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Restoration Journal

Over the years, I often thought about restoring the Barracuda, but never had the time or money.  Looking back, I probably had both, but it just wasn't a high enough priority.

After Christmas, 2000, it crossed my mind again.  Thinking I needed a hobby, I approached my wife with the idea of a restoration project.  After a few days of convincing her, she gave me her blessing, although she's not thrilled about having a partially disassembled car in her garage and basement for months/years!

The Goal

To have a near factory new car that I can enjoy by actually driving in the summer months.  The car is complete, so parts will be replaced only if necessary.  I might tweak the drive train a little to make it a little quicker than when it was stock, but I want it to look like it did when it was driven off the dealer's lot in 1968.

December 28, 2000 -> January 5, 2001

Surfing the web, looking at beautifully restored Barracudas gets me interested.  I find the barracudaowners@egroups.com email list for owners of 67-69 Fish.  People that know these cars inside and out and that have been through the restoration process will be a huge asset.  I also pick up a book on Collector Car restoration which promises to be very useful, and is highly recommended at amazon.com.

I also catch a huge break - a member of the email list lives in Madison!  He has restored a '69 340S, and knows all the right Mopar people in the area.  He's fired up that another Fish fan lives in the area, and is willing to mentor me through the restoration process.

January 6, 2001

First step is to get the car in my garage, which means transporting it 70 miles from Waukesha County to Dane County (Wisconsin).  I reserve a flatbed trailer after making some calls and discovering that having somebody actually tow it for me will cost hundreds of dollars.  I'll save a bunch of money doing it myself.

When I showed up at the rental place, they wouldn't let me have the trailer.  Even empty, it was too heavy for my Outback (I wish they'd told me that on the phone!).  But they had a dolly available, which I rented instead.

After unearthing the car (my Mom was using it for shelving), I got it pushed up onto the dolly.  I've never towed a car before, and the thought of smashing the car to bits on the way to start a restoration project kept flashing in my mind.  How ironic that would be!

Borrowing my Grandfather's truck to do the towing, I had a completely uneventful trip back home.

Extraction of the car from its hibernation:

January 11, 2001

Bear (aka Bryan Berry) came over to meet me and the car.  I found him through the email list.  What a super guy!  Very friendly, knowledgable and willing to help.  His experience in taking a couple '69s apart will be extremely valuable, and he knows the best body and drivetrain people in the area.  I'm convinced this will be a successful project because of Bear!

He was pretty fired up when he saw the car for the first time - he really likes the '68s.  Given this car has lived its entire life in Wisconsin, he's impressed by the shape it's in.  He didn't see any bad rust in any unexpected places, and laid out a restoration plan while we were going over the car.  It will cost a little more than I envisioned, but that's not too big of a deal.  More importantly, he said my plan to have the car completely done by spring of 2002 is realistic.

January 13, 2001

Made a trip to Farm & Fleet for supplies.  Without even trying, I spent $260 on things like shelving, hand tools, derusting supplies, etc.

January 14, 2001

Officially began the disassembly phase.  Wanted to start with the interior, but none of the bolts holding the seat would budge.  So I moved onto the rear bumper; same story.  All I could do was coat the bolts w/ Liquid Wrench and let it sit for a couple days.  I did get the contents of the trunk into the basement, including the trunk lid.  Whoo hoo!

January 16, 2001

Got the front seat extracted!  A small victory, but it's nice to know that Liquid Wrench will help remove 32 year old rust.  The nuts for the rear bumper still won't budge.  If I have to cut them off, it won't be difficult to replace them.

January 17, 2001

Getting the front seat out now gives me access to seat belt bolts.  Tonight I removed front seat belts (lap & shoulder), both sun visors, and the rear view mirror.  After removing the shifter trim, I'm able to remove the front section of carpeting.  90% of the floor pan looks brand new, but there are 2 or 3 small areas that have rusted.  They'll require metal work.  I was hoping the floor boards wouldn't need any work, but it could've been much worse, I suppose.

January 18, 2001

On to the back half of the interior.  I'm anxious to get the back seat out, hoping that the build sheet will be under it.  First step is to remove rear seat back, which goes smoothly.  I bought an impact wrench set over lunch today.  It's a beautiful thing!  Instead of wrestling with frozen screws, a couple raps of the hammer on the wrench free them.

The floor behind the rear seat (which I call the "platform"; the service manual calls it something else) comes out next.  Now I've got easy access to the 2 bolts holding the rear seat cushion.  They come out easily.

Much to my dismay, there's no build sheet.  My only hope now is that it's in the headliner, or possibly in the front seat, which I haven't taken apart yet.

The interior now looks pretty empty.  Next steps will be door panels and the dash.

January 19, 2001

Fearing that I won't find the build sheet, I do a little detective work.  I call Chrysler to see if they can give me any information on the car.  Since it was built after 1967, the Chrysler Archives can't help me.

The dealer that the car was purchased from is still in business, so I give them a call.  Unfortunately, Hub Chrysler does not have records from that far back.

