It All Starts with a Tune Up
I recently lucked out and scored a killer '70 Chrysler Town & Country. I gave it to myself as a birthday present. I got it for a thousand bucks because the seller needed cash and the car was U-G-L-Y! Of course I saw the potential before I even saw the car. For the money I paid, it could have been a burned out hulk with a 440 and it would have been an okay deal, but when it arrived I realized that it was much more than that. As the Wagons of Steel guy, I'm basically a professional Mopar station wagon appraiser--if such a profession really exists.
The cheapest way to hop up your wagon is to procrastinate maintenance until it will barely run. Then the most basic of tune ups will result in huge performance gains.
-Wagons of Steel "Bolt-On Horsepower"
The thing that got me first was that it had a true 88k miles on the clock. The thing that continues to get me is that the car is 97% straight and original. Virtually everything is there. The driver's seat is in great shape. All the electric windows work. The rust is incredibly minimal, even in the trouble areas like the spare tire well. This is no parts car. Imagine if it was a straight '70 'Cuda with a 440 and 88k miles on the clock. It would be worth a fortune. It would also be a nightmare to tune up because every nut, bolt, belt and hose on an original musclecar is stupidly valuable (just check eBay!) and any change made is subject to debate at the local car club. The Galen Goviers of the world have no interest in a C-body wagon, however, leaving me free to do whatever I wish to it without fear of harassment. I figured that after all the agony of an especially violent year spent flogging our NHRA Stock Eliminator program to death it would be therapeutic to dink around with a cheap street project.
The first thing I did was put the title in my name and drive it around a bit. I currently own at least three of these big C-body dinosaurs and have driven them in all forms from small block daily driver to big block drag car and everything in between and I can tell you that they do have "personalities." Most of it must come from the former owners' abuse, but some certainly comes from the factory.
Mother Mopar, like all the Big Three, had horrible quality control throughout the Sixties and Seventies. Many of the cars literally came off the line loose and/or crooked. Mechanics from that era have told me all kinds of stories about squeaky, rattling, misaligned junk. Obviously, the true lemons from 1970 must have gone to the Toyota foundry decades ago, but the "keepers" have soldiered on through the decades in the hands of people who need at least 300 foot pounds of torque and 5,000 pounds of steel to get them down the road. Fuel prices be damned.
This one rolls straight and doesn't have any weird noises. It reminded me how much I love these things from behind the wheel. It's a big powerful magic carpet ride that rockets you and all your friends to your destination in old school style. Once you get oriented to the gigantic dimensions of the thing (no, don't even think about that parking spot) you get to feeling like a master of the universe. Think about it, early Seventies C-bodies were the basis for the baddest cop cars ever built, period.