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Jaak's (Jason's) 1968 Dodge Charger GENERAL LEE Project


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After finishing a 1969 Charger R/T project that was on again/off again for 11 years, It was amazing to drive my project down the road and cruise in it. All that hard work, patience and money spent had finally paid off.

Now don’t get me wrong I love driving/crusin’ in my 69, but I really missed having a project. I missed having something to go out in the shop in and work on in my spare time. I actually missed spending hours online searching Craigslist, eBay, and message board classifieds looking for the best deals on parts and supplies I needed.

So after putting a little cash aside, I decided it was time to search for a new project. What I really had in mind was an ‘A’ body Mopar, in particular I really wanted was a ‘67-’69 Barracuda. After looking a couple of cudas/darts/dusters, I was searching CL one night and actually stumble across a guy with some Chargers and parts for sale. I actually went to look at a ‘68 he had that appeared by the pics it could be bought with what I had available to spend (which wasn’t much). When I got there the car was pretty rough; roof, floors, trunk, wheel houses and tail panel had serious rust issues. They guy priced it to me for 3k, which is cheap enough for any second generation Charger these days, but like I said it was rough. Just a few yards over, was another 68... More complete, pretty solid (floors/trunk rusted), and had a shoddy black paint job on it. I asked if I could look at it. The more I inspected it, the more I liked it and realized it would make a very nice project car. I was almost afraid to ask what he wanted for it, but I did…and to my surprise he only wanted 4k for this car, so for a grand more it had a whole lot less rust, more complete, and even come with a few new parts with it (new AMD front valance, new tail panel). I only had 3k cash on me that day, and he wouldn’t budge on his price, so I had to leave that day (this was early September 2012).

I won’t really go into it, but something come up, and I had to use my ‘project’ money, and put the Charger out of my mind. Well nearly 4 months later, I had me some more money put back, and I still had the sellers number saved in my phone. I thought what the heck, I’ll call just to see if he still has it….he did, and the 4k offer still stood. So on New Years Eve, I went with truck, trailer and cash in hand and bought my next project.

After getting it home, I started inventory on parts piled up in trunk, and deciding on how I wanted to build this one. The car was a plain jane Charger, manual brakes, column shift/buddy seat, no a/c and it was also missing the fender tag. Pretty much a blank canvas to do what I wanted to with it. I had a couple of thoughts in mind, one was painting it yellow, because in the beginning I had plan on painting the R/T yellow, but later decided on green. Another option was white, with green interior and green vinyl top, because I have only seen 2 cars like that (one a 68 the other a 69) and I just really liked them. One thing about this car, I want to build a nice driver, try to stay on a budget, just build a cruiser to enjoy.

I have three kids, the youngest is a 5 year old boy, who is crazy about the Dukes of Hazzard. I loved the show when I was a kid, and is probably why I decided to buy a 69 Charger as my first project. I have all the DVD sets and he loves to sit around and watch them, and sometimes me and him just sit around and watch them together. His enthusiasm was the ultimate decision to make my 68 a General Lee clone.

So I’m going to share some pics, stories, tech stuff that I have done so far, and try to keep this thread updated as I go along. I have been documenting this build better than I did my 69 (more pics, keeping up a spreadsheet with costs, etc.) and plan on sharing this info too. Like my 69 I plan on doing this car all on my own with out breaking the bank. I plan on selling off extra parts I don’t need to put back in the project. I’ve got a plan in mind, and have made a good start….I’m off to a whole lot faster pace already, so I’m trying to get us in the General Lee as soon as I can.

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Are you sure you want to add silver highlight? It already looks very nice. Factory correct? What are you talking about? General Lee is not made in a factory. So much is added like the pushbar, new wh

Any updates on this old thread?

Pics….

Here is the 68 as I brought it home. Like I said earlier, it is a plain jane car. According to the VIN it came factory with a 383 2/bbl., but the car had a 318 with a 904 trans when I bought it. The seller claimed the motor would run, but, it is missing several parts. I didn’t even try to get it running, because I have other plans in mind.

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Although it will be a little later before I start working on it, this is the engine/trans I plan on putting in the GL. It’s a low mileage factory 4 bbl. 360 from a ‘79 Chrysler 300. I have actually had this for a while, I had bought this several months before I bought the car. It’s just one of those things I found on Craigslist and couldn’t pass up. It was only located a couple hours away from where I live, so I went up there to get it.

