I met Bob Barrett at a cruise night recently. He had his spectacular “Formal Black” 1969 Charger. Walking up at sunset, I simply didn’t remember pitch-black paint looking any better. Black is the toughest color to keep clean or make attractive. With little introduction, I said, Hey! This is nice!
I asked when the car had been restored.
“It hasn’t,” he said.
I replied this can’t be original paint?
“No, it was repainted in 1985,” Bob said.
Well, it has certainly held up well.
“Yeah, I try to take care of it.
It was painted when you got it?
“No, I had it painted in 1985.”
Oh, it was rough, so it needed paint?
He replied, that the original paint was getting worn, and rock-chipped living in the Midwest.
Enough cat and mouse, I thought and asked how long he had owned the car.
“Fifty-three years this January,” he said.
Using basic math I said, you got this car in 1970?
“Yes, I was a junior in college, I fell in love with the body style change in 1968, and, after seeing the movie Bullit. I wanted a ‘68 but couldn’t find one. In 1970 I found this ‘69, for $2,000.”
I continued: A college kid going into the 1970′s gas crisis and you kept it all these years? “Yes, it wasn’t easy, I always managed to find a place to stick it. I drove several clunkers through the 70′s and 80′s but thought this was so cool I should keep it.
Good for you, I thought, glad you did. You just maintained it and kept it like this all those years, in-stock condition?
“Not exactly,” Bob explained. “A lot happens between 20 and 70 years old. There was a lot going on, not to mention I was still worried about the Vietnam draft.
The year 1970 was the pinnacle for muscle cars with SS 454 Chevelle’s, big block Camaros and Mustangs, generous engine offerings from Pontiac, let alone installing performance parts on whatever you were driving. These cars were street raced and we were always trying new things. My Charger, a 375-horsepower 440 Magnum, wore several intake and carburetor setups, including a six-pack (three two-barrel carburetors), high lift camshafts, a shift kit to my beefed-up 727 transmission, airplane landing lights, and various rear-end ratios. I traded acceleration for poor mileage on the highway and it was easy to do with gas at 30 cents a gallon.
“I started slowing down in ‘86 when I brought my first son home from the hospital in the Charger, in July. And the A/C worked! I saved all the original parts. I’ve put it back to factory stock … sort of,” he explained.
I sense there is still some secret mojo under the hood-mounted turn signals of this 440 R/T Charger that puts it center stage in the classic spotlight.