The forum has been upgraded!

Main Menu

My General Lee build...

Started by rebby, May 04, 2016, 02:05:42 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


Finally, a thread dedicated to my General Lee build. This was a pretty quick process so the documentation leaves a little to be desired but I'll do my best. I'll also be sure to update this since I keep making a few tweaks here and there.

Rewind back to 2012... I was looking for a parts car for my other 1969 project when I came across a Craigslist post for a 1969 Dodge Charger SE in Superior, WI. Ironically enough, I knew the guy who had the car for sale but didn't even realize that he owned a Charger. If I remember correctly, he bought the car in the late 90's and drove it on and off for a few years, it even served as his daily driver for a while. All in all though, he only put a few thousand miles on it. The car originally came from Alaska and was never driven much. By the time that I bought it in October of 2012 the odometer read just a touch over 24k and all indications, including the back story, led to this being the actual milage. As I tore into the car more, it became more and more apparent, that the milage was most likely correct. Based on what I was told by the previous owner, he bought the car from the original owner (I have yet to verify this) in Alaska and trailered it to WI. The car was complete with the exception of the engine and transmission which had been pulled for another car by the original owner and, by this time, was long gone. After getting the car home, a 440/727 was quickly installed in front of the factory 8 3/4 (the car originally housed a 383/727).

The previous owner drove the car hard and didn't apologize for it either! A number of "backwoods" bodyshop projects kept the car looking somewhat like a Charger but, by the time I bought it, it was in need of some professional help and a little sheetmetal. The car was originally triple green and the previous owner liked that color combination just about as much as our own Mytur Binsdirti. The vinyl top was quickly peeled away and treatment of rattle can red was applied to the car with an equally impressive R/T stripe. Eventually it was decided that the Charger would be fully restored, it was torn down to the sheetmetal and quickly abandoned.

A number of years later, the car was posted on Craigslist. I watched the ad for a 6-7 months before finally sending an inquiry. With the car totally disassembled and no pictures in the ad, I don't think that it was a project many wanted to dive into. By the time that I called the seller wanted to get it moved before winter set in so I made a fair offer considering the state of the project. My initial intent was to get a parts car and here, for roughly the same amount of money, I came across a project car that would supplement my other project very well. I quickly realized that I could combine the 2 projects and end with 2 very nice cars in the end by swapping parts back and forth. The new car, this General Lee, was to be my "budget build" with the other car getting the extra attention to detail.

Over the next week I frantically cleaned out the garage to make room and made the arrangements to borrow a trailer. I left early one Saturday morning to collect my prize. Later that evening, I backed up my driveway to unload. As you can see, the car is covered in dust/dirt and packed full of parts.

Work was really slow the start with. The primary goal was to get everything unpacked and take an inventory of what we had so that we could figure out what we needed. As I mentioned before, it was late October at this point so my focus was also shifting to hunting season and, sadly, preparing to hibernate over winter (garage is still not heated!). For the most part, the car continued to sit.

In early 2013 I ended up taking another job with a 2+ hour commute. The plan was to move once I got settled in and, as a result, work on everything other than the day job ceased. Roughly a year later the realization set in that I was getting nowhere and I decided to pull the 440/727 and send the car off to a body shop.

Since acquiring the car the only work that I had accomplished was an inventory of parts and some floor repairs (trunk and passenger side back seat area), not exactly measurable progress. Eventually a body shop was selected and we loaded up the car in January of 2014.

A budget and schedule was agreed upon, down payments made, and work was to commence immediately with delivery scheduled for late April or early May (4-5 months). Work started right away but quickly fizzled out and the car ended up in the back corner of the shop to be largely ignored. As the 1 year date quickly approached, the car still largely ignored, I started pressing to get the car done or moved to another shop. A few candid conversations and normal weekly visits resulted in a late April 2014 delivery, basically 1 full year behind schedule. Still, the car looked phenomenal, it was time to get to work!

