that up in an attempt to keep the Mallory fuel pump cooler.  I have to tell you, that Mallory is MUCH quieter than the Holley(s) were.  I have to keep checking to make sure it is running...even without the car running.  Now that is quiet!


Date 1/6/09


The distributor is almost done.  Here is a before and after picture;

Before After
New distributor After

For more pictures during the polishing you can find the page here.


Date 3/7/09

A few weeks ago I clear coated the distributor and baked it.  So, the prep for that part is finished.

Today was the nicest day we have had in a long time.  It actually was about 63 degrees F.  I decided to get a slight head start on a couple of my Charger parts.  I had bought a left tail lens last year from Ebay and it needed cleaning and the paint around the individual segments needed to be redrawn in.  I am replacing the lens that is currently on the car because it has small cracks in the white back-up part of the lens.  It is not horrible but it annoys me so it had to get replaced.  I have posted pictures of the supplies and the procedure on the pictures 2009 page.

Next was on to the rebuilt door hinges.  The hinges have been sagging since I bought the car but I finally found a place that rebuilds them and decided that this was WAY overdue.  The hinges look great but they are shipped with just a light primer coat and they had a few spots of surface rust that needed to be addressed as soon as the weather was warm enough.  I wire brushed the hinges and have coated them with a rust converter and then a primer sealer.  I need to paint them before I install them on the car.  I will also be changing the outer door handles while I have the doors opened up.  I bought a couple new door handles on Ebay and they just need to be installed.

The hinge painting is also on the pictures 2009 page.


Date 3/8/09

Today I installed the driver side (left) rear lens.  I also finished painting and baking the door hinges.  They are ready to be installed (I will be getting help with that since I can not do that alone).  For pictures of the finished hinges you can find them on the pictures 2009 page.


Date: 3/17/09

Today was clean-up day. I wiped the car down with detailer and started working on cleaning the wheels. The tires needed to be scrubbed with a brush. I do not use armor-all or anything like that on the tires but they seemed to have some gunk on them. I was told by a tire guy that is from the mold release agent used when they make the tires. Apparently after a few years, if you are not washing the car and the tires are not subject to acid rain and all that, the tires can show this brownish gunk that really needs to be removed. I used some Spray 9 and a stiff-bristle brush and most of it came off. After that I treated the tires with Meguiars "natural shine" . It is not too shiny and it is not slippery or greasy on the tires.

The next thing was to polish the wheels. I had not polished them since 2005 but, luckily I had waxed them well with American Racing wheel wax and I really did not have to polish them too much. All of the wheel/tire cleaning, polishing and waxing took about 3 hours.


Date: 3/22/09

Today I decided that since the weather was cooperating (not raining and about 52 degrees) I was going to change the distributor.  I have added yet another page with a few tips regarding changing my distributor.  I rechecked the firing order and the wires twice.  This is always a good thing.  Just to make sure that if you are changing caps, like I did, that you have the wires in the correct order before you attempt to fire up the engine.

The Mopar Performance distributor with the performance advance curve does make a difference over the 'stock' curve distributor.  I have also ordered quite a few parts for my Charger so the updates should be coming faster on this year's work log.  I also have some, as of yet, undisclosed tips that I will be covering in the work that I will be doing in the next few weeks.


Date: JUNE 2009!

This one is going to be a MAJOR update since I am doing a great deal of work on my Charger this year.  Never as much as I would like, but this is going to be BIG!

Old Exhaust systemWhere do I begin...  Well, one thing that I will mention is that whatever it seems you do on a "hot rod" or a "vintage ride", you will always end up doing more than you started out to do.  For example; I planned on changing the exhaust system on my Charger.  I am putting in a 3" system straight from the headers to the Flowmaster mufflers and exiting in front of the rear tires. I was planning on changing just the exhaust from the headers back but, soon found that the headers really needed to be changed.  They were not sealing properly and they were rust pitted.  This became clear after media blasting the headers.  Here is the old exhaust system in a pile. :-)

I will be adding more as time goes on and as I get more work finished.  I have posted more pictures in the 2009 image gallery page.

On the list is: Fix transmission leak, replace transmission cooling lines, fix shift detent under power 1st - 2nd, replace exhaust, new rear springs, new shocks all around, new oil dipstick, new transmission dipstick, powder coat drums, replace front rotors, new idler arm, clean and paint engine, replace outside door handles, replace door hinges and seals, powder coat leaf spring bolts, strip and paint rear axle, reset pinion angle, paint calipers, replace "U" joints, undercoat car, change fuel sender unit with a 3/8" pickup, install vacuum can, etc...  The list goes on...

--- Rear Leaf Springs ---
     The rear springs needed changing.  Apparently there were Super Sport springs on my Charger when I bought it and the ride was horrible!  There was virtually no 'give' in the rear.  I bought XHD (extra heavy duty) springs for the Charger and found that they were 22" from the spring perch to the front eye bolt.  The Super Sport springs were only 20".  I want a better ride and I would like to get the rear to drop a couple inches.  The changed arch and lighter spring should give me the drop I am looking for.

Luckily, the forward spring mount had been changed to accommodate the shorter SS springs.  The bracket was long enough for me to drill 5/8" holes 2" forward of the current holes.  That puts the rear back where it belonged.  I also drilled the lower holes (1" below the current holes) just in case I need to raise the rear an inch in the future after the springs settle in.  I also powder coated the "U" bolts and the shock mount brackets.  I also used the stock shackles for the springs.  This should also help get the car stance "right".

