Tim Meinert's 1964 Dodge Dart GT
1964 Dodge Dart GT ragtop, 225 slant six, A833 Four Speed with factory Hurst Competition Plus shifter
Part 1: How we got here
Purchased - Fall of 1992
Condition at purchase - drivable, 180,000 miles, engine recently rebuilt
First major incedent - front U joint broke, this doesent sound like a "major" incedent unless you have rebuilt one of those old ball-and-socket U-joints outside in the middle of winter.
Second major incedent - Valve keeper broke 'cause the guy who rebuilt it apparently used old keepers on new valves - really swift I thought. The number 6 piston got punched and the cylinder wall was gauged badly so that block was shot.
Pulled out the engine and started cotemplating the possiblity of putting in a 273. Also contemplated putting in a 440 and really trying to kill myself but decided not to hack up a rare ragtop that much.
Once the engine was out; decided that it was time to go ahead and do a little work on the tranny which was a little rough on the 2-3 shift.
Pulled the tranny out and noticed that the crossmember box above the tranny had some rust holes in it. I already knew there was a little rust in the floor but I wasn't too concerned at the time. I knew I would eventually be replacing some sheet metal. (remember this thing is a unibody car)
Got to poking around and found some very bad rust out below the front control arm mounts. It looked like I was going to have to reconstruct the rail about 6 inches on either side of the control arm on both sides.
At this point I decided to pull out the interior and take the top off and asses just how much work I was going to need to do to fix all the rust. I did not like what I found. Around both the front and rear suspension mounts there was quit a bit of very well hidden but pretty severe rust. I began to realize that most of the major frame to suspension connections were not going to last and this thing better come apart and be fixed before I continued.
Part 2: My Lord, What have I done?
To summarize, I took the body off the frame: Not a trivial matter in a unibody car. I drilled, cut and torched about a trillion spot welds and litterally un-unitized the car. most of the body is in good shape. I thought it was a bit strange how much rust had occured in the frame rails and how little rust the body had suffered. And yes, I am sure its the original sheetmetal. The only really trashed parts are the floor pan and trunk floor and, of course, the frame sections. I made a lot of measurements about where the suspension was mounted before I started cutting but the frame had already started to flex and the measurements are different between the left and right sides by up to an inch and a half.
Part 3: Where are we now?
I've decided to construct a box rail frame that matches the geometry of the original unitized frame. The primary problem I'm having is finding accurate and comprehensive info about where the mounting locations for all the suspension componentry and the angles etc. of those items.
After the frame is completed I plan to construct, or purchase, a new floor pan and trunk floor and make mounting hardware for all of the body panels and the bumpers and attach them to the new frame.
I still haven't made up my mind about the engine issue; slant six, 273, 440 or other hmm. Maybe I should take votes on that one.
Anyway that is the highlights of the saga, hope you enjoy,