Quantcast

Home » 24 Hours of Lemons »Project Cars »Too Cheap to Pass Up » Currently Reading:

Project Regretmobile Dodge Magnum, Part 1: An elegy for sensibility

This is Kevin. Kevin doesn’t know why he’s agreed to help me.

I am not a smart man.

We must get that out of the way here because it will make understanding the rest of this story so much easier. This is going to be a long build story about me, Eric Rood—a complete idiot whose mushy brain is filled almost entirely with Bad Ideas—and my struggles with building a $200 to race in the 24 Hours of LeMons. Naturally, I’m already two months behind on telling the story of this Personal Luxury Coupe.

This Last of the .

This Malaise Era Mopar Orphan (Mop-phan).

This rusting 3,900-pound albatross.

Edit_7201280DSC_9497

Before we get too deep, I suppose a modicum of explanation is due in case you’re not familiar with the , despite my vastly overwrought writings on that subject for Redusernab. Here’s the basic premise: Buy and build a car with no more than $500 of running gear and suspension (not including safety gear), then race it for between 14 and 24 hours over a weekend. The winner ostensibly clocks the most laps in that time, but real winners bring some kind of hopelessly terrible car—like a 1979 Magnum—in the hopes of taking home the vaunted , a brilliant and fitting that is the top honor for doing the best with the worst car.

Why would I build a car to this end? The world’s top mental health professionals are still trying to explain LeMons’ afflictions—which have now reached perpetrators, for better or worse—so it will likely remain a mystery, but tag along over the next However-Long-It-Takes for a full dose of “Look at this idiot” and perhaps a slightly smaller spoonful of “What did we learn?” In calling  called “Project Regretmobile,” I’m only half-referring to my own regret and also half-referencing how you, the prospective LeMons builder, can learn from my horrible, horrible life choices.

Edit_7201280DSC_9493

A plan

This build really began about two years ago when it was someone else’s Very Bad Idea. I befriended vintage racer Greg Heuer—who races a —in 2010  at my first LeMons race. After the track had gone cold for the day, we traded beer and he fed my team some incredible chili. We stayed in touch and in 2013, he let me know that a teammate of his had pried loose a clapped-out Dodge Magnum from one of the small-but-frighteningly-dedicated Magnum collectors in the country.

The Magnum was to be destined for LeMons, ostensibly, but the story mostly stopped there. Greg’s teammate got busy with a drag build for Hot Rod’s Drag Week and the Magnum sat under a tree in a lot near Kansas City, collecting leaves (and worse) under its sprawling hood. A couple months ago, Greg let me know it was for sale and a mere $200 would claim it.

Edit_7201280DSC_9498

I’d been without a LeMons car since selling mine in 2014 (and it had sat for a year before that), so I said I’d see if I could talk some other idiot gearhead friends into it. I was surprised to find some interest and so sent $200 via PayPal. I had a racecar that I hadn’t actually ever seen, aside from a small picture or two a couple years ago. What, as they say in LeMons, could possibly go wrong?

Edit_7201280DSC_9506

This brings us to our first “What did we learn?” point. Curiously enough, the lesson isn’t “Don’t buy a car you’ve never seen” (though that’s generally sound advice, too).

No, the lesson here is rather “Never, ever buy a car without telling your spouse, significant other, spiritual guide, and/or extremely lifelike full-size poster of Han Solo with whom you converse in private but pretend not to notice when other people are around.” This is self-evident to most of the world, but I wouldn’t write it if, as mentioned in the opening line of this story, I wasn’t an idiot. My wife is a very patient person, but explaining that I’d have been stupid not to buy a barely running heap of low-performance luxury coupe to make into an extremely incapable racecar sounds, well, dumb. Especially after you’ve already done sent the money.

Edit_7201280DSC_9516

Be thankful there is smell for this photo.

That old phrase “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” will sound like the world’s worst Joel Osteen line when you’re sharing the tattered and pungent (lack of) backseat of your newly minted turd with its ant colony because you’re not welcome inside the house, let alone the bed. If you’re lucky like me, your wife will come around and eventually stop deservedly flipping you the middle finger every time you talk, so long as you cede your garage parking spot for it so the neighbors don’t know completely the depths of your tastelessness.

Edit_7201280DSC_9520

Yeah, all the plastic crumbled the second I touched it.

After a bit of time and much hard work to restore that I am merely stupid and not also dangerously insane, my wife has sagely accepted the fact that it’s probably better for me to have a heap with which to tinker than it is to have more time for writing mindless garbage like you’re reading now.

Sorry about that.