It has 70k original miles, complete (minus carb) and came with a small block 727 trans. I scored this for $325. Right after buying the engine I found a Thermoquad core for $20. I plan on rebuilding and using the thermo quad. The plans for the engine are to open it up just to check everything out, if it checks, I’m going to install new gaskets and give it a fresh coat of paint. Another cool thing is, someone started working on the Charger back a few years ago to get it running (that’s why the 318 was in it). The car has a new exhaust system under it with flow master mufflers.

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First thing I started on was removing the 318 & trans from the Charger.

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Removing Interior/Repair Floor Pans.

Here is the interior as I bought the car…pretty bare bones just the bucket seats, buddy seat, and steering column installed in car. Although I do have the dash (previous owner sandblasted/primed), a nice rear seat core, all the upper door bolsters (need work), and various other parts in the trunk, this is what it looks like in the beginning….

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After removing the seats, and what remnants of carpet were left this is how the floors looked. The car sat outside (4-5 years according to what seller said) without a windshield, which is what I assumed messed the floor pans up so bad.

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After surveying the damage, and doing some online research, I decided using the ¾ length floor pans should be what I need to repair most of the rust damage. And keeping with the ‘budget’ too, the Sheman versions pictured below were only $353 shipped to my door from A-deals. The very bottom of the rear foot well was also rusted, roughly a 7†x 20†area on both sides. I decided to cut out this rust and instead of forking out 125 bucks each for the rear foot wells, just patching the rusted area with some 18 ga. sheet metal I bought from a local shop.

(Floor Pan halves)….

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(Pass. Side Half removed, and new pan test fitted in place before welding)….

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(Cleaned/prepped area for welding, used a weld thru primer bought from Summit Racing)….

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(Heres a pic showing of the rusted area I cut out of the rear foot well)…

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(Both halves welded in, rear footwells patched, seam sealed, ready for primer. ‘Primed with some red oxide primer I had laying around the shop)….

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Since the car had been sitting in the shop for a few months, and I had pushed it outside to prime the floors, I decided to take a pic of it outside of the shop….

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Now, after finishing the floor pans, now I decided to tackle the trunk floor. The original floors had rust through in various locations, and was soft in spots. At first, I thought about just patching the bad areas, but the more I looked and checked, the trunk floor would have wound up with more ‘patches’ than original material. Once again I went with Sherman’s brand, that comes in 2 pieces. For the money they are good decent parts, I got these for $242 shipped. I also wound up replacing the left extension too (bought one that was never used from a dodge charger.com member), as it had some rust issues. And I had to patch the bottom of the wheel housings on both sides.

(Trunk Floor, Before)…..

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“DUMB MOMENTâ€

When my new trunk floor arrived, I took it out of the box to take pics and realized I had bought one for a Coronet/Roadrunner, as it didn’t have the raised portion and knock out for the Charger filler neck. It was my mistake, I ordered the wrong one. Since I was off work and wanted to get started, and didn’t want to fool with having to ship it back, I decided to cut this portion off the original floor and weld it to the new one. It just so happen this area wasn’t rusty and was usable.

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(Pic of raised section installed)….

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I’m going to stop with the photos for a moment to tell the next part of the story before moving forward. When I decided to make a GL clone, at first it was decided the cheapest route would be to ‘use what I got and get it done’. I looked online, and we all know how expensive used parts can be, and how some (like the grille) are getting harder to find. So I decided I would have a 68 General Lee. The more I thought though, I really wanted it to look like a 69. It all started one night while looking on dodge charger.com. A member had an AMD 69 tail panel he decided not to use for $175 (plus 50 to ship). Dang 225 for a tail panel didn’t seem to steep to me, so I decided it will have 69 taillights, so I bought it. Over the next month all the 69 parts started popping up, at affordable prices. I got a 69 grille center, “I†trim for grill, tail panel moldings, tail lights (actually 70 model, but had nice bezels on them), and I even bought a nice used set of back up lights. While buying all this stuff, I sold off the 68 stuff I wouldn’t be using, and the home run was this, remember me mentioning the new 68 tail panel I got with the car….come to find out it was a NOS Mopar piece, not a reproduction. So long story short, what I sold off the 68, paid for the 69 conversion. So I was tickled I was able to make it look like a 69, but really didn’t have to spend anything.