In addition to the bodywork and paint, I also had the bodyshop fully coat the entire interior, including the trunk, with Lizard Skin. During reassembly, I added Rattle Trap (similar to Dynamat Extreme) over the top for some extra noise/heat abatement.

While the car was at the bodyshop, I made some progress of my own. My 4+ hours of commuting everyday were over (another long story) affording me some time to get some work done. I eventually decided to do a full rebuild on both the 440 and the 727 and they both waiting to be reinstalled as soon as the car made it home.

The engine build for this one is mild compared to the Indy stroker that I'm building for my other car. We built the engine in 2013 so my memory is slightly foggy here but I'll do my best. Bore ended up at 0.030 over and we were able to clean up and keep the factory crank. Rods and pistons are new as are all of the valve train components. ARP fasteners were used throughout. Stock 906 heads had never been touched and ended up with a pretty aggressive port and polish and were decked before reassembly. We started with the Team G intake manifold that came with the car but it proved inadequate on the dyno so we swapped it out for a Mopar M1 single plane. Keeping in mind that the goal was to keep costs down we started out with a Quick Fuel Slayer 750 w/vacuum secondaries. Although it did alright on the dyno, idle quality and off the line performance suffered so I swapped it for a Quick Fuel HR 780 VS and bumped up the primary jets a touch. I no longer have that dreaded stumble off the line (anybody want to buy a Slayer?). Ignition is nothing special, basically an upgraded stock setup with the vacuum advance plugged. I did upgrade from a standard coil to an MSD High Vibration coil since I'm going to keep it engine mounted. Fuel delivery remains mechanical via an Edelbrock Performer RPM through a 3/8" fuel line. The headers were actually included with the car when I first purchased it, we just cleaned them up and had them powder coated.

Dyno numbers were not quite as good as I'd hoped for, 528hp/542tq. However, this was with the Team G intake and the Slayer carb in place. I'm confident that the numbers have improved a little with the new parts. By the time we swapped out the parts, the engine was in the car so unfortunately I don't have any updated dyno numbers. I was able to achieve my goal of having a very drivable 440 that runs on pump gas and puts down plenty of power. In the end, I'm very happy with what I ended up with.

Note the vacuum brake booster, this didn't last long either.

Curt Rebelein, Junior
1969 Charger R/T SE (500 Stroker/833/D60 w/XP VIN)
1969 Charger (440/727/8.75, GL Project)


The transmission is a rebuilt 727 with an upgraded valve body and a new torque converter. I'm much more a manual transmission guy so I'd have to go back to my notes/invoices to know for sure what we ended up with in the end. On that note, I'll leave it at that (at least for now).

The included rear end was a 8 3/4 that had 3.23:1 gears and an open diff. This was not going to suffice. Gears were swapped out for 3.55:1 and a Sure-Grip unit was installed. While we were at it, new axel shafts were installed as were a set of disk brakes.

Speaking of disk brakes, the same modification was made up front. I went with a CPP complete front brake kit. The idea was to go with something simple that would bolt in without any major modifications or headaches. For the most part, this kit fit the bill and the brakes work great. The booster leaves a little to be desired though when you're only pulling 10-12" of vacuum at idle.

As shown in the pics, all steering/suspension was also renewed with new parts. This was the case front and rear including new rear leaf springs, shocks, bushings, etc, etc. The lower control arms and strut bars were the only exception to this and they will be tended to sometime this summer.

As previously mentioned the vacuum brake booster left a lot to be desired. The unit isn't bad, it worked for what it was but the simple fact is that I just don't generate enough vacuum to run it. I weighed my options and when it really came down it the idea of adding a vacuum pump just wasn't appealing. I researched my options for a hydroboost setup and eventually settled on a unit from Tallon Hydraulics. I talked to the owner a number of times to discuss my needs and how I wanted the system to look and he put together a package for me that fit the bill with everything that I would need included. I was confident that my power steering system was up to the task since I rebuilt both the pump and the steering gear before putting the engine back in place.

