Introducing: Project Beachcomber, our 1979 Dodge Ramcharger

Introducing: Project Beachcomber, our 1979 Dodge Ramcharger

It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It’s also been said that everything is better topless.

For both of these reasons, you’re now reading about the latest addition to the Bangshift project car fleet: Project Beachcomber, my 1979 Dodge Ramcharger. We’ll start first with the imitation part and then get to the topless part, I promise.

Oh, and why the name “Beachcomber”? All said and done, the plan is to turn the truck into something reliable that I can cruise to the beach to with my family, not a hardcore 4×4 build. This is also my first vintage Mopar and first build that requires a good amount of bodywork, so be prepared to come along as I learn how to weld.

Setting expectations now, I’m going to attempt to keep a running tally of what this project is costing me, for better or for worse. As a Chevy owner that is now forced to source parts for a 40+ year old Mopar, I feel like this is penance for years of easy parts availability and low prices. Is this why Mopar owners owners are all so cranky? (Fueling the fire for the comments section…).

Anyways, let’s begin with how I even found the Beachcomber, followed by the current condition of the truck and next steps on the journey to putting it back on the road.


Finding the truck

Our own Tony Sestito’s “Power Laggin’” is one cool truck, so when I realized that as a responsible homeowner it would make sense to buy a truck for myself I of course calmly went shopping for the most reliable one I could find immediately started searching Craigslist for the coolest thing I could find within my budget of $5000 or less. Lightnings, SS454s, Squarebody Chevys, all were fair game, but also outside of my price range in decent condition. Just as I was about to resign myself to buying an early 2000s F150 or Silverado to dump my leaves into like any normal human being, I spotted this ad on Craigslist:


Let’s go through the checklist again of what I actually needed from a truck:

  1. It runs
  2. Isn’t rotted out
  3. It’s a truck

Now, let’s go through the checklist of what was now madly flashing away in my brain like 4th of July fireworks

  1. It’s a ‘70s truck, in my price range
  2. Better yet, it’s a pop-top 2 door SUV, which is beyond cool
  3. Even better, it’s IN MY TOWN

Sure, the ad may have completely lacked photos and mentioned such trivial red flags such as, “drove into my garage 5 years ago have not started it since”, “needs [insert bodywork here, meaning that it needs a lot more]”, and “used as storage”, but again, it’s a truck…and the roof comes off!

Now, here comes the tricky part: The original craigslist ad (Which I didn’t take a screenshot of) didn’t list a phone number, just “no e-mail, call Paul”. 

Given this minor roadblock, which of the following potentially stalkerish activities do you think I took part in?

A) Put a post in the local town Facebook group, asking if anyone knew the owner

B) Drive around town for several days, looking for a truck I’d never seen a photo of

C) Email the Reply To link, despite the statement of “No email”, asking for a phone number to be added

D) Refresh the Craigslist ad several times a day, hoping that it would magically be updated?


If you answered “E) All of the above”, congrats, your prize is in the mail!


After almost a week of this totally normal behavior I had all but given up, only to be rewarded when my early-morning refresh of the Craigslist ad rewarded me with a new title that included “Updated listing!” and finally, a phone number to call. Problem is, it was 6 AM. Patiently waiting until 9 AM to call so that I didn’t appear totally nuts, I set up a time to look at the truck later on that day. From here, let’s tell the rest of this tale with photos…

Points awarded for truth in advertising when it was written that the truck had been used for storage for the last few years. Looks like half of Home Depot was in, on, or under the truck. I was told that a set of front and rear seats were also in there, but had to take the seller’s word for it.

Overall, the driver’s side and frame looked solid, which was good.

Hard to get a view of the passenger side due to how the truck was parked, but I could see enough to verify that it would definitely need bodywork on that side, which I expected from the ad.

Here’s where the party is: The truck came equipped with full-time four wheel drive, a 360 which “ran when parked”, and an Edelbrock carb perched upon an aftermarket intake. Rats nest of wiring was a “Day 2” modification. Spoilers: It only gets better once I get the truck home. Stay tuned…

Talking to the seller, I found out that the truck also came with two hard tops (One was rotted along the rails, the other solid but with a custom “peeling black spray paint over blue” paint scheme), a full set of badges, and some other odds and ends. I also found out that I was lucky to have called that morning, since the seller’s phone had been ringing all day with people looking to buy the truck, including during the time that I was giving it a once over.

$3000 in cash later, I had the title signed over and arranged for a tow truck to come a few days later to trailer it the whopping two miles back to my house.


Current State

Now that it’s finally home, I figured a bath was in order so I could see what I was working with.

All cleaned up. Mmmm, 70’s two-tone brown. It actually has a metallic flake to the darker brown, at least the parts that weren’t touched up with a rattle can.

By this point Tony came by in the Power Laggin’ to get a glimpse of the New Truck On The Block. So of course we decided to do an impromptu set of photos of the two side-by-side.

Now that the family reunion is over, let’s take a deeper dive into the condition of the truck. WARNING: Graphic photos of rusty Mopar ahead. Viewer discretion advised.