Edit_7201280DSC_9523

Retrieval

By this point, you’re probably wondering how the Magnum got from Kansas City to my garage in suburban Chicago. My friend Kevin (See top photos) is a car guy’s car guy but like me, he’s never owned a pre-1980 American whip. Curiosity got the better of his judgment and he offered to help me along with the project and to help me retrieve the car.

Edit_7201280DSC_9533

The Magnum had traveled from Kansas City to St. Louis on a trip of Greg’s and another LeMons racer, Brett Sloman, was going to meet us halfway so long as I delivered him a Toyota Supra axle for his . Still with me?

Edit_7201280DSC_9545

Why yes, that is moss growing on top of rest.

Aside from some trailer-rental snafus—Fun fact and (minor) Lesson #2: U-Haul has car haulers in two widths and not every location has the bigger ones that will fit a Malaise Era jalopy. You must pick up the phone and call because the online reservation system doesn’t understand this—we made it to our rendezvous point, which happened to be my friend Pat’s house in [REDACTED], Illinois.

Edit_7201280DSC_9582

The car’s condition was described to me as “surface rust,” where that means “rust on every surface.”

Brett pulled up a couple minutes after us and upon opening his enclosed rear trailer’s door, I was greeted with a dreary representation of what was once a top-of-the-line personal luxury coupe from the grandest day of the personal luxury coupe.

Edit_7201280DSC_9584

I’m still reading up on what the eff the Magnum was and how Dodge sold a billion Special Editions, so I’m not positive what this long-disappeared badge and/or faded decal really meant.

The options list must have been impressive for its day: 155-horsepower 360 cubic inch V8 with computer ignition control, T-Bar roof (with intact T-Bar glass!), two-tone finish, Landau top (long ago rotted), motorized flip-up headlight covers (long ago broken), 8-track stereo, leather seats, and the thickest green shag carpet I’ve ever seen.

Edit_7201280DSC_9590

After marveling for a bit and holding our noses—which doesn’t keep out , by the way—we rolled it out onto the street and we noticed that Brett’s trailer contained a nice Magnum-sized rectangle of rust flakes. Racecar weight savings!

Edit_7201280DSC_9628

The gas can and fuel pump currently attempt to supply fuel, what with the ancient and crusty fuel tank and lines.

We soon figured out that the starter wasn’t going to work on its own, but Brett made the solenoid engage and dumping a healthy dose of starting fluid brought the 360 to life. As long as I matted gas pedal, the Lean Burn system was just barely able to keep the engine running…until the ether ran out and the 360 wheezed to a halt just as I was preparing to drive it onto the trailer with my butt firmly planted on the leaned-back seat, its power motors clearly immobile.

Edit_7201280DSC_9550

O Magnum Mysterium

A bent rental-truck tailgate and 20 minutes with ratchet straps later, the Magnum perched atop the orange rental trailer, dwarfing it with the Magnum’s prolific 18-foot bumper-to-bumper length. With little fanfare and three hours’ tow, the Magnum’s trip to its new home was complete. Two more friends showed up to help corral the tired beast into the stall of my spartan mid-century garage where my Ford Focus usually resides. As the Magnum didn’t run and consequently had no power steering, this was something of a chore, but much yanking of the steering wheel and pushing and pulling got it where it needed to go.

Edit_7201280DSC_9668

Soon. Later.

What will become of Project Regretmobile? Even I can’t say yet, but hopefully it turns a few race laps in as much anger as an Mop-phan can muster. Check back next episode when we take stock of what this 1979 Dodge Magnum actually is, aside from an inevitable string of four-letter words.

[All photos copyright 2015 Hoonverse/Eric Rood]

  • tonyola

    Actually, your Magnum is a ’78 model rather than a ’79 if the taillights are original.

    • The Rusty Hub

      Thanks! Still learning about the car. I’m not sure what’s original on the car and what isn’t. It’s clearly had some body panels replaced. I did pick up some taillights from a JY car.

  • This all makes perfect sense to me.

    Interpret that as you will.

  • Alan Cesar

    Regretmobile?
    Sir, you have not yet begun to regret!

  • Wait, the licence plate actually read “Chowed?”

    • 0A5599

      “Choked” must have already been taken.

  • Sjalabais

    Wow. This sure is the best and nicest way I have read to describe a pretty massive heap of scrap. Firmly impressed by your ambitions here. Will the roll cage also have to hold it all together or isn’t it that bad “inside”?

    • The Rusty Hub

      I’ll get to that in subsequent posts, but the rollcage will be a major part of the structure.

      • Sjalabais

        So you’ll actually build a car – cool & good luck!

      • nanoop

        Quite the Opus Magnum, I’d say!

  • 0A5599

    “No, the lesson here is rather “Never, ever buy a car without telling your spouse, significant other, spiritual guide, and/or extremely lifelike full-size poster of Han Solo with whom you converse in private but pretend not to notice when other people are around.””