The Tallon unit is a major upgrade and my brakes are awesome now. I still have a little tuning to do with my Wilwood Combination Proportioning Valve but even with slightly less than ideal pressure getting sent rearward (to prevent premature rear brake lock), the brakes are much improved. Installation was a plug and process other than having to re-bend/run the majority of my brake lines due swapping out the combination valve for the Wilwood unit and the relocation (valve is now under the hydroboost unit, in my previous setup it hung on a bracket under the master).

As highly recommended on this forum, I went with a mini starter from DB Electric. Knowing just how difficult it would be to upgrade and/or repair later with my Hooker headers in place, I wanted something that I could count on for years to come. That said, I'm keeping my fingers crossed (don't worry, the 5/16" hardware was swapped out for the correct 7/16" grade 8 hardware).

For cooling I went with a setup from Wizard Cooling. I optioned my setup out with a 26" core, dual 1" tubes, provisions for the transmission cooler, non-integrated fan shroud, high profile fans (dual 12" Maradyne M122k), and a thermostat bung for the fan switch. I ended up having to move the fans inside the shroud for clearance but, other than that, this setup was plug and play. With a rated 27a draw for the fans, I made sure to install a few relays to provide the power.

Electric fans virtually assured that the factory alternator wasn't going to cut it so I upgraded that to a 100a Tuff Stuff 8509RFDP I decided to stick with an externally regulated radiator so that the alternator would drop in with my 1970 style wiring harness without any modifications. Although I would preferred a natural finish, the black looks good under the hood as well. With this alternator in place, I don't have any concerns about the additional amp draw from my electric fans and other various add-ons.

When we first bought the car in 2012 I bought a cheap battery from Walmart just to get things started. As expected, this battery didn't stick around for long. It was replaced with an Optima RedTop 34R. I went with the R model to move the terminals a little closer to wiring and it worked out perfectly.

I know that there is much debate on if a muscle car should have A/C or not. This car is a factory A/C car (which I found odd since it's an Alaska car) and, since I plan on taking the car on longer trips from time to time, A/C is something that I wanted for those hot August days. To add to the argument for A/C (in my case), my youngest son has congenital heart defects and, for him, climate control is a HUGE benefit. So there we have it, A/C it is! I pulled the stock heater box to make way for a Gen IV system from Vintage Air.

Due to the fact that my car didn't have a front clip or fenders, installation was pretty straight forward. I'd hate to repeat this process with those parts in place.

In the picture above you can see the radio tuned to 1000 AM which reminds me. I did not install a factory antenna. This makes AM radio nearly impossible to pick up. I even tried one of those hidden antennas without any luck. Enter the RediRad. It's a neat little device that connects to the factory antenna jack on the radio and has a 3.5mm male plug that can connect to virtually any device (there is also a passthrough antenna hookup if you do have a factory antenna). At the moment I'm using an old iPod Nano that has a duplicate of my music library on it and the ability to pick up FM radio. It's pretty slick. I'm considering adding a bluetooth receiver to the mix so that I can connect my iPhone sans wires.

When we went to Mopars in the Park in 2015 I remember mentioning to one of the vendors who was selling a restored 69 grille that my wife and I would be restoring our grille. He snickered, laughed, wished me well on my upcoming divorce, and mentioned that he'd have a grille for me in 2016. Well, sorry to the aforementioned vendor, I think that we pulled it off. Oh, we're still married too. A HUGE thanks to this forum for the countless grill restoration threads that helped us with this endeavor.

