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R-Bodies (Whats Good and Whats Bad?)

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  • R-Bodies (Whats Good and Whats Bad?)

    Just curious as I have some spare parts laying around and thought about one of these. I've read about half and half on reviews for these cars. I know the filter panels and bumpers were crappy. What is bad about them? How do they compare to say an M-Body 5th Avenue or J-Body?

  • #2
    Having had several R-body cars, I personally think they are great, with some reservations!

    If you have all of the police options, such as HD E58 360, HD 727 trans, and 9.25" sure grip rear, oil cooler, trans cooler, 100 amp alternator, front/rear stabilizers, etc.; they are hard to beat in the handling department, and durability, although very prone to rust in my neck of the woods! They have often been referred to as the "4 dr. Magnum!"

    But be sure it is equipped with ALL of the POLICE options, as mine were! They are hard to kill!!

    In my opinion, far superior to the M-body transverse torsion bar set-up, even when fully police-equipped!

    And, yes, both front and rear bumpers (aluminum) sucked, but there are steel bumpers out there.....or at least, there were!

    P.S.: I also have a few NOS replacement parts left for these cars, as I always tried to keep a supply on hand for common replacement items, like brakes, front end, u-joints, etc. And I forgot to mention that the wipers suck, too.....you will always have a wiper linkage problem!

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    • #3
      Thank you for the post. To be honest I was leaning more toward the New Yorker version and thank you for the offer on the parts but, I think I have enough electrical tidbits and some other pieces that should work from the '79 Cordoba. I wish these cars were easier to find but, it is what it is. I've owned a very nice M-Body but, I like the idea of the longer wheelbase with the hopefully more comfortable seats compared to my Cordoba. I have a '75 Mercury Marquis with a 460/C6/ Ford 9 inch 4 door hardtop I'm thinking of trading for one. The Mercury is a cool car but, I'm not much of a Ford-Mercury-Lincoln guy and like I said I already have some other parts that would fit the R-Body as well. Guess we'll see what happens. Thank you.

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      • #4
        Those rubberized plastic bumper fillers sucked on all cars back then, with Cadillac most likely the worst. I had to replace the ones in my 34,000 mile Grand National with Fiberglass ones.
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        • #5
          Thank you everyone. Sorry, I haven't replied to this thread in a while. While I'm a Mopar guy I went a different direction and got a Ford (Lincoln) Mark VII LSC. It's an okay car. Has the 5.0L HO Mustang drivetrain. 49k original miles.

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          • #6
            The '80 Newport I found was kind of in-between "cop" and "consumer". It was ordered as a fleet car by the former dealer in Midland, TX, sold by Fenner Tubbs C-P in Lubbock, TX, in 1981. 360 2bbl (with the one-year-only 318-size Carter BBD carb), TF, AM/FM, PS, PDB, a/c HD suspension (load-carrying, no rear sway bar), and split bench front seat in loose pillow look velour. Color was the turquoise metallic, as many TX Game Warden cars were painted. 15z5.5" wheels, whitewalls, wheel covers..

            It had seen some rough use, as the y-pipe had evidence of "contact" and weld-patching. It didn't idle as the "low speed jet" in the venturi cluster was restricted with deposits. Got those cleaned out with a twist drill. Electronic Spark Control was still fully operational. It had a homemade angle iron trailer hitch on it when I got it. Took that off.

            I went to a local Dodge dealer (where a friend worked in parts) and asked about some wider wheels. This was when the 15x7 Magnum GT and 15x8 Plymouth Kit Car wheels were on closeout! The GT wheels were $20.000 each and the Kit Car wheels were $23.00 each, over the front counter, wholesale. Trim rings and all were right at $200.00 for the GT wheels. Got three sets. Made the car look much better! With the stock P215/75R-15 whitewalls, the wider rims put the sidewalls in a more vertical orientation, so handling precision was improved. Got some new front HD shocks from Chrysler. It already had rear Monroe air shocks.

            Added the police Certified speedometer and a Chrysler AM/FM/Tape radio. Used some basic Pioneer 6x9s in the back. As the rear speakers were one-wire speakers, made the jumper wires for the ground terminals.

            Found two '79 Plymouth R-cars in the local salvage yard. Former county sheriff's cars. 360 4bbl cars with full dual exhausts. One still had the exhaust under it, so I got it all, plus the heat shields. As the heat riser on the '80 was vacuum operated, I needed the '79 rh exhaust manifold too. Had to get the lh pipe hanger under the rear seat for my car. Then used a universal hanger to make it all work.

            Had to play with the lh front pipes for lh converter clearance without banging on the floor pan. It all worked and no heat issues with the undercoat.

