This may seem lengthy, but the chain of events that occurred to obtain my car seem to be a bit more than coincidence. Here's my story...
It begins in the summer of 2001. My son was going to be 11- years- old in the fall and he was beginning to take a mild interest in cars. We would build model kits of various old Mopars to line the shelves of his room.
One of the models we built was a '71 Charger R/T. A throw back to my high school days when I owned a '71 Charger that I got from my older brother. It was originally a plain vanilla , 318, column shifted automatic, B5 blue, "topper" car. Topper was an optional package that was spotlighted by a "Canopy" or "Landau" vinyl top.
Over the years, my brother added Rallye gauges, bucket seats, a power bulge hood, R/T/500 tail lamps, 340 - 4 speed and such. I was fond of the car but had to sell it to buy a Shelby Charger.
Back to the story. I decided to put model cars aside in search of a life-size-car project. A father/son project car to work on with my boy. So the quest began. I looked in the listings of a new magazine I had discovered called Mopar Collector's Guide.
Of course my first interest was the '71 Chargers. In the Charger section, I 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
Hmmm - - nice car! I was very interested because the description sounded very similar to my old car. I called the number and was told "Sorry, I sold that about a month ago." I told him thank you and continued my search.
On to the Super Bee section. I found an ad for a red '71, 383 bench seat, 4-speed car. That sounded pretty cool. I began to dial the number and noticed the number looked familiar. It was the same one I just got done calling!
I explained that I had just called and had talked to him about the R/T but thought it was the only car he was selling. He told me the Bee had also sold just a week ago. Dang - missed again!
I asked if he had anything else. He replied, "Oh yeah, I've got a lot of cars but not any more '71 Chargers".
His list included Road Runners, Challengers, a Coronet R/T Convert, a '70 Charger R/T 4 speed, an AAR 4 speed and many more. I was writing all this down and asked if I could get pictures. The cars were packed in storage so tightly, that the best he could get was the corner of a bumper or fender.
He was located in Oklahoma. "If I’m ever down that way," I asked, "could I come see what you have?"
"Sure," he replied, "but call first since I'm on the road a lot looking for more cars."
I kept his name, number and list of cars tucked in my Collector's Guide.
One of my other brothers has accumulated many special interest cars over the years. One of them was a gold '68 Plymouth GTX that was absolutely rust free when he acquired it. But it was starting to weather from being stored outdoors in Minnesota. He was willing to part with it but '68 isn't my favorite year.
I started to think of it being converted into a convertible and thought, that would make it interesting enough to stick with it. Now my focus was directed towards finding a Plymouth B-body convertible for a donor.
I found a GTX convert down in Michigan. When I talked to the owner about it he painted a pretty good picture. We negotiated a price and off I went to Michigan, which is a 12-hour drive from my home.
When I got there I rented a car trailer and went to the guy's house to find a clapped out rust bucket. The quarters were attached at the tops and flapping in the breeze at the bottoms with nothing to attach to. The "great shape" wheel tubs I asked about turned out to be soft rusted garbage that was useless. The 440 ran but blew so much oil out every hole that the underside of the hood was literally dripping with oil.
Needless to say I was very disappointed about the misrepresentation. We haggled for a bit but he wasn't budging on price. He seemed pretty confident this guy who just drove 12 hours and rented a trailer, isn't about to turn around empty-handed. I grimaced, said, "I can't do it," and headed back home. All the way home I was wondering if I had made the right decision.
When I got back, my son was all excited to see our new project. He was devastated! As I consoled him I was inwardly still trying to convince myself that I did the right thing. I told him that it just wasn't the right car for us and that the right one will come along. We just need to be patient.
I turned to Ebay to show him there are other cars out there. BINGO! I see a B5 '71 Charger R/T. Rough but pretty complete. The auction had one bid of $1500 and still displayed BUY IT NOW, but no price.
I contacted the seller by phone and asked why he was selling it. With an Indiana drawl he said, "I’m not really a mopower man. I’m an Oldsmobile guy." He went on to explain that he bought it because the buddies he was with at the time told him that if he didn’t buy it, that they would! So he bought it but hadn’t done anything with it. Since winter was coming his wife wanted her van in the garage, so something had to go and it certainly wasn't going to be his Hurst Olds!
I asked about the BUY IT NOW status and why there was no price with it? I told him the BUY IT NOW usually doesn't go away until reserve is met.
He said "Oh, that's why. I didn't have a reserve."
When I asked what the BUY IT NOW price was, he said $3500.
"OH! I'D PAY THAT RIGHT NOW!" I said. "Will you end the auction?"
He said he did a lot with Ebay and didn't want get in trouble with them. I didn't want him to get in trouble, but I was willing to pay his price. I went on to tell him my sob story about how I used to own a car in high school that looked very similar to this one and how I kicked myself for selling it. I explained that I was looking for a father/son project to work on with my 11 year old, and how the GTX thing, a few days previous, turned out and how upset my boy was about it.
He was silent for a few moments and then said "I'll tell you what, cut me a check for $2500 and it's yours."
WHAT! I told him I'd pay $3500 just minutes before that! "SOLD!" I shouted.
I made arrangements to mail him the check in order to hold the car until I could get there. It would be at least a week before I could make the trip. I was so excited that I tried to figure out how to get there sooner. It turned out I was able to finagle time off work on the night shift.
