More Mopar for the Money

  • First generation Dodge Chargers had a very distinctive fastback styling. - 0
  • This Charger is powered by a 383-ci V-8. - 1
  • This 1966 Charger was rebuilt mechanically and had rechromed bumpers. - 2
  • 1946-1948 Plymouth coupes have very clean lines and can easily be turned into great street rods. - 3
  • Plymouth 2-door sedans are also handsome cars with spacious interiors. - 4
  • Plymouth Suburban 2-door station wagon styling has held up very well over sixty years. - 5
  • Modern large diameter custom wheels, low profile tires and a lowered stance turned the Suburban surfboard transporter into an outstanding street rod. - 6
  • 1964-1966 Plymouth Barracudas are notable for their oversized rear windows - 7
  • First generation Barracudas were available with slant six cylinder engines or this 273-ci V-8. - 8
  • 1967-1969 Barracudas were restyled and received a more traditional rear fastback window. - 9
  • The stubby little Dodge A100 cargo and passenger vans have a lot of potential. - 10
  • The lowered stance, tubbed rear wheel wells, monster tires and lack of bumpers give this A100 the look of a full-sized Hot Wheels truck. - 11
  • The uniquely styled A100 compact pickups have a strong following, but less than perfect examples can be found under $10,000. - 12
  • 1963-1966 Dodge Dart hardtops make great cruisers. Their style is simple, but unique. - 13
  • The standard Dart hardtops have cleaner, better looking roofs than the more expensive Dart GT hardtops. - 14
  • Mid-sixties Dodge and Plymouth base model station wagons, like this 1965 Plymouth Belvedere II, are very popular and can push our price ceiling. - 15
  • A big popularity factor of mid-60s base model wagons is their strong resemblance to the incredibly desirable factory lightweight racers of the same era. - 16
  • Dodge D100 Sweptline shortbed pickups are very handsome trucks with huge potential. - 17
  • The same era D100 Utiline pickups are the same basic truck, but the stepside bed isn’t as well proportioned. - 18
  • Dodge 3-window business coupes (this is a 1941) have unique roofs and extra long rear deck lids. - 19
  • The short deck 1949-1952 Mopar business coupes like this Plymouth are better balanced aesthetically. - 20
  • The 1941-1948 business coupes had long noses to accommodate the big inline flathead 6 and 8 cylinder engines. - 21
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by Bruce Caldwell  More from Author

Mopar Deals for Ten Grand or Less

Mopar musclecars are still among the superstars of the automobile hobby. Things might not be as frenetic as they once were, but anything 1964-1971 with a Hemi, 440 six pack, Max Wedge, 340 six pack, or any factory lightweight cars are still golden. In the earlier sixties/fifties Mopar milieu, the flashiest Hemi and wedge cars continue to command big bucks. Fins remain in, and Chrysler products trail no one in the fabulous fifties fin department.

Going back even further than the 1955 Chrysler 300s, the massive wood-bodied Chrysler Town and Country convertibles and sedans are bringing truckloads of cash. All these expensive Mopars can be a little depressing for the bargain hunter, but there are still lots of very interesting Mopars for less than $10,000.

We’ve assembled a list of widely divergent Mopars that span fifty years and include cars, station wagons, vans and pickups. Our primary criterion was their fun quotient or bang for the buck, not their investment potential. You can keep looking for that Hemi ‘Cuda in a barn, but you might as well be driving a neat old Mopar while you’re hunting.

Our $10,000 ceiling is arbitrary, but it makes for a clean cutoff point. Don’t expect any show cars at this price, but you should be able to find reasonably solid, drivable vehicles. There’s always a tradeoff between cosmetic and mechanical condition. Given a choice, we prefer a sound body. Mechanical repairs are easier and less expensive. Completeness (less engine and transmission) is also very important.

Some choices are plainer, less powerful versions of more expensive Mopars. There is so much drivetrain interchangeability that it makes sense to buy a nice six-cylinder Mopar and upgrade to a big V-8 later.

Some choices may be advertised for more than $10,000, but it never hurts to aim high and then negotiate a lower price. Or, you can hit a lower buy-in and use the surplus for improvements.

Rust is a general problem with any old car or truck. For this reason, it pays to shop nationally. The extra transportation costs of a low-rust west coast car can quickly pay off in saved restoration expenses.

Some accompanying photos are of vehicles that obviously cost more than $10,000, but these photos show the tremendous potential of these fun cars and trucks.