We’ll take a look at the driver’s side of the truck in a future article to see how good the rust repairs were, but getting the worst over with, here’s a closer look at the passenger side of the truck. …Yeah, that ain’t pretty.

The rear quarter is blistered front and rear of the tire, so all of that will need to be cut out and new metal welded in. Same with the rocker panel, lower door, and rear of the front fender. Luckily, all of these parts are reproduced, although word is that fitment may vary.


The frame itself has surface rust, but looks to be solid (Now let me go find some wood to knock on…)

Quad headlights were a “love ‘em or hate ‘em” option for ‘79 and ‘80. My plan is to swap over to the grille and light setup from the ‘77-78 trucks, which arguably was the best look.

Ram’s head hood ornament was added on from an ‘80s Ramcharger. Neat conversation piece, but that and the hood will be replaced for the early 70’s “bird bath” hood.

Tailgate has some great patina, but also a few holes rusted through so I may be on the hunt for a replacement.

Factory wheels have been replaced with a set of black aftermarket steels wheels and some General Grabbers. Undecided as to what I’ll eventually run, but “wagon wheels” look great on these trucks, so I may try to track down a set of aftermarket 15s or 16s with that look.



On our second stop of the Tour De Rusty Mopar, the driver’s side floor and passenger cab near the rollbar will also need some patching. Otherwise, the floor is relatively solid. Like the exterior, patch panels are available; I’ll most likely attempt these first before the exterior in my Adventures in Beginner’s Welding.

Metal door panels are neat, but there’s a few other factory options that I’ll be trying to source.

Digging the steering wheel, although I don’t know enough about Mopars to know if it’s factory or not.

Taking a closer look at the faux wood grain dash there’s a full set of gauges, although no word on if any of them work. 

Impossible to tell how many times the odometer has rolled over, but I’m guessing the 102k stated in the ad is more believable than 202k given how terrible the fuel consumption of these trucks is reported to be with the Full Time 4×4.

Ammeter has been replaced with a cheap Chinese gauge, which in this case is actually for the best given how trucks with factory ammeters were prone to self-immolation.

Rounding out the non-factory gauge package is the venerable Sunpro Super Tach II.

Tunes are supplied by an aftermarket Sony deck manufactured sometime in the last 20 years. Well, in theory, since I haven’t actually seen any speakers yet in this truck…

Oh hey, a mystery switch! I love those! Turns out that this one turns on the blower for the heater box. I’ll most likely be diagnosing and fixing that along with replacing the Mopar glass fuses, which I think will look neater as a garage piece than actually in the truck.

A factory console was also included, although the door was replaced with a wooden one. Opening it up revealed a set of front seat belts in okay condition along with some factory exterior badges and a rear-view mirror.

How the power of the almighty LA 360 meets the road is determined by the Full Time 4×4 shifter. Undecided on my end as to if I’ll want to keep it full-time or convert it to part-time. If you have any advice on this, feel free to leave a comment!

Here’s a closer look at the front high-back seats. They’re in decent condition aside from a few rips.

Those armrests…mold or decades of ash burns from chain-smoking drivers? Either way, those need to be cleaned up and the foam inside them replaced. We’ll have a separate article detailing my attempts at saving these seats since i’m digging the 70’s fabric.

Loving the instructions on the visors


“Check the glovebox for parts for roof removal”…let’s go look…

Two small screws, a few black plugs, and some more glass fuses. Sounds about right…

Last but not least, a shot out the rear. The bed looks to be overall solid, but as you can see the factory lift back is missing the interior latch. No big deal as I’m planning on running a soft top or going topless.

Engine Bay

Someone was an Edelbrock fan, having equipped the factory 360 with an Edelbrock carb, intake manifold, and air cleaner.

The carb is in need of a rebuild as the floats were stuck. Luckily, that’s easy enough and we’ll cover it in a future update.

Stock manifolds loudly exhaust leak their way into a true dual exhaust setup that exists just front of the rear wheels. Evidently that’s a common exhaust routing versus exiting by the tailgate to avoid gassing out passengers, but the entire exhaust system will most likely need to be replaced at some point.

Ironically, I in part was excited to buy an older truck to avoid having to deal with a ton of wiring. Of course, that means I would purchase something that had a rats nest under the hood.

Most of it looks to be for a headlight relay setup that someone hacked together, which should be easy enough to sort out (I’m going to need some more wood to knock on…)

Efficient wiring routing or “Crap, I don’t have enough wire, just run it straight across the brake reservoir”?

Hey, remember that mystery switch on the dash? This alligator clip is the other end of that puzzle, which is someone’s solution to needing a ground for the blower motor.

We’ll end on this “first startup” video I took with a few friends of mine, which ended as soon as we spotted the aforementioned Edelbrock pouring fuel everywhere. If this is any indication of how this build is going to go, it’s going to be an adventure, folks!



So, there we have it, our introduction to Project Beachcruiser! Love it? Hate it? Let us know in the comments, and expect more soon!