Curt Rebelein, Junior
1969 Charger R/T SE (500 Stroker/833/D60 w/XP VIN)
1969 Charger (440/727/8.75, GL Project)


General Lee purists prepare yourselves... I put a black interior in my General Lee, yes, a BLACK interior. Although a tan interior would have been ideal, I went with black for a few reasons. First, I already owned 2 complete black interiors. One for this car, and one for my other car. It seemed silly to buy another one. Second, I like black interiors better. I prefer the way they look to any other color, enough so that all my vehicles have black interiors. Finally, my kids ride in my General Lee on a pretty regular basis. Kids are really hard on interiors and the black ones appear to hold up a little better than lighter colors. Someday I may go with a more "correct" interior but, for now, I love the black and have no regrets about installing it. Of all the people that have seen the car, other than my kids, nobody has pointed out how the interior isn't the right color.

I also added modern 3-point seat belts front and rear from Wesco Performance. I ended up installing the rear retractors above the package tray. These have worked great so far and we all appreciate the touch of added safety over the lap belts.

I noticed after the fact that I need to get the inside of my doors painted black to match. That's on the list for another day.

When I was tearing out the interior, I did find a build sheet taped to the back of the glove box liner. Unfortunately a mouse decided that he needed it to help make a home at some point. Sadly, there isn't much left of it.

My factory gauge cluster was in pretty good condition but I wanted to be sure that all of the gauges were calibrated correctly and working as they should. Additionally, I really wanted a Tic Toc Tach. I scoured Ebay and posted a WTB thread here to procure a Tach and once that was in hand my entire cluster was shipped off to Gary, the Tach Man. He did a fantastic job and it was worth every penny. I added some new dash plastics and I was set.

One of the issues with the stock trunk setup in this car is that there is nothing in place to protect the quarter panels from stuff flying around. I wouldn't be terribly concerned about this but I like to bring my General Lee to the golf course and we've all seen what a 9-iron can do in the hands of a pissed off Swedish model. I didn't want that same wrath coming to my new quarters panels. It was time to add some inner trunk liners to add a layer of protection.

I've accepted the fact that these cars can break down from time to time and getting stranded isn't part of the enjoyment as far as I'm concerned. A few trips to Harbor Freight to procure some tools and the addition of a spare parts bag should help matters if (when?) something breaks down. At least I won't be a sitting duck waiting for a tow, I'll have some options. The factory spare tire location proved to be a great spot to hide a large tool set and an assortment of spare parts (including a bunch of common components like a bottle jack, fuses, relays, wire, jumper cables, ballast resister, voltage regulator, ignition box, fix-a-flat, and other various parts).

One project that I should have done during the initial assembly was to convert all my lighting over to LEDs. I strongly considered it but in an attempt to minimize potential problems, I went with the old school Edison bulbs instead. A large order from Super Bright LEDs and a lot of acrobatics and skinned up arms have satisfied my desires for brighter, cleaner, light. Even though I replaced all the wiring it's nice to know that I've reduced the load on the various harnesses and plugs which should help ensure that the new ones last even longer than the ones that they replaced.

Headlights are my next project. I did add relays to the the headlight circuit so the sealed beams are much improved but I'd still like a bit more light up front. We live in an area with a lot of deer and brighter headlight never hurt with the unexpected obstacles.

There are a few signature items that make a General Lee, a General Lee. Unlike my interior color deviation, I stuck to the more conventional path for the majority of these items.

Wheels are the new release American Racing Vectors. These look far better than anything that I could have accomplished with a classic set.

My push bar is a narrow style bar that is very similar to LEE1. Mine is made out of aluminum and connects to the factory bumper bolt provisions. To protect the bumper, I used an old cut up mouse pad that the push bar's previous owner included to sit between the push bar and the bumper. Genius, absolute genius.

I wired my Dixie Horn into the stock horn switch. There is a SPDT switch mounted under the dash that allows me to swap between the Dixie and the factory horn. The horn pump and the horns are mounted behind the grille on a custom bracket. My OCD kicked in and I painted the pump and swapped out the white tubing with black fuel line to better hide everything behind the grille.

