Members Cars (Archive)

1973 VJ Charger 770
Steve Whelan
Last Updated: 25/05/2018

This is my Sunfire Yellow VJ Charger 770 with the E55 engine option.  Built 3/73 it was originally sold in Victoria and from the history I have managed to get has had 3 previous owners. It has been a ‘lucky’ car, in that it has had a relatively sheltered life and a series of careful and hopefully, loving, owners.  The vehicle has paid that respect back by remaining virtually rust free, straight and tight.  I bought the car about 5 years ago from an E55 enthusiast who had the car in Wagga Wagga NSW.  The owner told me it was running a tired 318 and the original engine was in the boot, it having recently thrown a rod with absolutely no warning at only 100km/h.  From speaking to the fellow, we can only assume the engine had been previously rebuilt and perhaps a conrod bolt had failed.  Luckily the rod went directly down, taking out only the sump and windage tray. More on the engine later. 

It was bought sight unseen, however I spoke to the mechanic who had worked on the car in Wagga, as well as the car transporter inspector- both giving the thumbs up. When it arrived in Perth it was even better than anticipated.  The interior was extremely well looked after and all the trim, in and out was virtually unmarked.  The car has a bit of history as well:  Apart from being in the Hey Charger book (page 75), it was apparently owned (or used as a company car) by a well known FM radio announcer in the 90’s in Melbourne who put it as a prize in a radio competition at the time.  For this it was given a respray, a remote car alarm and an expensive stereo with subwoofer, CD stacker, huge power amp and front dash mounted tweeters. Back in the 90’s when this was done it was all top priced gear.  However I don’t like clutter and it detracted too much from the originality so it all had to come out. Luckily they did not cut the door trims, only the kick panels which I replaced when I removed everything. 

The Charger was originally bought as a car to own and enjoy for a year and then sell as bought.  However with values on the up I decided to keep it and started falling in love and decided to give it a good freshen up. With the engine out and being rebuilt, I had the engine bay sandblasted as it was the tiredest part of the body, with a previous battery accident doing some cosmetic damage.  It was painted in 2 pack along with under the bonnet and everything going back into the engine bay was new or rebuilt.  A NOS brake master cylinder, brake lines, hoses and calipers, all getting the treatment.  I rebuilt the back brakes and even went so far as to colour the brake springs as close to the original colours as I could!  The brakes are now superb- better than my Commodore daily driver.  

So the engine remains at original bore and I had it rebuilt entirely by my trusty Mopar mechanic who did a brilliant job.  His comments about the engine was that it was very clean inside and it had the best steel crank he had ever seen. While keeping the engine relatively true to its birth, the only changes we made were a Crane Commando cam and Rollmaster double row chain, orange ECU with Mopar Performance elec dizzy and pacemaker extractors as the original rare 340 exhaust manifolds had gone M.I.A (Missing in Action) before me. I put a Miloden H.V. oil pump and new drive, Ferrea stainless exhaust valves and Diamond cast original bore (4.04”) pistons that miraculously were in my parts room, just waiting for this application! Oh yeah, we put an ARP main and head stud set and ARP rod bolts as well.  It’s the best priced and most basic investment. 

Cosmetically, the only real changes to the engine are the ignition leads and wrinkle black rocker covers bought from Mr Barnes at AB’s. They do look a damn sight better than the factory blue ones and still within the Chrysler option theme.  The engine has now done about 3,500km and is an absolute delight to drive. The 340 really must be the best small block in the world as they say; although this particular one is not a race engine or a high performance engine by any means, you can feel its willingness and potential.  It has a beautiful sound at any speed and revs so easily and willingly that careful throttle from start is needed to prevent wheelspin. The cam is a near perfect street cam, idling around 700rpm even after only 30 seconds from being cold.  The steering box was rebuilt and I also wanted to try the roller bearing idler arm- I think it does make a small difference, the original 55A alternator and starter motor rebuilt and the engine bay rewired. This alone took me 3 days- as I wanted to match all the wiring colours as well as get all the lengths perfect so the loom would sit neatly. Things we do! A new radiator, water pump, fuel pump and I had the AVS Carter fully stripped and rebuilt and it is an absolutely beautiful carby, being extremely responsive with no flat spots.  The 727 is brand new with heavy duty clutches and rebuilt stall converter, new uni joints and a rebalanced tailshaft.  The diff is fully rebuilt now running a 3.23 LSD in the original housing. The LSD is faultless. I have kept the original 2.92 four pinion open centre for the new owner if I sell it.   

The only downer I can think of regards the drivetrain is the 3.23 ratio has the engine revving a little high for comfort over around 120km/h, so you are wishing for an overdrive to make best use of the lazy V8 torque band, were it to be used as a high speed cruiser (if we had no speed restrictions that is!).  However the 3.23 ratio is just right for the street and complements the responsive engine well. 

The entire mechanical aspect of the car has been rebuilt.  All the suspension has been done including new torsion bars and the underbody in most areas after cleaning was almost like it left the factory a month before, however I still had it resprayed in the original colour enamel and it is now all as new.  Although the interior was fantastic visually, the vinyl was getting very stiff in places and some small splits due to the tightness were beginning to develop. Also the metal dash fascia had some scratches so that was resprayed. So I had the seats reupholstered in matching soft vinyl and installed new plush pile carpet, as I prefer this to the factory loop pile.  All instruments were checked and tacho and speedo recalibrated and lubricated.  Ignition switch was rewired and the indicator mechanism replaced. 

If you have never driven around in a good looking Charger then you will find they turn heads.  Being biased as I am, I know that these cars turn more heads than any $75,000 HSV. You sit low and wide and at the lights the 340 makes delicious sounds, rocking the car ever so slightly and lifting the front end so easily with a spirited takeoff.  Comments like, “nice car mate!” are commonplace just driving around and still occasionally the “Hey Charger” shout and V sign from the oldies who remember. 

All for now.

Note: Larger pictures can been seen by clicking on the thumbnails