How I revived this dusty, forgotten classic Chrysler for cheap

Like a lot of gearheads, I frequently find myself absent-mindedly browsing Kijiji for strange and cool cars. I’m a bit of an Internet tire kicker this way. This is a bit like making a habit of stopping by the local animal shelter on the way home from work, because we both know that sooner or later, you’re going to take one home with you. This is how I came to own a pristine 1969 Chrysler Newport for a total cost of just $3,000.

The find

People always ask me how I managed to find such a good deal on this car. They think I knew somebody’s grandson who was selling their grandpa’s car or maybe that I managed to catch word of its availability through careful networking. But there really was no magical story of discovery for this Chrysler Newport. It was listed on Kijiji for $2,000 and I called the number from the ad. There were only two grainy pictures and the description was curt but confident. The car was claimed to be in great shape and to have about 95,000 miles on it. The seller was easy to talk to and we soon arranged a time for me to come and have a look at it.

Cheap Chrysler Rescue

1969 Chrysler Newport sedan

About the car

The car in question was a 1969 Chrysler Newport Custom sedan. This is a low-spec car without a lot of options. It has a 290 horsepower 6.3-litre V8 mated to a three-speed automatic transmission. The car has cloth bench seats, manual windows, an AM radio and no air conditioning. As you can probably tell, it’s a massive car. It’s about 19 feet long and it’s a good eight inches longer than my 1999 Chevrolet Suburban. These cars were supposed to be MoPar’s answer to Cadillac and Lincoln, but the low specification of this model meant it was really more on par with an Oldsmobile or Buick.

Cheap Chrysler Rescue

This is how it looked when I brought it home. It was covered in dust but I was still very pleased with my purchase.
Clayton Seams, Driving

The transaction

It took a few weeks to get myself, my mechanic and the seller in the same place at the same time, but a $100 deposit convinced the owner to hold the car for me. I used a mobile mechanic service to help me inspect the car. This cost me $180 and I heartily recommend this for anyone checking out an older car. The car I found was not the shiny car in the photos. It had been sitting in a parking garage unmoved for three years and was covered in a thick blanket of dust.

I had to jump start it from my Suburban (which nearly stalled under the strain of waking a big-block V8) and the big 383-cubic-inch V8 roared to life in a cloud of grey smoke and dust. It’s alive!

The car was uninsured and unregistered, so my test drive was limited to a few laps around the apartment complex. Despite being dormant for three years, the car drove beautifully. It idled smoothly, had plenty of power, braked cleanly and was otherwise a perfectly mannered car. At this point, my mechanic pulled me aside to told me that I would be a complete fool not to buy this car for the $2,000 asking price.

The seller offered to lower the price for a broken mirror and antenna, and I excitedly handed him $1,700 in cash (I often go to buy cars with a stack of cash because it’s a good bargaining chip. It’s difficult for people to see a stack of cash and say no to it). A bill of sale was signed, I insured the car over the phone, and I drove away happily in my new Chrysler. I drove the car home with no license plates and a passing police officer just waved at me.

Cheap Chrysler Rescue

The big 383 V8 is dirty but healthy. I’ve since detailed the engine bay and repainted the valve covers.
Clayton Seams, Driving

The repairs

The Chrysler had been stored indoors since the early ’90s so, it was very well-preserved under all the dust. Despite this, there were a few relatively simple issues that needed addressing. The first thing to attend to was the black engine oil and ancient spark plugs. The parts were available at NAPA and Canadian Tire cheaply and the big Newport ran so much better after I swapped them out.

The next thing to address was the fuel in the tank from 2011. I removed the fuel filter (which for some silly reason is located behind the alternator) and was pleased to find the fuel free of particulates and a healthy golden colour. I replaced the fuel filter and will be keeping an eye on it before determining if I have to remove and clean the fuel tank.

I also had to replace the leaking valve cover gaskets and I repainted the valve covers while I had them off the car. This was a simple job completed in an afternoon that did wonders for the appearance of the engine bay. I also replaced the air filter.

At this moment, the car is drivable, but there are still two jobs left to do. The power steering pump works fine, but leaks and the pinion bearings (located in the rear differential) will need to be replaced. There really wasn’t much rehabilitation needed to make this car run like a dream.

Cheap Chrysler Rescue

This is the car all cleaned up. Yes, I’m going to repair the rust on the front bumper.
Clayton Seams, Driving

Registration and insurance

As a new citizen of Ontario, I never imagined this would be such a pain! Finding an insurance company that would even consider letting someone under the age of 25 insure a 45-year-old car was tricky. In the end, the cheapest policy I could find was through RBC Insurance for $260 per month. I was, however, able to insure my car over the phone and I did this before driving it seven kilometers home from the seller’s apartment.

The process for registering a classic car in Ontario is a little silly and a real pain. First, you have to go down to the registry and show them the bill of sale, proof of insurance and a valid Ontario driver’s license. Then, they give you an appraisal form and tell you to get the car appraised. They will then tax you on whichever value is higher. Fun, huh?

The only problem is that they won’t register or even give you a temporary license plate until you have the car appraised. How is someone supposed to legally get the car to an appraiser without towing it? An illegal drive two blocks from my house got me an official appraisal.

After this, I was handed a “temp” sticker and two license plates. I had 10 days to get the car safety inspected before my temporary tags would expire. It was now legal to drive the car and I had it inspected for $120. It passed the safety test without a problem. My car is now 100% legal and road-worthy.

Cheap Chrysler Rescue

The interior is all original and extremely comfy. The ignition is oddly located under the dash to the left of the steering wheel.
Clayton Seams, Driving

The Costs:

Deposit: $100
Pre-purchase Inspection: $180
Purchase Price: $1,700
Insurance: (one month) $260
Registration and sales tax: $270
Safety Inspection: $120
Parts: $356

Total: $2,986

Cheap Chrysler Rescue

On July 7th, the car made its first real trip. I drove it 30 miles to a cars and coffee event near Toronto.
Clayton Seams, Driving

Life with a gigantic Chrysler – Read more about living with a classic car here

I love this car. I named her Peggy and I enjoy waking up early just to cruise around with nowhere to go. It’s impossible to be grumpy or stressed when driving this car. It just wafts down the road with a reassuring V8 burble and she’s content to idle in traffic or fly down the freeway. People seem to really like this car. Whenever I park it, I usually walk out to find someone staring at it and asking me questions about it.

Yes, the gas mileage is horrific. I don’t drive it hard and I get about 6 miles to the gallon in the city. But considering I only drive it two days out of the week, the mileage doesn’t really bother me. It’s a car from a different world, a world where doctors smoked and bigger was better. It evokes a time when American cars were massive, powerful and completely unapologetic.

For $3,000, I bought myself a car that takes me back in time. Buying a classic can be cheaper than you think. If you’ve been staring at a $3,000 Camaro or MG on Kijiji, maybe it’s time to take the plunge. Trust me, the water’s fine.

About Clayton Seams