1966-1967 Dodge Charger

The 1968-1970 Dodge Chargers are among the elite of collectible Mopar musclecars, but the first generation Chargers have been largely overlooked. Sure, anything with a Hemi is far, far above the $10,000 price ceiling, but cars with the smaller 318 and 383 V-8s can be found at our target price. Automatic equipped cars are less expensive and easier to find than 4-speed cars. 

These early Chargers share much with the Coronet 500, but they have many unique features such as the fastback roof design and hidden headlights. The interior focused on luxury. Chargers were strictly four passenger vehicles due to a full-length center console. Folding rear seats made for a spacious cargo area. Items up to 7 ½ feet long could be accommodated.

Watch for: Any problems or missing parts related to the unique fastback components from the doors back. Rear seat area completeness and condition are very important. The center console became optional in 1967 and differed from the 1966 version. Beware of rust on 1967 Chargers with vinyl roofs.

Alternate choice: 1966 and 1967 Dodge Coronet 500 hardtops. The 1967 Coronet R/T models exceed our price ceiling.

1946-1948 Plymouth Coupes/Sedans

When it comes to post World War II street rods, builders favor 1946-1948 Fords and, to a lesser degree, the same year Chevys. The fastback Chevys are particularly popular with lowriders. A car that is every bit as handsome (if not more so) is the same era Plymouth. The lines of the Plymouths are very clean and flowing. The simple, horizontal grille bars are much more attractive than the busy egg crate grilles on the same era Dodges and Chryslers. The Plymouth grilles are also better looking than the “waterfall” DeSoto grilles.

The coupes have a popularity edge over the two-door sedans, because coupes are generally considered more typical hot rods than sedans. The coupes have reasonably spacious rear seats and excellent trunks, while the sedans have incredible rear seat room and OK trunks. Even though Plymouths were the company price leaders, they still had rather ornate, art deco style dashboards. There is ample room in the engine compartments for modern engines such as a 340 or 360 V-8. However, the available aftermarket street rod suspension components don’t equal what’s made for Fords and Chevys.

Watch for: Completeness is important, especially for trim items. Reproduction parts availability isn’t good. Typical rust problems are where the rear fenders meet the body and in the trunk and floorboards.

Alternate choice: The 1946-1948 Dodges just aren’t as smooth and handsome as the Plymouths, so we’d look for a 1940-1941 Plymouth coupe.

1949-1952 Plymouth Suburban Station Wagons

Not all Suburbans were GM products. Plymouth called many of their station wagons Suburbans, too. The 1949 Plymouth Suburban 2-door station wagon was revolutionary for its all-steel construction. No wood was used structurally or cosmetically. This eliminated the classic woodie styling and all the tedious upkeep associated with wood trim.

The Plymouth Suburban wagons were built on the shorter 111-inch wheelbase chassis. Their short bodies give them a sportier look that’s well suited to street rods. Their grilles are derivative of the 1948 grilles (a good thing), but the doors eliminated any vestigial running board cues.

It takes very little to turn these handsome wagons into street rods. A lowered suspension, modern wheels and tires, and a V-8 engine/automatic transmission will easily produce a nice rod. Mechanical improvements are pretty much up to the builder, because these cars aren’t popular enough to warrant aftermarket parts or kits.

Watch for: All parts related to the tailgate/liftgate and rear cargo area are important. The condition/completeness of anything behind the doors is more critical than any forward components.

Alternate choice: Plymouth two-door station wagons were greatly changed for 1953-1954. They’re lower and longer and lack the charm of the 1949-1952 Suburbans, but they’re still unique and decent alternatives.

1964-1969 Plymouth Barracudas

The 1964 Plymouth Barracuda was introduced right before the new Mustang 2+2 fastback, but it just didn’t grab the public’s attention (or purchase orders) like the Mustang. The Barracuda was a more practical application of the fastback (glassback?) body style, but the large rear glass might have been a bit too much. The rear glass does absorb a lot of heat, which is a consideration if you summer in Arizona.

The first generation Barracuda is based on the Plymouth Valiant, which greatly increases the availability of common parts. Even though the large rear window can absorb a lot of heat, the fold-down rear seats and pass-through (between the small trunk and the interior) provide a substantial amount of cargo space. Early print ads often featured surfboards as an example of the practical nature of Barracudas.

Initial engine choices were the venerable slant six in 170- and 225-ci displacements and the 273-ci small block V-8. A 4-speed manual transmission was available with the two larger engines. Either the larger slant six or the small V-8 make great daily drivers. The 273 V-8 can easily be swapped out for a more powerful 340 or 360 V-8.