Every General Lee has to have a CB Radio, right? Well... like the black interior, sometimes I just need to be different. Instead of installing a CB radio (which I have little use for), I upgraded this piece of the puzzle to a Yaesu FT-8800R dual band HAM radio with crossband repeat. This is the same radio that I run in my other vehicles and it's really nice to have on road trips. As a Metro SkyWarn weather spotter, it's nice to be ready to go in situations of adverse weather as well (what's the best route to take so that I can avoid hail?). A Comet SBB-5 gets me on the air and looks right at home on the trunk lid.

Decals are a hybrid of the various "eras" and were sourced from CrzyC's GL Graphics. Provided instructions were great and easy to follow. I'm very happy with how the graphics turned out. They even came with a few extra, smaller, decals that ended up on our other vehicles. Now they all have an 01.

Curt Rebelein, Junior
1969 Charger R/T SE (500 Stroker/833/D60 w/XP VIN)
1969 Charger (440/727/8.75, GL Project)


Overall I'm really happy with how the car turned out. It was defiantly a decent amount of work and I wouldn't go so far as to call it "done" by any stoke of the imagination. I still have a list of things that I'd like to accomplish with the car but it's certainly drivable and it's pretty comfortable and enjoyable as well. The more miles that I put on it (I'm creeping up on about 1500), the more kicks that I get worked out. It's been pretty trustworthy as a driver as of late.

I mentioned a majority of my todo list above so I'll leave at that for now short of saying that I need to get it washed up and get some decent pictures taken. For now I have a few that we took last fall of the exterior prior to getting all the chrome and glass installed (as well as the push bar). I did grab a few of what it looks like under the hood recently though so I'll include them here.

One of my favorite places to take my General Lee on a regular basis is the golf course so I just had to have a few custom accessories made for the golf bag.

If you've managed to stick around until now, I'd just like to add in a huge THANK YOU for all of the help that you have all contributed my way during this process. The questions that were asked/answered over the years on this forum proved to be instrumental to this restoration.

I look forward to your questions and comments. YEEEE HAAAA!!!!
Curt Rebelein, Junior
1969 Charger R/T SE (500 Stroker/833/D60 w/XP VIN)
1969 Charger (440/727/8.75, GL Project)


Curt Rebelein, Junior
1969 Charger R/T SE (500 Stroker/833/D60 w/XP VIN)
1969 Charger (440/727/8.75, GL Project)


68 Charger 512 cid,9.7to1,Hilborn EFI,Home ported 440 source heads,small hyd roller cam,COLD A/C ,,a518 trans,Dana 60 ,4.10 gear,10.93 et,4100lbs on street tires full exhaust daily driver
Charger55 by Charlie Keel, on Flickr

tan top

Feel free to post any relevant picture you think we all might like to see in the threads below!

Charger Stuff,86777.0.html
Chargers in the background where you least expect them,97261.0.html
C500 & Daytonas & Superbirds,95432.0.html
Interesting pictures & Stuff,109484.0.html
Old Dodge dealer photos wanted,120850.0.html




Nice build! Looking real good!   :2thumbs:
1969 Dodge Charger R/T
2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee 75th edition
1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee
1972 Plymouth Duster


 I don't really go for the GL but I really think you knocked it out of the park with this one. Very nice. I like the black interior too. I think it improves the car. :yesnod:


Love it- I especially like how the 3 point seat belts up front give the illusion of a roll bar without having the inconvenience.



Thats freaking awesome  :coolgleamA: !!!!

Mike DC

A rough project car turned into a nice street-friendly General Lee.  Can't go wrong with that.   :2thumbs:


Thanks for all the compliments guys. It's been a fun, yet frustrating, project. We've all been very happy with the results. I've seen so many General Lee's over the years and always wanted one of my own. Most of the GLs that I've seen though were in rough shape and often times many of the aspects that make a Charger a Charger were neglected in one way or another. My goal with this project was to build a really nice Charger that just so happened to be a General Lee.
Curt Rebelein, Junior
1969 Charger R/T SE (500 Stroker/833/D60 w/XP VIN)
1969 Charger (440/727/8.75, GL Project)



I finally "finished" my LED conversion today and am finally happy with how all the bulbs are working. My final change tonight was to swap out my white dash blinker bulbs with some green ones.

