A Mopar guy through and through

Stevensville resident Bruce Barclay stands between his nicely restored 1970 Dodge Charger and 1973 Plymouth Roadrunner muscle cars. Raised in a Chrysler Corporation family north of Detroit, he has favored Mopar brands his entire life. Handy with his hands, Bruce enjoys keeping his vintage cars well-maintained and looking almost like new.

Is it just me or is there a higher degree of enthusiasm from car buffs for Chrysler Corporation (Mopar) muscle cars than for the other two Detroit automakers? If so, why is that? We see this enthusiasm not only for the iconic E (Barracuda/Challenger) and B-bodies (Road Runner/Charger) performance cars of the late 1960s and early ’70s, but also for contemporary Chrysler brands. The nearly 12-year-old 2019 Dodge Challenger is eating for lunch the much fresher Chevy Camaro in the sales race, and it isn’t that far behind an equally formidable competitor in the best-selling Mustang. I recall in my car article back in late June when I interviewed performance car collector Bill Sefton that he explained that he owned more Mopar cars in his extensive collection because when a kid, the Chrysler Corporation twins Plymouth and Dodge seemed to have a greater variety of muscle car offerings on dealer showroom floors.

I’ve always explained my Mopar bias on having two older opinionated brothers. The oldest one was a Ford fan, the next oldest liked GM. What’s a younger brother to do but take up the cause of defending and loving cars from the weakest of the Big Three – Chrysler. Several weeks back I wrote about the history of how the popular 1968 Dodge Charger came about. It’s a favorite Mopar of mine and I thought the story of designer Richard Sias would make an interesting story.

Reader Bruce Barclay of Stevensville read the column and was motivated to send me a photo via email showing him standing between his two collector cars. Not surprisingly, both vehicles are Mopar muscle cars: A 1970 Dodge Charger and a 1973 Plymouth Roadrunner.

Bruce in his teenage years lived in Warren just north of Detroit where his dad worked as a production line supervisor at Chrysler’s Mound Road Engine, plant where the 318 V-8 was built. His dad’s occupation obviously helped mold Bruce’s bias for Mopar products. His first car was a new 1968 Dodge Dart 2-door hardtop with the 273 V-8 with 3-speed column transmission. It set him back $2,826. He drove his Dart while in college at Oakland University, where he earned a BA degree in French. With his unusual degree he went on to serve in the Navy during the Vietnam War and has held 19 jobs over his career. A few of the jobs he’s held include being a pilot, a newspaper boy, a boiler-tender in the Navy and an air traffic controller during the Reagan administration, when the president fired all 11,000 striking workers, including Bruce. That’s another story.

Of the two vintage Mopar cars presently in Bruce’s collection, his 1970 Dodge Charger was purchased first, in 1987. He located the popular, bright white Hemi Orange hardtop with a black vinyl roof in Illinois and painted it Hemi Orange. The stylish mid-sized Charger cost him $3,500. It was assembled in the St. Louis plant. The Charger was in good shape and on a scale of 1 to 10, Bruce would give it a 9. Under the hood the car came with a non-stock 1971 360-cubic inch Dodge truck engine. The Edelbrock Performer Intake manifold was added later, as was adjustable rockers. He had the block rebored to 371 cubic inch, added a competition cam and it now produces 335 horsepower.

In the early 1990s Bruce found his 1973 Plymouth Satellite Sebring, now a faux Road Runner, in Ohio. Using the 1 to 10 scale, his Plymouth at time of purchase was a 7. It needed some work. A Michigan-built car at Chrysler’s Lynch Road plant, he paid $3,000. Under the hood is a 318-cubic inch V-8 with a 904 Torqueflite 3-speed transmission. Like his Charger, his Plymouth is a two-door hardtop. It has been repainted using hand-held “canned” ClearCoat paint. He also has expended restoration funds for a new interior and a rechromed rear bumper. He transformed the white painted former Satellite Sebring into a Roadrunner by adding Roadrunner tape stripes. A vinyl half-roof in red really sets the car off nicely.

Bruce isn’t the only automotive enthusiast in the family. His wife, Wanda, once owned a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T hardtop with the powerful 440 engine. Her dad, a GM employee, asked why she – when she was in her early 20s holding a good job – bought a daily driver that made the family house vibrate when it pulled into the carport next to the house. Says Bruce, “She thought the car ‘pretty’ with the orange paint (Hemi Orange) and white stripe along the side.” She eventually got rid of the Challenger because, according to Bruce, “She discovered that the gas gauge needle went down real fast.” Bruce says his wife is a “car gal” and “sees eye to eye” with him on car buying decisions. By the way, three weekends ago Bruce and Wanda took their Charger R/T to a Galien car show featuring 40 vehicles and the judges awarded them the Best of Show trophy. 

The Barclays’ daily driver is a 2016 Anniversary Edition Chrysler 300 sedan with AWD. Also in the family is a 1997 Dodge Dakota pickup with 150,000 miles that looks from a photo to be in great shape. The Dakota has a “Lee Iacocca” V-6 engine (a V-8 engine with two cylinders lopped off). Bruce is ahead of his time with the Dakota. It’s rumored that FCA will bring back a mid-sized truck in a year or two to do battle with the newly re-introduced Ford Ranger and the GM twins Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon.

I asked Bruce if he could have any car what would it be. Naturally it is a Mopar favorite. He’d like a 1970 Plymouth ’Cuda Hemi hardtop with a pistol-gripped 4-speed manual with a black vinyl roof in Hemi Orange. Bruce is mechanically inclined and does most of the work on his vehicles, including oil changes, belt replacement, replacing filters, swapping tires and so on. Unlike this writer, he’s pretty handy at making his vehicles look great and keeping them running smoothly. Many readers may know Bruce as his 19th job is driving a school bus for the Bridgman school district. At the next local car show you attend, be on the lookout for Bruce’s two Mopars. They are easy to spot, especially the glow-in-the dark Hemi Orange Dodge Charger!

• Trivia answer: 1965 – a fastback based on the B-body Coronet platform.

Dar Davis founded the Lake Bluff Concours and chaired the event for many years. He has been writing this column since 1999. He can be reached at drd43@sbcglobal.net.