We like a big old American classic car. They’re cool, even when they’re not. By which we mean you could have the most ponderous, slow, ugly American car and it’d still be cool because it was probably in some background shots of the A Team or Knight Rider. Ergo, cool. That’s our logic anyway.
The uncool bit about American cars, apart from their propensity to get 30bhp from a nine litre V8, is the fact we have to sit on the wrong side in order to drive them. Yes, you may argue that it’s fine, and that you don’t ever overtake anything in said American car anyway, or that you get used to it etc. And that may all be true, but the reality is that driving a left-hooker on UK roads is always going to be a bit of a headache. Pulling out of junctions, parking, that cheeky Big Mac – you’re on the wrong side for it all. If only there was a solution.
You could move to America, though that seems a bit drastic. Or, you could buy this stone cold slab of cool that is a 1967 Dodge Monaco. Yes, the seller has it as a 1969, but we’ll get to that later. First, observe if you will, how the steering wheel is on the right-hand side. And this isn’t some backyard bodge. This car was built like this, more than likely for the South African market. And it’s got a 383 big block V8 under the, ahem, hood. It’s the perfect storm.
What is it?
What you’re looking at here is not a 1969 Dodge Monaco. It is in fact a 1967 Dodge Monaco, though was probably registered in the UK in ‘69, hence the confusion. The model years of the Monaco are fairly distinctive thanks to the grille and those amazing rear lights.
The Monaco was the flagship car for Dodge at the time, which is why when it was launched, the smallest engine was what’s fitted to this car; a 383 cubic inch big block V8. Thirsty, yes, but it also packed an impressive 325hp which made it a bit of a hot rod. Though looking at this one, it might need more than a little bit of love to free up all those ponies.
This car is the more common four-door model, though it was available as a two-door and as a convertible. The ‘67 was also on the receiving end of all new bodywork care of chief designer, Elwood Engle. Sharp lines, huge expanses of dead flat metal and of course, those amazing rear lights all made it to production. It was, and still is, a bit of a looker.
This car, as you can see, has drifted somewhat far away from the shores of being factory condition. Instead, this car is now nestled firmly in the custom territory. It rides on hydraulic suspension, wire wheels, the door handles have been shaved off and the body has been painted flat black. Interestingly though, we’ve been informed that this very car once graced the cover of Street Machine magazine back in the day, resplendent in gold!
Why is it a project?
Well, one need not be Edd China to see that this old Dodge has fallen into a state of considerable disrepair. However, all is not lost, as the car looks to be solid. This model featured a unibody construction rather than body on frame, so it must be in reasonable condition as it doesn’t seem to have fallen in on itself. That said, a thorough inspection would be more than recommended.
The vendor states that the engine and automatic transmission are still in place, but there is no mention of whether or not they function, so again this is something to consider. Happily, parts for the 383 are easy enough to find, though you will have to get them from the States, so factor that in, as shipping a load of stuff over isn’t going to be cheap.
The car sits on, according to the advert, hydraulic suspension. As was the wont of the custom car scene back in the day. Of course, this is fun, as it means the car can be dropped to the floor. However, there is no mention of whether or not the system still works. It doesn’t seem to be laying with its belly on the floor, so we’d assume there is some function. You’d also want to check how it’s been done. The Monaco of this era had torsion beam front suspension and leaf rear – how has the hydraulic system been fitted in conjunction with all of that?
Then, there is the way the poor old thing looks. The paint is very, very tired. The interior is largely missing, though the seller states that there are some bits included. It all needs a lot of work, more than likely a complete restoration. It’s a big project, make no mistake, but it’s a rare car, it’s right hand-drive and it’s just £3,500 so it’s well worth considering.
Five things to look for?
It’s an old American car, and they didn’t come with much, if anything, in the way of rust protection. You need to look for serious corrosion in the support structure, but not only that, you need to look for slap-dash, low quality repair work that you may need to undo.
How has the hydraulic system been fitted? Does it function? Does any of the original suspension remain, or are you going to have to fabricate something new?
Does it at least turn? If it’s not locked up, there is half a chance it could live again. The 383 is a strong unit, so if you can turn it, or better yet, get it to crank over, you’ll be in a good place. As we say, rebuild parts are readily available, as are performance upgrade parts. Just saying.
In all reality, you’re going to want to rip out the electrics that are there and fit a new loom. It would be the safest option, as the current one looks to have been hacked about. However, inspect it just in case.
The car has been in the UK for a long time, so the paperwork should be fine. But it would be interesting to see if there is anything relating to its famous past, or to the work that has been done to it. Street Machine magazine still exists, so maybe you can find a back issue from its glory days?
What should you do with it?
If it were our money, we’d strip it right back, sort the bodywork out and then rebuild it as the custom that it is. It would be near impossible and probably cost prohibitive to try and restore it back to original condition, and it wouldn’t be worth enough to justify it in the end anyway. So embrace what it is and build a cool cruiser.
We’d go all out. Restore the body, metal flake paint, something bright like House of Kolor Candy Apple Red, then we’d get a custom interior made, in white vinyl, naturally. The old hydraulic suspension would have to go in the bin, and instead we’d fit a modern air suspension system – you’d still be able to roll it low, but it would be comfortable and compliant, too. Not bumpy and jarring like hydraulic suspension.
Finally, we’d rip that engine out, get it rebuilt and detailed, throw in a better cam, a nice carb, some smart rocker covers and clean up the engine bay to match. Job done. That would be one awesome, head-turning machine.