The only Edison bulbs that are left in my car are the hood turn signals, the radio, the ash tray, and the ignition key light. All of these bulbs fit in a sleeve of sorts and I have yet to find an LED that will fit the sleeve (hence the quotes when I say "finished"). I was able to get all of my LEDs from with the exception of the glove box LED which is reverse polarity (found on eBay, listing was for BMW/Audi/Mercedes dome light).

Here are the lights that I ended up using;


Rear inside marker lights
License plate


Map light
Courtesy lights
Dome light
Trunk light
Console gear indicator
Glove box (reverse polarity BA9s, eBay)

In order to get the blinkers to work, I needed to use no load flashers. I ended up grabbing 2 of these, one for the blinkers and one for the emergency 4 ways. Both of these flashers were under the dash right next to the steering column in my car making access relatively easy (blinker on the driver's side just sitting on the ledge, 4-way on the passenger side in a bracket). I did need to reverse the polarity on both flashers to get them to work though, I used remnants of an old wiring harness to make the jumpers but you could really use anything. I've also seen these flashers sold with a "shim" that reverses polarity as well, that would be even better. Note that these flashers do need to be grounded (which is good, no load flashers that don't have a ground strap generally don't work w/a full LED conversion). These flashers work great, my only annoyance with them is that they click for a few extra cycles after the lights stop blinking. I'm not sure why that is but the clicks fade off it's getting to the point already that I hardly even notice it. For what it's worth, my traditional flashers worked just fine with the load provided by the hood turn signal and the front 1157s in place. Once I swapped out that last 1157 though, I needed to switch to a no load.

I also added some festoon base sockets and bulbs for additional floor lighting. I used 2 on the driver's side (to kill the shadow from the brake pedal) and 1 on the passenger side. I used some festoon bulbs that I had left over from another project. I might add one (or more) of these socket/bulb combinations in the trunk and/or under the hood. They really work great for auxiliary lighting.

I really wish that I could have found something for the few bulbs that I needed to skip but this is a HUGE upgrade over the brand new Edison bulbs that I installed last fall. It's nice to have much brighter and much whiter light all around (or amber/green/red in the case of the colored LEDs). Bonus points for reducing the current load on the wiring harnesses!  :2thumbs:

Time to nail down my headlight swap! My wife also informed me tonight that I need to add a rear sway bar and upgrade the one in front. Yes dear!  :yesnod: :cheers:
Curt Rebelein, Junior
1969 Charger R/T SE (500 Stroker/833/D60 w/XP VIN)
1969 Charger (440/727/8.75, GL Project)


I've done a bunch of little things to GL already this summer but this little "modification" has to be the coolest so far!
Curt Rebelein, Junior
1969 Charger R/T SE (500 Stroker/833/D60 w/XP VIN)
1969 Charger (440/727/8.75, GL Project)



Great job on the car. That grill came out awesome!  :2thumbs:

Those General Lee oven mitts are a little weird though! ;D


Great looking car ... And story

'74 Rallye 4spd (WH23L4) (1 of 94)
'74 Rallye Auto (WH23L4) (quad black)
'69 Swinger 340 - 4spd
'70 Duster 340 - 4spd


Quote from: Lennard on June 17, 2016, 05:54:36 PM
Great job on the car. That grill came out awesome!  :2thumbs:

Those General Lee oven mitts are a little weird though! ;D

LOL They sure look good in the golf bag though!
Curt Rebelein, Junior
1969 Charger R/T SE (500 Stroker/833/D60 w/XP VIN)
1969 Charger (440/727/8.75, GL Project)