            One thing I noticed with the car on jack stands when doing this change, ALL of the exhaust was tucked up to just above rocker panel level. Which accounted for the higher floor level. This way, the car could clide over a curb without really affecting the exhaust system.

            I had checked with my parts guy about the front floor section. The Cordoba 300s and other similar factory dual exhaust cars obviously used the same front floor section as there is a pad to mount a console shifter, even on the 4drs! I saw that in the '79s in the salvage yard as all of their interior seats and carpet were gone.

            Later got a radiator from one of those cars, too. Mind had been perforating the upper tank, so I needed a core to rebuild. The cop car radiator had wider passages than the consumer radiator did. Got that one cleaned and such. Had to bend the trans cooler lines as the cooler was wider.

            The 360 2bbl was anemic, but ran well down the highway. The car had that "Feed me some ROAD! feel to it, which I really liked. Even more so with the wider tires and new HD shocks.

            A/C blew ice cubes! 'Wiper linkage bushing failed once. LH window pulls away from the weatherstrip at higher freeway speeds. Not sure if a replacement regulator might fix that? Just like the way it drives and feels, even thought it shows some wear and tear! Quiet and smooth. 3" inches of insulation under the thick carpet helps!

            With the color it is, the wide wheels on it, and the factory dual exhaust poking from under the rear bumper, it got the attention of many law enforcement officers, who looked to see who was in that car. Speeders approaching from the rear would slow down and cautiously ease up until they got close enough to see it wasn't a real police car. LOL Such fun!

            Chrysler knew what the cars would be used for and they designed a car that would do it and come back for more. That exhaust system vertical placement is just one thing. Once the bezels on the instrument panel are unscrewed, most of everything is held in with plastic push-pin retainers. Decreasing repair/warranty time charges to change anything in there. ALL quick and easy to do.

            Steering column is a GM/Saginaw column, looking like the similar '80s Caprice columns . . . BUT only on the outside. The inner guts are different and better than what GM wanted to pay for. So it has to be Chrysler stuff to repair them. Gets a funky turn signal/cruiser level item to replace the factory production item.

            Neat car, BUT . . . as nice as the bumper fillers were designed to mate with the bumpers, as the paint wore off/evaporated with age, the underlying material dried-out and became flaky and britle. Different stuff than GM used. The "ThermoGuard"/windshield washer reservoir makes the battery a pain to replace as the plastic stuff has to be removed first. The plastic ornaments on the center of the tail light lenses can come unglued from shrinkage and is hard to get stuck back into place. TWO lockup converters "spun out" when their splines wore out!!! Each time, I was a few blocks from home, which was good.

            And then there was the time I basically "heat treated" the motor AND "viscosity break-down checked the Castrol GTX motor oil I was using.
            The perforations in the upper radiator tank had gotten worse, so I needed to get it from my shadetree shop in northern Fort Worth to my home about 35 minutes away. I filled the tank and headed west. I basically stopped at EVERY gas station on the northwest portion of Loop 820. When I got to I-30/30, the stops got farther apart. The needle on the temp gauge rose with time as my cruising speed decreased by my judgment. The LED warning light came on as the needle rose. Any bit of throttle caused loud detonation, so that was minimized as best I could and still maintain speed. Finally, about 8 miles from the house, I stopped into a convenience store/gas station that had an outside water hose. I pulled up to the curb didn't dare turn the engine off.

            I got the hose and carefully started to try to cool the radiator tank off. As soon as I moved the hose, the wetness on that section boiled off. Eventually, it got cool enough that I could carefully remove the radiator cap. Any water I carefully added was geysered out, but I finally got that to decrease. Didn't want to try to do this too fast! But after about an hour or so, I did get enough water to stay in it to drive home. The needle had gone plain out of sight! I didn't know if the gauge was ruined or not, but as the motor cooled, it came back down. Funny thing was that after the needle went out of sight, the LED turned off.

            Got the car eased home. Moved another car from under the carport so I could park the Chrysler there. I figured it'd be there a while as I needed to install the re-done radiator in it. I raised the hood so it would convection cool over night. THEN I finally turned off the motor for the first time. It never ran rough, just that clattering on the slightest throttle increase. Just for grins, I hit the key and it started right up, as if nothing was wrong. So I left it with the hood up, put the other car in the driveway and went inside to unwind from that ordeal.