Project Cost

Purchase of truck: $3000

Tow: $100

Grand Total: $3100


  • Share This
  • Pinterest
  • 0

9 thoughts on “Introducing: Project Beachcomber, our 1979 Dodge Ramcharger

  1. Rick

    Memories started with friend’s early K-5 back in the late 70s then another friend got a Ramcharger, it was way nicer,,,, always wanted one, never got one….

  2. 69rrboy

    Glad it went to a good home. Hope you had a lot of people there to help put that roof on. Took 5 of us to replace my friend’s. Two on either side and me in the middle with it on my shoulders.

    I like the79 grille myself. Replacing it will cause you a lot of grief and expense. Going to the 77/78 piece will require a different headlight harness. Plus a 77/78 radiator support(good luck finding ANY of those in worthwhile shape!) because none of the lights will line up if you use the factory holes on the 79 rad support. Plus you’ll have to find a nice version of the most expensive grille.

    Hope they’re not 16″ wheels. You can’t get tires anymore. It looks like a W150 with 5 lugs so it “should” have 15’s on it.

    Those full-time 4X4 systems are pretty good Not really worth the hassle to swap them out in an effort to gain mileage. It’ll still be a 360 pushing around a LOT of weight so you might not gain any.

    A lot of truck and van parts interchange with 68-70 B-body’s(GTX, RR, Coronet) like inner and outer door handles, arm rest pads, window cranks, etc. Glove box latch(always go bad) is same as a Volare, Aspen, Cordoba console lid latch. If you have any other questions about the truck just post them on here and I’ll try to help.

    These guys have a lot of parts.

    Mopar people aren’t cranky. We’re just always broke from having to pay 5-200% more for everything!!

    1. Dave Nutting Post author

      Only took 3 of us to get the roof on, surprisingly. Definitely heavy, though!

      Yes, those are 15″ wheels on the truck now.

      Luckily, I already managed to source a solid ’77-78 core support from Canada, by way of Texas. The grille was more expensive, but found a dent-free one from the West Coast.

      Bit of a sneak peek into the fun I’ve been having finding parts for this thing! All joking aside, the Mopar community is great and always helpful, even if the parts cost more than the GM/Ford equivalent.

  3. 69rrboy

    That’s great you found that stuff. I heard rumors for decades there was some guy in GA that bought out the rest of the government supply of radiator supports and had an entire warehouse full of them. I tried for years to get a name or some kind of lead but nothing ever panned out. Even got a few phone numbers but all they ever did was ring. Nobody ever picked up so eventually I just gave up. IF this guy actually exists I’d love to get the info.

    I never did get one for my 77 truck but I did manage to buy probably the last NOS grille that’s still in the factory box on Earth. IF I ever retire I’m planning on selling it to pay for my vacation!

  4. Lance

    All I remember about my first truck, a 77 Dodge, was the super small front wheel bearings that wouldn’t stand up to a 16 year old’s abuse. Watch them closely. Good luck with the build Dave, now I need to dig up a pic of my old truck…

  5. man

    congrats on a great buy,

    im a mopar man myself and enjoy my 77 plymouth trailduster with a (smokes on startup) 318 and semi permanent top removal, 3/4 ton 8 lug axles and basic walmart soundsystem.

    i can tell you that steering wheel is a factory mopar item that found itself to my 85 W350. i can also tell you that its the toy i most enjoy driving, considering theres a nice sized fleet that includes a 440 powered 72 charger, a 68 satellite, a mid 70s sand rail and a 55 bel air.

    my truck is sporting 35″ tires and a suspension lift made to handle 40″ tires, a later 241 part time tc and a small 2 barrel carb… top speed is probably around 75 that feels more like doing 150 on my wife’s Magnum RT and its not terrible on Gas.

    if you want to enjoy it as a semi daily driver you might want to look into changing out or modifiyng the tc to part time.

    also you might think im some sort of hardcore 4 wheeler but in reality i got the heavier duty axles because the previous owner hollowed out the front diff, swapped the tc for a long tailshaft unit and cost me around $360 to buy! it was quite the build that’ll probably never be finished but i love taking the family to get ice cream in it!

    also, those quad headlights will grow on you so dont rush yourself on that, cause youll want to also swap to a pre 79 “bird bath” hood and cowl… you know, stick to fighting the rust monster for now!

    keep us posted!

  6. thefatguy

    “should” be an NP203 transfercase, i converted my first 79 K5
    to part time with a bolt in kit and got a bit more power, as well
    as a little better mileage. id definately do it. love these old
    “personal utility wagons”, still rolling my 82 K5 daily.

    and YES those seats are phaaaaabulous…….

  7. Roy

    Just did almost exactly the same thing myself, except its a 79 Plymouth Trailduster. Might have thought twice had I done the research on restoration parts for these old Mopars. Picking up parts here and there when I can find them.

    Looking forward to bringing this old pop top back to life. Good luck with your build.

  8. Rich

    Just resurrected my 1980 Plymouth TrailDuster from where I left it 15 years ago. Looks like we’re starting off about the same point, I will have to watch for updates!

Comments are closed.