On a whim, I search the Milwaukee white pages for the original owner.  Much to my surprise, his name does turn up!  Is it possible the original owner still lives in Milwaukee?  I call the number and leave a message on the machine...

January 20, 2001

I receive a phone call from the original owner!  How about that?  He's amazed that the car has not been crushed a long time ago.

His name is Dennis, and he's more than willing to tell me about the first 2 years of the car's life.  He's also an internet user, so I point him at the car's web site, and get his email address.  Here are a few things I learned while on the phone and in subsequent email:

  • He special ordered the car; it wasn't just chosen off the lot
  • The car was in 2 accidents.  In one, the driver's side of the car made contact with a guard rail, which resulted in body work.  In the second, he was hit from behind and was pushed into a car in front of him, resulting in both rear and front damage.  The car was drivable after both incidents.
  • He ordered the car w/ the "Hurst" package, which included, at a minimum, the 4 speed, red stripe tires, and the red reflective tape on the rear of the car.
  • The hub caps on the car now are not the originals!  I'll have to try to figure out what they should be.  He feels they were probably replaced after one of the accidents.
  • He ordered the car w/ the light green stripe, but it showed up w/ a black stripe.  The dealer took it to some body shop and made it the color he wanted (which is the color on the car today).
I'm sad to find that the car has seen body work, but what can you do?  After speaking w/ Dennis, I went and took a closer look inside the trunk, and sure enough, the left quarter panel has had some work done.  It was patched from the center point of the wheel well back to the tail light.

My untrained eye doesn't see any evidence of work done on the front end.  It will be interesting to see what I find when I get the fender and front clip off.

Dennis has a couple photos of the car from the late 60's that he's going to send me.  What a trip!

January 21, 2001

Continued removing the interior.  Got all the panels on the right side from the door jamb to the trunk removed.  Now that I know how to do it, the driver's side should be a piece of cake.  I'm not too far from removing the window mechanisms, and then it will be on to the dash.

The basement is starting to fill up with parts...

January 22, 2001

Picked up a decent set of wrenches on the way home.  Now that I can actually get some leverage on the bolts holding the rear bumper, I'm able to remove them!  It took several coatings of Liquid Wrench, 10 days, and about all the strength I have, but I finally got the bumper off.

I also remove the rear side markers and tail light assemblies.  An earlier repair to the driver's quarter panel is made apparent after removing the tail light assembly.  It's not the most professional job, but it's not too bad.

January 27, 2001

Bear came over to help disassemble.  Before getting dirty, he takes me over to Orland's, a local Mopar collector.

What a setup he's got!  A full shop, including a lift and room for working on 2 cars.  Another room in the same building holds his collection: several Challengers, a Hemi Cuda, a Charger, and a couple more that I can't remember.  All cars are early 70s, and beautifully restored.  It was amazing to see a collection like that.

We returned to my frigid garage and proceeded to remove the hood, front clip and fenders.  We also ripped out the headliner, just to see if the build sheet was up there (it wasn't).  Here are the cliff notes of our afternoon (for my own purpose of capturing what we did):

removed bumper (should've, but couldn't due to rusted bolts)
tried to remove clip, but bumper was in way
removed radiator, so could remove "center" assembly (hood latch)
removed center assembly
removed clip
removed valence
removed fenders

Proper order, if bolts weren't rusted tight: bumper, valence, clip, fenders, then center assembly

Bear holding the remnants of my fender tag:


After removing the hood:


After removing the clip & fenders (that's me in the background):

January 28, 2001

Went over to Larry's house.  He's got a wood working shop, and is helping me build my work benches for the basement.  We spent 3 hours drilling and cutting lumber that I bought the previous week.  In a few days we'll transport the pieces to my house, and bolt the benches together in my basement.

January 30, 2001

Broke a bolt trying to remove the front bumper.  I've never had to drill out a busted bolt before; I'll now have that pleasure...

After spending several hours over the last week reading the FSM and gazing at the quarter window assembly, I finally try to remove it.  The FSM wasn't much help; I pretty much did things by trial and error.  First step was to remove the glass, which was held by 2 bolts.  I then unbolted the regulator from the inner door metal.  The regulator could only be removed by partially disassembling it inside the door!  Not much fun; drop me a note if you want to know how I did it.  But I was quite pleased I finally got that done.

Also removed all interior panels on driver's side from door jamb to trunk.  Quite easy after having done the other side.  I then removed the rear driver's side regulator.  The interior is now just about bare.

January 31, 2001

Started removing the stainless molding around the front window.  This is another job I've been dreading, because I've heard it requires special tools and it's easy to wreck the molding.  I bought a "batwing" for this job.  I spent some time (actually quite a bit of time) reading the FSM and studying diagrams, then went out to the garage.

As with the quarter glass regulators, this ended up being something I just had to do, rather than follow step by step instructions from the FSM.  It took me at least an hour, but I did get about 30% of the molding off before bed.  The molding retainers are difficult to get to.  The batwing makes it easier.