            I kind of figured that the heads might be cracked, so I was figuring out my nest moves if they were. A few days later, I went out and pulled the dip stick from the engine. Just motor oil, no evidence of moisture. That was good. I figured I needed to pull the valve covers off for new gaskets, so I got some Mr. Gasket items for it. Sure enough, the gaskets on the covers were crispy-crittered. They came off in sections and easily cracked at the slightest flex. BUT, no evidence, other than that, that there had been ANY head in there! No burnt oil smells, either. The motor oil didn't look much different than it ever did. NO burnt smell in it either! Later, after the cover gaskets were changed, I did an oil and filter change. Nothing came out other than motor oil. More positives. Got the radiator replaced and I put normal water in it, to start with.

            I let it run until it got hot, in the driveway. No issues. Drove it around for increasingly longer times/distances. No issues. Drained that out and added a gallon of antifreeze with the water. Drove it around more, no issues. After about several weeks of this limited use, I had the confidence to take it out of town on a shakedown cruise. 200 miles, several stops and starts of the engine. It all acted completely normal. Later, no condensation on the dipstick of milkiness in the color of the Castrol GTX motor oil. No knocks or different noises, either! I suspect that when and if the heads are removed, they'll be some hairline cracks between the valves. But as long as its running good, no reason to pull them off.

            Months later, the car did start to run a little funky. I changed the computer for one I'd bought when I got the car, considering that it came from deepest, darkest West Texas. Changing it made not difference. It ran with the original one. I was driving it to our Mopar Club show and I had to make a stop at the main post office in Northern Fort Worth. As I made the U-turn on the divided street, the car died. Wouldn't restart. I pushed it to the side of the curb. Given that this was just after Tim McVey had blown up the building in OKC, I expected some scrutiny from any security guards or such. None. I called some friends at the show and we got the car to my nearby shadetree shop. Gut the '67 Chrysler out and the '80 in its place. Timing chain, I suspected.

            Several years later, I got it to a friend's shop and got that replaced. Plus some other related things. It ran again, just as it should. When I drove it back to my shadetree shop, all four of the tires were flat-spotted, but I remembered how much I really liked that car AND given its short-comings, was a much better car than the similar GM cars of that era were! The edges of the front bumper fillers got knocked out during the repair process, but I got most of the pieces. Might get it all glued back together some day. Might need to visit Murray Park's place, too?

            Those cars just hit at a bad time in Chrysler's history. It's obvious that some corners were cut in procurement of quality parts, but they also designed the cars to decrease repair and warranty costs, which was very good. Production of this particular '80 Newport was about 22K, total. Production ended in April, 1981.

            I'd always wondered why the '79 Cordoba 300s (with the factory dual exhaust 360HO) could not have a lh front power seat. One year at Mopar Nats, I found a guy who had a former Fire Chief's St. Regis. I asked to look under the front seat. I immediately saw the reason! The front floor panel had to have an extra hump by the driveshaft hump for the lh car converter clearance. That meant the seat tracks were mounted about 3" from each other! An aluminum strap connected the re-positioned inner seat track and the frame of the lh seat. No room for any sort of power seat motor mechanism! Mystery solved!

            THEN, I noticed there was not the expected 360HO motor under the hood, but a 440. All it takes to put a B/RB engine in these cars is a "Cordoba K-frame", make that a Cordoba with a 400 V-8. Bolts right in! He just needed to get a hose built from the RV-2 a/c compressor to the condenser pipes. Some HP manifolds from a '73 Charger, he said, plus the driveshaft. All bolted together "stock".

            He added a pie pan plate from a 360 4bbl to the air cleaner, to throw-off the Chevy and Ford guys, after they wanted to see what was under there. He added an "RV" cam for a little more power. But kept the stock rear tail pipes in the stock location. He said there were some state police guys who badgered him about why it sounded "hetter" than the ones they had, back then. He maintained it was all stock, but they didn't believe that. Then he had to open the hood and show it to them. They were PLEASED.

            These cars just hit and the wrong time. Fuel economy and emissions gave us lack-luster performance in a chassis that certainly could have handled more power. The Open Road Handling Package was basically the police car suspension package, so that was a regular option. The 2.41 rear axle ratio was a hindrance, but a little looser torque converter could have helped that, considering that Caprices were mostly 305 4bbls with similar gearing. As bad as they might have been, they weren't that much worse than what GM or Ford had, performance wise. Except that you could still buy a 350 4bbl in a police-spec Impala.

            A little different engine package, the Open Road suspension package, bucket seats and console, the Magnum GT wheels or 15x7 XE wheels, and some better colors and such, for a more "Euro" look, it might have gotten more attention for a little added production line complexity. Just not a lot to get excited about, back then! BUT a lot of stuff was still hiding in the order guide, IF anybody had thought to look.

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