I called the seller and asked if the time frame would work for him. He said yes, so I told him I’d be leaving the next night and would see him the next morning. I realized that if I put the check in the mail that I would beat it to Indiana. I called him again and asked if he would hold the car and trust that I’m on my way with the check in hand. He had no problem with that.
I was in a frenzy. I went to work the next night ready to work only half of my 12-hour shift and then leave for Indiana at midnight. One of my workmates came over to chat, so I started telling him about my plans of heading out at midnight to get this car. He was curious about the car so I went online to show him the pictures I had saved from Ebay. I happened to check Ebay and was shocked to see the car was still listed and was now bid up to $3500. I was sick! I figured there is no way this guy is going to sell me the car for $2500 when he has a bid of $3500.
I tried to call him to see what was going on but there was no answer. I could just picture him sitting there looking at his caller ID and laughing at this putz from Minnesota who still thinks he's got a chance to get the car for $2500 and saying to himself "I'm not going to answer this".
I didn't want to leave work early for nothing and I certainly didn't want to drive all the way down to Indiana for nothing (another 12 hour drive.) I called my oldest brother whose truck I was using and who planned to go with me and told him that I think the deal is off and explained why. My brother took the seller’s phone number said he’d continue to try and reach him. About 20 minutes later my brother called me back to tell me that he talked with the seller and that our deal was still on.
"Really? Still $2500?" I asked.
"I didn't ask that," my brother said. So he dialed the owner and included him in our conference phone conversation
"Are we still on for the $2,500?" I asked
"That’s what we agreed on, right?" the seller replied.
"Great!" I said, "see you around noon tomorrow!" I was PUMPED! I went down to Indiana and back and never felt the least bit tired despite the sleepless 38 hours.
On a side note, my son noticed that the license plates on the Charger model we built months before were Indiana plates.
Now that I had the car back here in Minnesota, I started to search for what I could get in reproduction parts and what I had to find used or NOS. One night I was looking through my old Collector's Guide to see what was available when a piece of paper fell out of it. My wife inquired as to what it was. I explained that it was the list of cars owned by the guy in Oklahoma that I had written down a few months earlier. I told her how I called this guy in Oklahoma about a '71 R/T but it was sold, so then …blah, blah… Super bee… blah, blah… realized…blah, blah…same guy… and this was the list of other cars he had.
I paged back in the magazine to show her the ad of the R/T in Oklahoma that I first called on and really wished I could have gotten. As I started to read the ad and the options listed, it started to dawn on me that this sounds a lot like the car I bought.
As I looked again at the Oklahoma list of cars I had written down I looked at the guy’s name and for some reason it was more familiar than it should have been. I quickly went to the file cabinet to pull out the title to the Charger. Lo and behold, the name on the title matched the name on my list of cars from the seller in Oklahoma!
The guy in Indiana had not transferred the title and had owned the Charger for only about 4 months. After all this, unbeknownst to me, I ended up with the very car I was wanting from the start of my search. Not only that, but I paid $2000 dollars less than I would have in Oklahoma and I didn't have to travel as far to get it.
Now, The Icing... I was going through the car studying everything I could. I opened up the ashtray and found a dental appointment slip from Cocoa Beach Fla. I decided to track down the name on the slip, figuring it may lead to the original owner of the car. Long story short, (which is odd for me) I tracked him down living in Oklahoma. THE ORIGINAL OWNER!
I called him and got the story of how he came to order the car. He checked off "Hemi" on the order form as well as "air conditioning" but the dealer told him he had to chose one or the other. (No A/C with N96 hood.) Living in Oklahoma, he determined A/C was more important.
I had to chuckle when he said "It was okay by me, I didn't really like that corny little pop-up hood scoop anyway" He also wanted the "Landau" vinyl roof but again was told he couldn't get that on an R/T, only the SE. So he ordered it without vinyl and had the dealer install it for him.
Time went by and the Charger was worked on for the next 9 years on and off (life happens). In Spring 2010 I was at MOPARS IN THE PARK in Farmington Minnesota and saw a very nice survivor '71 Hemi Charger R/T, B5, Stripe delete car from Missouri. I kept gravitating towards it. I talked with the owner for quite some time and he let me take reference photos of his car.
Rain interrupted our conversation so we scattered for shelter but when the rain stopped I found myself heading back to that Hemi Charger. When I got to the car, the owner was talking with another gentleman who was interested in buying his car so I just mulled around his car taking more pictures.
While I was doing that I heard the gentleman say, "My name is (so and so) if you ever want to sell it." I couldn't believe my ears. It was the same name that was on my title and piece of paper with the list of cars.
I asked him, "Did you say your name is (so and so)?"
He said, "Yes why? "
I told him, "I own one of your old cars (‘71 Charger) that you sold about 9 years ago." He remembered the car very well. I always thought he only owned the car for a short while and flipped it, explaining the dental appointment card still in the ashtray.
"No," he said, "I owned (only stored) it for 15 years." He then gave details that lined up with the original owner’s story.
So again, just by chance, I happen to meet the second titled owner here in my own state. I end my story in the fall of 2010 when I finally painted the car and got it to its current condition - presentable, but still a work in progress. They're never really done…are they?