    Around 5 years ago, I bought a 3rd gen F body lemons car for two Benjamins. Not long after, I bought a nearly complete and almost running second car for spares and “upgrades”. Other than take it home and drill a hole in the trunk to let the water drain, I haven’t touched the second car.

    Last week, my kid, who is approaching the age of street legal driving, asked me if he could have the Camaro. My wife responded, “We have a Camaro?”

    • Ted

      Indeed. After owning it for four years, I slipped in conversation, prompting my mom to ask the question “What’s a Berkeley?”

    • dead_elvis

      You probably are clear on a technicality, if it was advertised properly – it’s a Camero, isn’t it?

    • Did you drive it up from the Bahamas?

      • 0A5599

  • I_Borgward

    To adventure! I salute your endeavor. But, a word of advice: considering your Chrysler Corporation product’s state of oxidation, er, patina, I would take a -close- look where the front suspension’s torsion bars mount to the underbody. If the tinworm’s been at them, you may find yourself with an instant lowrider, probably at a really inopportune moment. Don’t ask me how I know this.

    Dogspeed, crusty Mopar, dogspeed.

    • The Rusty Hub

      Noted.

      • Fuhrman16

        Be sure to check the rear leaf spring perches as well. There’s nothing like having a leaf spring punch a hole through the trunk floor after hitting a pothole. Had that happen with my Cordoba.

        • El O’el

          The rear spring perches are the bigger worry here.

          -A former Magnum Owner

  • dukeisduke

    With all the leaves on the cowl, you could start a compost pile.

    • Those aren’t leaves, that IS the cowl.

  • Alff

    The bent tailgate sounds all too familiar. I don’t know why U-Haul transporters don’t have jacks on the ramp edge to prevent the tongue from jumping off the ball and biting the tailgate when the car is mid-load. Not generally a problem if you’re loading a Tercel, but big American Iron absolutely. My Ram’s tailgate features a nice indentation from two such episodes.

    • The Rusty Hub

      Kevin had actually rented the truck and was worried about getting charged to fix the tailgate. The U-Haul person from the second U-Haul place (because the first one had the wrong-size trailer) hooked it up and apparently left it just loose enough to smash lift the tongue up into the truck’s rear. The U-Haul return person just shrugged at the damage and put one of those tiny “X” stickers over the huge dent.

      • Alff

        My most recent incident also came after the U-Haul guy hooked me up. Something to remember.

    • 0A5599

      Two such episodes? You didn’t learn your lesson after the first time?

      My trailer has a Bulldog hitch, so it shouldn’t come off the ball if it is latched shut. However, I have had it lift the rear tires of the truck off the ground. I now keep a jack stand in the tool box and place it under the back of the trailer when loading or unloading. I don’t bother to preload it, I just set it to a height within about two inches of where it needs to be, so it is easy to remove once the trailer has a load on it. It adds perhaps 30 seconds to loading time. Problem solved.

      • Alff

        I did learn the lesson for a few years but the first incident (involving a cheap HF trailer and a 17′ trebuchet) was so long ago I didn’t think about it when it came time to load a full size Ford sedan about a year ago. The pickup is now at the age where I can accept the minor damage as the added character that befits a work truck.

        • 0A5599

          Why haven’t we heard any trebuchet stories from you?

          • Alff

            Not much to tell. When lightning struck the kids’ treehouse several years ago I repurposed the lumber into a punkin’ chucker as a joint school science project/Cub Scout project. It would hurl a medium pumpkin perhaps 50 yards. It was really good with small pumpkins and hedge apples – a couple of those made it to the other side of the backyard pond, close to 100 yards.

            We had a lot of fun with it. We even had neighbors dropping their Halloween Pumpkins at our drive to rearm. After a couple of years I dismantled it.

            I did quite a bit of research in designing it. If you ever want to build one, I can give you some rules of thumb.

            • Sjalabais

              Very cool. I still regularly encounter this less cool variation of it:

            • 0A5599

              Yes, please.

              • Alff

                1) The throwing side of the arm should be 3x the length of the counterweighted side.

                2) Distance is a function of arm length and the amount of counterweight; thus…

                3) … A tall frame is helpful so you can stuff more weight under it and use a long arm (short side of arm and counterweight have to swing freely beneath the pivot point). We went head to head with a much more beautifully built treb, constructed from hewn timbers. It was only about 2/3 the height of ours and carried less counterweight. We easily doubled its distance with similar payloads.

                4) … A counterweight that is 100x heavier than the payload seems to be about ideal. Our counterweight carried between 250 and 300 lbs of stone and concrete, about right for a softball sized pumpkin or hedge apple. We tried a 20 lb pumpkin, it flew straight up about 25 feet and fell into the crowd of gathered Cub Scouts.

