Mopar Action :: October 2007

Parted In

: Here’s the 1971 GTX that you almost bought in parts.

If you tried to buy original rear window louvers or elastomeric bumpers for a 1971 Plymouth B-body from a guy in Milwaukee about eight years ago, and instead jsut got your check returned to you in pieces, here’s why: those rare parts went back onto the would-be donor car, and you’re looking at it.

Eight years ago, those hard-to-find parts were packed in a box, ready for the UPS guy to pick up and deliver right to you. But then Tommy White showed up. White, proprietor of the renowned Aloha Auto Services restoration shop in Port Washington, WIsconsin, found an ad for a disassembled 1971 GTX in the Milwaukee Journal classifieds. To be accurate, it was an employee of White’s that spotted the ad. White decided to drive to the seller’s house for a look and arrived just in time to ruin your day. The GTX’s owner had mostly parted out the car, ready to score big bucks for hard-to-find pieces that you and about six others were hoping to buy.

All that remained of the GTX was the body shell, which was sporting a partial red respray. White quickly made an offer for the whole package, and the seller agreed to tear up the checks from the other buyers. White scored a one-of 30 1971 GTX built with the louvers and “rubber” bumpers. Even better, it had straight, all-original sheetmetal. Wow, what a good deal for white. And you got bupkis.

White got the car’s entire story when he bought it. Those guys with the torn-up checks were only going to get a piece of the story. The seller had pulled the GTX out of a Tulsa, Oklahoma, salvage yard in the early 1980s, when, as you can imagine, he’d gotten it for peanuts (same as we get around here at Mopar Action). The car had no motor or tranny. In the early 1980s, the lack of a powertrain was still enough to render even a desirable model as just a parts car. And back then, the ’71 B-bodies were not exactly the most popular braches on the Mopar family tree. if only we knew then what we know now, right? Consider the ’71’s story:

You know that Chrysler built some of the best high-performance machines during the musclecar era. But ready for some honesty? When Chrysler designers saw the 1968 GTO in the fall of 1967, they must have felt like GM had beaten them to their own punch. The would have already been preparing the 1971 B-body designs at that time. The “fuselage” look was already set for the upcoming 1969 C-bodies, so the B-bodies were just next in line for that theme.

The results arrived in the fall of 1970, and they were knockouts: the third-generation Charger and the first-ever Plymouth Satellite Sebring, along with the Road Runner and GTX versions. No longer were th coupes bound to the design constraints as the sedans. The 2 and 4 door versions shared virtually nothing, panel-wose. The Plymouth B-body looked like a cruise missile on wheels, and the Charger, well… has any car ever matched its name perfectly?

The Road Runner remained true to its high bang-for-the-buck role, but some folks no doubt missed the straightforward charm of the boxy 1968-1970 model – especially the base coupe. Now, even in plane-Jane, dog-dish hubcap form, the Road Runner looked like a speeding ticket waiting to be written. As if the 1971 body wasn’t hot looking enough, the appearance options were wilder than ever, picking up cues (and lots of parts) from the E-bodies.

In truth, the Sebring/Road Runner/GTX was seen by some as a copycar, pulling a theme from the 1968 Pontiac Tempest/GTO design playbook. The stretched-out hood/short deck proportions, fuselage mid-section, faired-in loop front bumper, and taillamps set in the rear bumper – the buying public had seen it all three years before. Even so, the 1971 Road Runner and GTX looked plain wicked.

But even with road-rocket looks to match the performance choices carried over from 1970, sales of the 1970 B-body musclecars were dismal. Road Runner sales were just a third of 1970’s numbers at 13,046. The GTX plummeted to just 2,626. Would the ’71 B-body style have caused a bigger stir if it had arrived in 1969? Does a bear poop in the woods? The picture was bleak enough that, for 1972, Chrysler consolidated the models: You could order a 1972 Road Runner with a 440 4-barrel, which made the car a Road Runner GTX.

The 1971 Road Runner still came with a standard 383, now with 300 rated horsepower. The great 340 joined the Road Runner option list as an insurance-beater option, yet it actually cost $45.90 more than the base 383. The 1,681 buyers who chose the 340 might not have bought a Road Runner at all had the smaller motor not been available. The GTX’s standard mill was still the potent 440 4-barrel, and both the 440 six pack and Hemi were, of course, available.

It didn’t matter to White that his GTX had neither of those top engines. He put the car through a 14-month rotisserie restoration, installing a date-coded 440 and tranny. He’s quick to point out that the Edelbrock/Weber AVS carb is recent issue, a move made for simple expedience. There were enough original parts missing – from door and window trim pieces to side markers – that White had to buy a Road Runner parts car. He turned to Legendary for much of the interior.

White’s GTX is a two-tag car with broadcast sheet, loaded with goodies including 3:55 Sure Grip rear, power steering, disc brakes, air conditioning (retrofitted for R134 refrigerant), AM?FM radio, tinted glass, deluxe interior, lighting package, heavy duty cooling system and a tachometer. The car had been ordered for looks, too, with the B-5 True Blue Metallic paint and transverse hood stripes, window louvers and rubber bumpers.

A small but interesting optoin was the Driver Aid Group ($14.20 in 1971) what gave you delux seat belts and warning lights for door-ajar and low fuel. In this case, the wiring was missing. White could not locate original wiring and so the Aloha shop made a substitution.

Here’s some good news for those who tried to buy this car’s rare parts eight years ago. Still need those louvers and rubber bumpers? They’re available! Just write White a check for 130 grand (as posted on the Aloha website). But now, you get an Aloha restored GTX to go with them.

 

Story by : Mopar Action

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