Back in late April of 2013, Dad was on the hunt for a new toy. I think he was a little jealous of my Mom's 70 Challenger convertible as his fixed roof el Camino just didn't cut it for the "wind blowing through your hair" feeling. Being a Mopar family, we started looking for a 68 or 69 B body convertible. We ended up trading away some cash and my father's concours restored 70 El Camino SS 396 that was fully loaded, triple black, for a 1969 GTX convertible. The GTX has all of its original sheet metal, numbers matching drive train, all factory original gaskets, glass, convertible top, etc. The car is practically in survivor condition with the exception of one exterior repaint and the carpeting and seat covers had previosuly been replaced due to fading when we got it. While doing some research on the car, we found that a total of 700 - 1969 Plymouth GTX Convertibles were made. This was also the last year for the GTX convertible as the Roadrunner was outselling the GTX by a margin of 4:1 since the GTX was the top of the line and the Roadrunner was considerably cheaper. Of these 700 cars produced, 362 came with the 440 V-8 and Automatic trans. Out of the 700, there are 47 left known in existence as of 2/14/2002. Our goal is to bring the vehicle back to factory fresh conditions with retaining as much of the factory assembly aspects and appearance as possible. Essentially, almost an OE type of resto.
The car is painted in code T3 Honey Bronze and retained its original factory applied paint on the door jambs and underside of the truck as well as the rest of the trunk compartment. However, since the car has had an exterior repaint, the paint was a very slight shade off from the original color so we decided to blend these areas and repaint them so the car had a more uniform color vs. seeing a color difference if you opened up either of these areas. The gaskets were surprisingly pliable and in excellent condition. The only exception was the trunk weather stripping which had the inside edge wearing ever so slightly. Upon further investigation, I found that the factory weather stripping had a part number and the DCPC early Mopar logo molded into a rubber skin that surrounded the foam weather stripping. After finding that the NOS (New Old Stock) fetch an outrageous price tag, I decided to try and use this "rubber skin" that had the part number over the top of the reproduction trunk weather stripping. With a lot of finesse and some sore fingers, I rubbed the old weather stripping off the old skin and adhered it to the new weather stripping, something that has never been done to my knowledge. The end result looks just like an NOS piece at huge cost savings to my father! Moving onto the interior, the only thing really needing attention was the paint on the upper door frames as the driver side upper door frame paint had been worn thin down to the primer, most likely from someone resting their arm against it. The paint in this area was not thick at all and appeared to be sparingly applied, no doubt in a means of saving money. When I reapplied the paint, I made sure to carefully sand over and around any factory blemishes such as paint runs, drips, etc so as to keep the original factory details. I also found where the factory had masked off areas and the exterior paint color had shown through. This process was duplicated as best as I could, again, to retain the original method and application the same which the factory would have done.
Once the interior was completed I moved onto restoring the under carriage. Again, I was amazed at the amount of originality that has survived on this car for the past 45 years. The only thing that appeared to have been changed out were the shocks and the exhaust system from the h-pipe back. The h-pipe was the original factory installed exhaust pipe and while in good, solid condition, the metal was rusty and would not meet our factory fresh standard. So, a call was placed to Dave Walden of ECS Automotive Concepts to get a complete new factory exact reproduction exhaust system for our car. This exhaust system has all of the factory bends, indentations, Chrysler penta-star, and date and vendor codings like it would have been when your car was assembled. While all of the parts were out from underneath the car, the factory applied undercoating was freshened up by going over the entire undercoating by hand with a small brush and q tips to lightly apply a thinned out undercoating so as to retain the original texture and pattern, yet get that nice, fresh looking appearance. We could have just re-sprayed the undercoating on, but we then would have lost all of the original appearance characteristics. When the undercoating was finished, I then turned towards getting the front suspension back together. The original tie rods and ball joints were still in amazingly good condition and we only had to replace the one ball joint due to a little excessive play. The bare metal parts were soaked in a product called Evapo-rust which removes all rust and corrosion yet leaves any paint such as inspection marks behind and untouched. This revealed a lot of paint markings which could not normally be seen due to surface rust or discoloration of the metal over the years. These marks were then measured, photographed, and documented so I could put them back in the exact spots when the parts got reassembled. The lower control arms were originally dipped in something called Cosmoline. Cosmoline was a yellowish, wax-like type of coating that was used as a rust prevention for the lower control arms. Over the years, the front of the control arms took their beating with being subjected to weather and other road conditions while the back side of them still had a lot of the original Cosmoline left. These, too, were restored in the similar matter of how they would have been done originally. Any bare metal parts were coated with a product called RPM which was also developed by ECS Automotive Concepts. The RPM is a coating that is applied to the bare metal parts which dries clear and dry to touch with no oily residue which would attract dirt or grime leaving the part appear just like it would have appearance wise from the factory. Once the front end was finished, I moved my focus to the back end of the car again, and dove in to restore the rear axle and suspension. The rear axle was a bit of a mystery as there were hand written words on the on either side of the axle tube that I had never seen before. After contacting multiple well known Mopar restorers, it seems that this is the only car they have known of to have this type of marking to which they have seen like this. The determination was that the wording was "TAPE" hand written in paint on the passenger side and "EBRAKE" on the driver side. The only thing we can figure was that the wording was a notation to tape the emergency brake cables for some reason, maybe due to shipping as the axle assembly was assembled elsewhere and shipped to Chrysler as a unit for being installed into the cars on the production line. I have found that notes like this have been found on other vehicles so as to let the assembly line workers down the line about some change in installation or other type of communication to let them know something has changed. As sloppy as this looks, I wanted to retain this little factory detail so it was again documented, measured, and photographed so it could be carefully reapplied just as it would have been done initially. All of these inspection marks make each of these cars unique as each mark was applied by hand by a person. No two marks are alike and not necessarily applied by the same person as it could have been done during a different shift, workers changed out during break times, etc.
Finally, the engine compartment was tackled. While in very nice original condition, it was showing its age like the rest of the car. The original paint on the engine was flaking off in areas and original cad plating was faded badly. Any plated parts were sent to Steve Orr of Old School Plating in Delaware to get freshened up and back to their original factory appearance. The only part in the engine compartment which is not date code correct would be the carburetor which is a couple months after the scheduled production date. I’m assuming that since the date is so close, that it could have been a warranty replacement piece. A search is underway to find an original dated one to make the car complete just as it was when it was new.
The restoration should be finished just in time for Dad as an added Christmas present for him. Although it won’t necessarily fit under the tree, I’m sure a nice warm spot inside the climate controlled garage next to the house will do just nicely. This restoration has not only given me a ton of knowledge about how the factory did things, but also a great pride in the accomplishment of completing something so nice for my father to drive. I could not have done it without the help of my family, my close friends, and last but not least, my countless web forums that I belong to. Thank you all ! See you all at the shows.