                5) Use a stiff nail driven partially into the very end of the business side of the arm as the release for the sling (other end of sling is permanently attached to the arm). Cut the head off the nail and tie a loose loop in that end of the sling’s rope so it can slide off the nail easily. The nail can be bent with a pair of pliers to adjust the release point. This will take some trial and error and the proper setting varies depending upon weight of payload.

        • dead_elvis

          Additional demand for trebuchet stories, here.

          Upon first read, I had a brief hope that HF was now selling trebuchets. Terrible, crappy, Chinese-built trebuchets that would be as dangerous for the operator as for any (strictly theoretical) target.

          • Vairship

            In other words: a typical trebuchet 😉

  • engineerd

    This could be good. And by “good” I mean “terrible”. And by “terrible” I mean “engrossing with a hint of insanity.”

  • Cabinboy

    You sir are making me jealous. Perhaps that Mirada I looked at two years ago wasn’t so bad after all. Especially looking at this. Have fun with your new project while I go search for that Volare station wagon that keeps calling my name…..

    • The Rusty Hub

      I may need to borrow your welding skillz…

      • Cabinboy

        You know I’m always interested in new projects. Especially ones like this. I have a certain Vision to cage first though…….

    • El O’el

      I may have slightly better hearing. Oh, wait. It was an Aspen 4 speed wagon tht was calling my name. I haven’t heard any Volare wagons.

      • Cabinboy

        I am so jealous right now. It’s perfect for joining the Midwest Malaise Era Mopar Owners Group.

        • El O’el

          I am all all about membershIp I even have room for the whole crew.


  • One of the highlights of The Carchive.

    The “patina” option group your car was fitted with was special order no #5318008

    • From the Magnums I’ve seen, “patina delete” was the rare option.

    • Vairship

      The Lean Burn option number on the other hand was #7734

  • CraigSu

    O Magnum Mysterium – there’s your LeMons theme right there.

    -and-

    Who knew there was a town called Jalopnik in Illinois?

    • The Rusty Hub

      That took me most of a day.

  • danio

    Heck yeah. Forgotten B-body enthusiast right here, ’76 Charger.

  • Rover 1

    Magnum means

    Or
    1.5 litres of Champagne

    Perhaps there’s a theme somewhere in there?

  • Mike Zaite

    “Never, ever buy a car without telling your spouse,”

    Yeup, did this not two months ago with the 88 Tbird. But It wasn’t so much, hey a bought a car as it was, “it followed me home” not a lie technically.

  • Nathan Lerman-Pszenica

    The only thing I know about the Dodge Magnum is that the serial killer Bobby Joe Long was caught because he drove one; one of his would-be victims saw the word “Magnum” on the dash of a red car with a red interior, and that’s how they caught him. He apparently had an extra X chromosome, which made him grow breasts, and he slept with his mom until he was 13. If that’s not the making of a good theme right there, I don’t know what is:

    • The Rusty Hub

      That’s pretty high-concept, but it’s good/bad to know.

  • Cool_Cadillac_Cat

    Magnum trivia:

    Those clear headlamp covers rotate down. Also, the T-tops should more than cover the cost of the car & fetching it, as they can’t be all that commonly available anymore.

    I’m surprised it doesn’t have turn indicator repeaters on top of the front fenders. Those were a cool feature. I’ve had them on two Cadillacs…fiber optic, even in 1973. Shows parking lights, turn indicators, low and high beam with three different colors/indicator spots.

  • Jim Crider

    WRIF bumper sticker! Quite possibly the car spent some time in Detroit. Which would explain a lot of the cancer.

  • MerhB

    Colonial Dodge! WRIF sticker!! A Detroit car!!!
    I live in Virginia now but I think I know this car, or knew it 25 years ago. Fuzzy, perhaps not, but I’m pretty sure it used to come into our service station to gas up regularly – and at one point I put tires and front brake pads on it. How utterly bizarre!
    So I guess my point is, the car ran at one point. Good luck!

    (PS – That old classic Clapton/WRIF sticker is fetching $5 on CraigsList currently.)

    • The Rusty Hub

      Those tires and front brakes are very likely still on the car. Or the tires were until recently.

  • William Robinson

    I just a smidgen late to this conversation but… you have proved it runs, just not well. Now I believe the only way to make these lean burn contraptions run properly is to get rid of all the lean burn crap all together. One of the aftermarket carb company’s used to offer a bolt on kit but I don’t remember which.

    • The Rusty Hub

      Correct. Going to get…anything but a Thermoquad.

viagraon.com

ссылка etalon.com.ua

Этот нужный интернет-сайт про направление dmi.com.ua.