The Barracuda was mildly restyled in 1966 and drastically changed in 1967. A convertible and a hardtop coupe were added in 1967. The 1967 and later rear glass is more conventional, in that it doesn’t wrap around. Either the first or second generation Barracudas are good deals, but the earlier ones have more character.

The second generation Barracudas were eventually fitted with optional big block 383 and 440 V-8s, but these cars are rare, highly desirable and priced accordingly.

Watch for: The caveats for fastback Barracudas are similar to those for first generation Chargers—pay careful attention to anything related to the unique rear halves of these cars.

Alternate choice: The 1967-1969 Barracuda hardtop is a little tough to find, but it can be a fun sport coupe with a hopped up slant six and a 4-speed transmission.

1964-1970 Dodge A100 Vans and Pickups

Dodge joined the popular compact van and pickup market in 1964 when they introduced the new A-Series. These front engine, rear wheel drive trucks and vans were designed for maximum cargo capacity in a small footprint. The body styles were pickup, window van, and windowless cargo vans. The passenger vans were called Sportsman Wagons.

The A100 vans and pickups were initially offered with either the 170-ci or 225-ci slant six engines. Transmission choice was a 3-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic. The 273-ci V-8 became optional in 1965. The 318-ci V-8 was added in 1967.

The pickups have a much stronger following than the vans, and consequently, they cost considerably more. It’s still possible to find the A100 pickups under our target price, but they’re more apt to be standard cab models with six-cylinder engines. The optional quarter windows are very desirable, as are the factory V-8 models (although it’s simple to add a V-8). We’ve seen A100 vans with 440-ci big blocks between the front seats (the factory engine location), which makes burnouts pretty much a guaranteed occurrence.

We think the short wheelbase Sportsman and cargo vans have a lot of potential, both as practical carriers and as hot rods. Their tall, stubby bodies are almost cartoon-like and can look like full size Hot Wheels when fitted with big wheels and tires. The extended length vans don’t have the same appeal or potential—avoid them.

A downside to these pickups and vans is that most of them were used as beasts of burden. They were driven hard and put away wet. They can be hammered, so finding solid ones that don’t need too much restoration can be challenging.

Watch for: Pickups with the optional rear quarter windows should have all those relevant parts intact. Pickup tailgates can be in sad shape. Passenger vans can be missing their rear seats. Look for bed rust, especially around the seams.

Alternate choice: The only vehicles that come close to the Dodge A-Series pickups and vans are the similar Brand F models.

1963-1966 Dodge Darts

The 1963-1966 Dodge Darts are sandwiched between the oddly styled 1961-1962 Dodge Lancers (in 1960-1962, the Dodge Dart was a full size model) and the much more popular 1967-1970 Darts. As such, it tends to be largely overlooked. That makes finding a quality example for less than $10,000 pretty certain.

To hit our price target, you’ll need to eliminate all but the shoddiest convertibles. The Dart GT hardtops with 273-ci V-8 engines can push up prices. Our pick for a best buy is the non-GT Dart hardtops and, to a lesser extent, the 2-door post sedans. The hardtops make nice cruisers, while the sedans have more potential as pseudo drag racers.

Darts were mildly face-lifted in 1966. The headlights were placed in square bezels, which, along with the more angular front fenders and flat grille, gave the Dart a boxier look. We think the round headlight and front fender styling of the 1963-1965 models is more attractive. The 1966 Darts were sort of an awkward transition to the more handsome 1967 models.

The non-GT hardtops are cleaner looking, because they lack GT roof trim (and optional half vinyl roof treatments). The availability of a factory V-8 means that it’s easy to turn a slant six Dart into a more powerful V-8 car.

Watch for: Darts are unibody cars, so rust issues and front suspension problems are more critical than body-on-frame cars. Missing trim items can be difficult to find.

Alternate choice: The 1963-1966 Plymouth Valiant hardtops are very similar to the Darts, although we feel that their grilles and front end styling isn’t as attractive.

1964-1967 Dodge and Plymouth Full Size Wagons

Dodge and Plymouth made base model and deluxe station wagons. The ones we’re interested in are the boxier base models, such as the Dodge 440 and Coronet and the Plymouth Savoy, Fury, and Belvedere. The more expensive Dodge 880, Polara, and Monaco, as well as the Plymouth Fury III don’t have the same appeal.