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Another area that needed attention at this time was a portion of the rear valance. At one time the driver’s side quarter has been replaced. Where it met the valance, it was not squared up correctly, and a section behind the bumper had a small section misssing, causing a misalignment! It also caused the left edge of the trunk lid to sit about a ¼†above the quarter, no matter how you tried to adjust the trunk lid, it would not align properly with the quarter. After grinding out what seemed like a quart of bondo, here is what the rear valance looked like (also note the missing section/miss-cut behind the bumper)….

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It was misaligned, dented and the valance corner had a little rust, so I just cut this whole area out, and decided to form a patch to put back in place.

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I welded in my patch, I also cut and welded in pieces behind the bumper, then put a coat of fiberglass filler over all welded seams (I always use fiberglass filler over weld seams). The area will be finished off with regular filler, then primer, when I do bodywork.

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Here is a pic with the rear tail panel removed, and repair to valance completed.

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Now here’s a pic with the AMD tail panel temporarily screwed into place so I can do some trimming & dolly/hammer work to get it fitted into place.

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Here’s everything ‘mocked up’ before final welding tail panel in place. Notice the tail lights in the pic. I wound up buying 70 model taillights simply because it was the best deal I could find at the time, they came with very nice bezels, and I plan on painting the silver stripe on them, like the 69 models did. I got them for $150 (plus $25 ship) for Nice lenses, nice bezels and the housings.

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While doing my tail panel work, I also had bought a set of 69 Back up lights, I know most 68 to 69 conversion omits this, but I really wanted back up lights. I found this set on eBay, and I got them for a bid of $56 (plus $14 to ship) Not really a great bargain, but cheaper than what most ‘buy it now†or classifieds were asking for a set. I borrowed a hole saw set from my Father in law, and after taking a couple of measurements off my 69...the 68 now has back up lights!

(**Note**, when I pick me up some new sawsall blades, those hideous round tips are getting chopped off!)

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Although I haven’t restored my 69 grille yet, I needed to mock it in and take care of a problem. As you know the 68 hood latch and release is totally different than the parts on a 69. As of right now the only complete 69 latch assemblies I can find online range anywhere from 75 to 140 bucks depending on condition. I refuse to pay that much for a latch! I had a cable in my parts stash, that I installed near the front valance mount. You have to reach up under the bumper and pull it which means I can’t use the front license plate bracket (if I keep it this way). I run the cable behind the grille, trimmed it to the right length. I also had to drill a small hole in the lever on the latch to have a place to attach the cable to. It works like a charm, the only thing I need is a little clamp to mount the cable to the rear of the grille frame near the latch and do away with the zip tie you see in the pics (if I leave it this way and don’t come up with another solution).

Grille center as I bought it, pretty nice shape, has a broken fin and a couple of cracks that need repairing but all in all a nice piece for the price ($280 shipped, sold the 68 Grille for $225).

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Pics of my 69 homemade ‘hood release’ cable….

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After all of the buying/selling I did, I still had a couple hundred left in PayPal, so I ordered some primer & supplies to begin my bodywork. Below is a copy/paste from the spreadsheet keeping up with my costs, so far after buying the car, various parts, all the items needed for a 69 conversion, engine/trans and a few supplies I have $ 5220 in the car as it sits right now.

NOTE-- Copy/pasting from my spreadsheet changes the format, the first number is what I spent (or made on sold items), second number is a running total, and then a description of what I bought (or sold).

COST TOTAL DESCRIPTION

$4,000 $4,000 1968 Dodge Charger (XP29)

$325 $4,325 360 Eng./727 Trans.(Used)

$20 $4,345 Thermoquad Carb (Core)

$353 $4,698 Floor Pans (New, 3/4 Length, L & R Halves)

$20 $4,718 Ash Tray & Bracket (Used)

$48 $4,766 Glove Box Door (Used)

$200 $4,966 14" Aluminum Wheels (Used)

$40 $5,006 Interior 'A' Pillar Trim (Used)

($30) $4,976 SOLD Small Block Valve Covers

($25) $4,951 SOLD Headrests & Hardware

($40) $4,911 SOLD Lower Dash Pad

($68) $4,843 SOLD Dog Dish Hubcaps

($25) $4,818 SOLD '68 Fuel Cap & Trim Ring

($53) $4,765 SOLD Federal P/S Pump & Brackets

$19 $4,784 Weld Through Primer (2 cans)

$54 $4,838 LH Trunk Extention

$242 $5,080 Trunk Floor (New, L & R halves)

$280 $5,360 1969 Grille Center (Used)

$50 $5,410 1969 Grille Center, Trim (Used)

