1970 Dodge Super Bee makes a black and yellow buzz
Standing out isn't always a bad thing. Dennis Szarzynski separated himself from the four-wheeled pack by scooping up a 1970 Dodge Super Bee.
He purchased it in 1979, not long after graduating high school.
"Everyone I knew drove Chevys or Fords," the Carol Stream resident said. "I wanted something different."
It wasn't just the unique badge that was enticing. "I also loved it because it was a big-block muscle car," Szarzynski said.
The Mopar had been sold new in South Dakota and was later purchased by the brother of one of Szarzynski's co-workers. "He was a military guy who was into it but lost interest over the years."
However, prior to that, the servicemen had done a fair amount of tweaking. "It had a custom paint job that looked less than appealing. The painter was experimenting and trying things out. It was gaudy yellow with huge metallic gold flakes in it," Szarzynski said.
Another oddity was found under the hood. "It had a junkyard 440 (cubic-inch engine) from an old Imperial. It ran but had lots of problems."
While several items were certainly on the "con" list, one huge "pro" swung the purchase decision. "The bodywork was straight and rust-free. It had a great foundation."
As a youngster right out of school, cash was short for Szarzynski. The purchase commenced but the enthusiast saved for two years before undertaking repairs. It helped that he had secured a job at a local body shop and was quickly learning the tools of the trade. In 1981 he started the project.
The first order of business was removing the out-of-place powerplant. It was swapped for the original 440 Six Pack engine, which the previous owner threw in with the deal. Before installation, Szarzynski had it rebored and installed new pistons, connecting rods and crankshaft.
Szarzynski also took time to address other minor items. That initial overhaul lasted a year and the next three decades were spent buzzing around in motoring delight.
"During the early '80s, I raced at Union Grove (Wis.) raceway," Szarzynski said. "I had some friends doing it and I wanted to try. Even my wife had a blast behind the wheel."
In 2010, Szarzynski embarked on a second and much more thorough restoration. "After all the years, the car was starting to show it's age."
The motor and transmission were both removed and gone through again. The bodywork was still straight but areas had worn and grown rusty. New metal panels were installed around the rear window and fender wells. The body was then sprayed in its tantalizing factory Lemon Twist Yellow paint. Changes included radial tires, stainless steel brake and transmission lines, and a trick Mopar brake swap.
"A friend wrecked a '70 Charger. I took its front power brakes and swapped out the Super Bee's factory drums."
This second round of work wrapped up in four months.
"It's a great running, reliable car. While it doesn't have a Hemi (engine), it sure gets up and scoots!"
While having some originality in your ride can be fun, it can sometimes bring headaches. "It's not uncommon to be out and have spectators forget about the Super Bee or think the model is something I created!"
But those comments don't sting. Szarzynski knows full well he's got a genuine example of sweet Detroit muscle, even if it is a bit different.