I checked the pinion angle (I believe it was never correct with the old setup) and it is currently 5 degrees positive.  I bought the shim kit for changing the angle and will work on getting it set to 4-7 degrees negative.  This should allow the pinion to get closer to 0 degrees under a normal load.

--- Shocks --- 
     I have installed KYB gas adjust shocks in the front and am also installing them in the rear once I have the pinion angle set correctly.  This should also help the ride.  The front shocks that I took off were Gabriel shocks and had apparently been on my Charger for a long time.  The new ones 'expanded' once you cut the retaining strap.  The old ones just laid there...no expansion at all.  That tells me that at least one was completely shot and the other was so weak it was not funny.  I was necessary for me to shave about 1/16" off of the cut-out in the lower control arm to get the shock through to mount the upper stud mount.  Once the upper part of the shock was in place, there is no issue with the top body of the shock interfering with the lower control arm.

--- Transmission Leak --- 
     I believe I have found at least one possible cause of the transmission leaking.  Overfilling!  When I had the transmission rebuilt (shortly after I initially bought my Charger), I got a dipstick that was a bit short.  Trying to fill it to the line caused the transmission to be filled up to about 1-1 1/2" into the filler tube!  We dropped the transmission pan and found that the dipstick barely reached into the transmission.  It was only past the base of the tube by about 1/4".  I called a local transmission repair shop (AAMCO of Middletown) and asked someone I knew there what the level SHOULD be.  He told me that the fluid should just reach the bottom of the valve body.  I can tell you that I was about a quart over that every time I filled the transmission.  I ordered a new dipstick and tube from Mancini Racing and installed it.  I found that the new "Proper" dipstick was also a little short...not as much as the old one, but plenty short.   I decided to use a pipe cutter to cut a little off the top of the fill tube.  Since this is a locking transmission stick, it should not be a problem.  I took off about an inch and that puts the dipstick just about where it really should be.  I also changed the filter and powder coated the transmission pan while I was at it.  Hopefully this will resolve the issue and hopefully there was not too much damage done to the transmission.

I also found out that the 727 transmission has a 'vent' and that is most likely where the fluid was leaking from.  Hopefully the seals are intact.


June 28, 2009

So here are a few more updates.  Along with the pictures in the 2009 gallery, I wanted to give you some more information about all the work that is going on with my Charger lately.

---Spring Hanger---
    Spring mountHere is a picture of the forward leaf spring hanger that was in my Charger.  This is obviously not "stock", I am sure it was added for use with the Super Sport leaf springs.  Since they were 20" from the axle centering pin to the front spring eye bolt.  The bracket here was longer and had the holes 2" back from the original hole location on the stock bracket.  Those would be the holes you see on the right on the bracket.  I drilled in the other ones (on the left) 2" forward.  This allows me to use this bracket and I even added the 1" up/down adjustment holes.  So this bracket will now work with either 20" or 22" forward length springs.  If you need brackets you can get them at Mancini Racing.  They will not be drilled like this unless they see this page and perhaps change the design but they are only 5/8" holes and are not that difficult.

---Headers---
Headers    Here are the new headers. They came black but I decided that I would rather have them in silver.  I coated them with Eastwood Header paint.  Hopefully this will help protect the headers in the future from rust.  Not exactly ceramic coat but since ceramic coated headers for this car are so much money, I opted to go with a 'direct fit' header and paint them.  For the cost of ceramic headers for my '73 Charger, I can buy 4 sets of these headers!

I can also see that these headers are going to fit better than the ones that I took off.  The ones that I removed were on the car when I bought it.  And apparently were not the correct headers for the Charger.  The new headers have the tubes flattened in the proper places to clear the steering column and starter.  The headers that came off did not have the tubes bent properly and not only captured the starter but it looked like someone tried to get the headers to fit the car by taking a hammer to the tube that is too close to the steering column.

---Broken Bolt---
     Broken boltOf course with anything on this car...there are always issues. I guess it is mainly because some of the bolts other fasteners are over 35 years old.  This is where one bolt broke off for the dust shield that sits behind the front rotor.  Only one broke but in trying to get the old bolt out, and a broken tap (had to use my Dremel tool and a diamond burr to get the broken tap out).  I replaced all of the bolts with new ones.  Not that they will need to be removed since the dust shields are now powder coated, but I just did not want to take the chance and since I was changing most of the other hardware in this area, I decided to change all the dust shield bolts.

The broken bolt is not the one you see in the picture...it is actually above the bolt you see...in that hole in the dust shield.

---Cross-drilled and Slotted Rotors---
     Cross Drilled and slotted rotorsFinally, here are the new cross-drilled and slotted rotors!  These were expensive but I believe they will be worth the extra $$$ in stopping power.  From what I have read, after they 'break in' they should stop the car better.  The idea here is to allow the gasses from the heat of braking to exit the rotors.  The slots are meant to 'clean' the pads off as you brake.  I have visited sites that show cracking around the holes on cross-drilled rotors but I also read that this is mainly from road racing type activities.  Since this Charger is almost 4000 lbs., I need all the stopping advantage I can get.  These rotors came from R1 Concepts in California.