$225 $5,635 1969 AMD Tail Panel (Used, Never Installed)

$40 $5,675 1969 Tail Panel Mouldings

$25 $5,700 39" x 45" 18 Ga. Sheet Metal (2 Sheets)

($225) $5,475 SOLD 1968 Grille Center

($35) $5,440 SOLD 1968 Taillights

($40) $5,400 SOLD 1968 Tail Panel Mouldings

($15) $5,385 SOLD 1968 Side Markers

($130) $5,255 SOLD 1968 Grille/Headlamp Bezels

($500) $4,755 SOLD 1968 NOS Tail Panel

$20 $4,775 Fiber Glass Body Filler (Quart)

$9 $4,784 Weld Through Primer

$175 $4,959 1970 Charger Taillights w/Bezels (Used)

$70 $5,029 1969 Back Up Light Assemblies (Used)

$36 $5,065 1969 Front Turn Signal Lens (Used)

$25 $5,090 Thermoquad Rebuild Kit (New)

$18 $5,108 RT. Fender/Valance Splash Shield (Used)

$16 $5,124 Auto Body Putty

$140 $5,264 Epoxy Primer/Body Filler/Tape/Sandpaper

$65 $5,329 Polyester Primer (Gal.)

($30) $5,299 SOLD '68 Rear Defroster Switch Bezel

$8 $5,307 Steering Coupler Kit

$8 $5,315 Motor Mounts [2]

$10 $5,325 Argent Silver Paint (spray can)

$20 $5,345 Glove Box Lock

($85) $5,260 SOLD Spare 68-70 Trunk Lid

($40) $5,220 SOLD Extra misc. trim pcs.

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Right now these are the wheels I plan on using. I know they are not the correct Vectors... I have to wait until I find an affordable set. These are Appliance Turbo Vecs, they are 13 spoke instead of 10, but the webbing between the spokes are similar to Vectors, I scored them on Craigslist for 200 bucks, so they'll do for the meantime. Probably the best deal you can get on used Vectors are going to try to buy 1 or 2 at a time...seems like they are cheaper individually as opposed to buying a whole set. I know AR reissued them again, but 800 bucks for a set of 15 x 7 wheels isn't in the budget.

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Jason

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  • 1 month later...

Not nothing big, but building a car is a lot of small projects to finish the big project (that's my approach anyways).

With the weather being cold, and a shop with no heat, body/paint is being put off until spring. The last month, I've ordered a few things and decided to re-do my cluster/gauges. I decided with this car, I figured the most economical way is just to replace all the gauges and make them look somewhat factory. I picked Equus 7000 series gauges based on costs, and because they are black with white font and pointer needles, like the OEM gauges.

I did not have a camera handy while I was doing the work, and I can't find any 'before' pics of the cluster (thought I had took some) so I will share what I have and try to explain what I did. First off using the 7000 series gauges, the 4 smaller gauges they are 2" in diameter, which is a tighter fit. Equus does make a gauge that is 1.5" in diameter and would have been easier to install, but they don't have a fuel gauge that is 1.5". So to make them where they would be centered in the openings in the cluster bezel I had to grind a little off of the sides of each gauge (the silver ring around them) where I could sit them flush next to each other, then use little metal strips behind to attach all 4 of them together. I used untapped holes that where manufactured in the gauges and used a #8 self tapping screw. The cluster housing had to be modified to accept the gauges, I had to cut off where the original gauges mounted in, the took a 1/2" x 1/2" aluminum 'L' shaped channel to create a frame for the 4 gauges to slide into and to hold them. Because the housing (and the 'L' channel) are aluminum, I had to use JB weld to attach the 'L' channel to the cluster housing. So long story short, I fixed it where a 4 small gauges are attached together in one piece and you just slide them in from the front of the housing into the frame I made.

For the speedo and tach, I had to cut out a piece of sheet metal, that fits where the original lens would sit. I cut it out, then using a hole saw, cut out the holes for the speedo and tach to mount in. I simply attached the sheet metal to the cluster housing using pop rivets. After modifying the cluster housing and test fitting the gauges, I removed them and painted the housing with flat black paint. Another thing I had to do because of these modifications I done to the gauges & housing, I had to trim the back side of the cluster bezel (don't have pics yet).

I spent $185 for the new gauges, and I sold the old gauges (as cores), and the old circuit board for $85. So I got about $100 in it and have new gauges.

Here is pics of the old gauges and circuit board that I sold for 85 bucks. The only 'before' pic I can find...

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