The appeal that we’re after is the drag wagon look. The base models most closely resemble their factory lightweight Super Stock siblings. Many of these station wagons were raced in various stock and super stock classes. The base wagons have that leaner, stripped down hot rod look that’s easily boosted by a set of classic Torq Thrust wheels or even painted steel wheels with dog dish hubcaps.

Sixties station wagons have been quite popular for several years, so the best “little old lady” deals have already been taken. Enthusiasts are aware of the Mopar racecar resemblance, which has affected rising prices. Also contributing to station wagon availability/prices is the fact that many of these heavy cars were scrapped.

You may have to look harder to find one of these hot Mopar wagons than some of the other vehicles on our list, but the main thing you need is a solid body. It’s best to have the interior components (they can be restored as long as they’re present), but the mechanical items are pretty easy to replace and/or upgrade. Big block 440 engine swaps are a natural for these slick wagons.

Watch for: The most critical parts to have (and in reasonable condition) are the body and glass from behind the rear door to the tailgate. Station wagon side trim is longer than sedan trim, so it’s important to have as well.

Alternate choice: The 1962-1963 base model Dodge and Plymouth station wagons share virtually all of the positive traits of our first choice 1964-1967 models. The main difference is their wilder front end styling, which polarizes many people. 

1972-1993 Dodge D100 Shortbed Pickups

Considering all the attention given to 1967-1972 and 1973-1987 GM shortbed pickups, it’s a wonder that more people haven’t embraced the handsome 1972-1993 Dodge D100 shortbed pickups. The shortbed Sweptline pickups (Dodge’s name for fleetside beds) have similar styling elements to the vaunted 1972 GM C-10 pickups, and they’re much cleaner looking than the more angular 1973 and later GM products.

Body changes were minimal over the lifespan of these D100 pickups. The most noticeable changes were the grilles and various headlight/turn signal combinations. Some years were very simple, while others were rather busy. If you find a great truck but don’t like that year’s grille, it’s easy to switch out. 

Engine compartments are huge, so virtually any Mopar powerplant will fit. Their torsion bar front suspension makes lowering easy. Aftermarket parts are scarce.

A more expensive variation of these D100 pickups is the W100 Dodge Power Wagon. The shorty models are in high demand by 4x4 enthusiasts. The Utiline (stepside bed) models aren’t as aesthetically pleasing as the Sweptline beds, but they were featured on the limited edition Warlock and Li’l Red Express pickups. Utiline beds are popular on Power Wagons.

Watch for: Rust is a big problem. Loaded models with air conditioning, power accessories and bucket seats are highly prized

Alternate choice: The Dodge Ramcharger SUV was introduced in 1974 as Dodge’s answer to the Chevy Blazer. Our choice is one of the relatively rare 1975-1993 2-wheel-drive models. The 4x4 models tend to be pretty beat up. Plymouth also marketed a version of the Ramcharger called the Trail Duster.

1941-1952 Dodge and Plymouth 3-Window Business Coupes

The 3-window coupe is a hot rod icon when applied to 1932-1936 Fords, but Henry wasn’t the only 3-window builder. Many manufacturers produced them in the twenties and thirties.

Chrysler re-entered the business coupe arena in 1941 with Chrysler, Dodge and DeSoto versions. A limited number were built in 1942, but production was cut short by the war. Business coupes returned in 1946, but it wasn’t until 1949 that Plymouth got its 3-window coupe.

There are two distinct versions of Mopar 3-window business coupes—the long deck Chrysler, Dodge and DeSoto models and the short deck Plymouths and Dodges. The long deck cars were based on the pre-1948 body style, and the shorter coupes were based on the new 1949 platforms. The Plymouth 3-window coupe is the most common, and it gets our nod as the better-looking design.

The long deck business coupes also have long noses. The extra short roof is evenly situated. These coupes are a little odd-looking, but charming and definitely unique. The shorter front and rear sheetmetal on the 1949-1952 versions are better suited for building a street rod. The Plymouth business coupes have a style similar to the Plymouth Suburban station wagons.

Watch for: The 1941-1948 trunk lids are unique, so their condition is important. Roof rust or damage isn’t good.

Alternate choice: We don’t have any other suggestions—these cars are too unique. About the only possibility is the 1949-1951 Dodge Wayfarer Roadster, which is an open version of the coupes (the earliest models were true roadsters without rollup windows). Unfortunately, Wayfarer Roadsters exceed our $10,000 price ceiling.


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