Appearance Options For Your M-Body
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Below is information on options for your car's appearance by Farley's member Remy-Z
Let's face facts: the Mopar M-body (and it's F-body/J- body siblings) are not the first, second, or even fifth options when it comes to finding an affordable Chrysler product to modify. The stigma associated with four-door boxy-shaped vehicles from roughly 1975-1995 seems to be the dealbreaker when choosing the car you build. However, everywhere I go with my Diplomat, I get all sorts of comments like; "Man, I wish I could take one of those and do what you did with it..." I think; "Yeah, so do I.". I only made it pretty. The truth about my car is that I'm only responsible for its appearance, and my budget for it has been extremely low. I've seen several good-looking F/J/M cars over the last ten years or so. Some of them definitely stood out, while others simply served as test beds for ideas.
There are plenty of modifications that can be done to affect how the car looks without getting into deep money. The majority of them are very simple:
- Nice paint job. Find a good paint color that you like
- Nice wheels. Find a decent set of wheels
- Personal touches. Add some tasteful touches that personalize your car to make it your own
Over time, that $800 second car will grow on you.General Appearance:
All years of M-bodies do well with chrome. You already have two massive chrome "railroad ties" on each end, and chrome window treatments, so use them to your advantage. You can also tuck the bumpers in closer to the body to remove some of the overhang off the front and rear ends. However, this may require some fabrication. Below are some suggestions for different “looks” or appearances based on many posts on this board.
- Cop Car Look - Diplomats and Gran Furys without vinyl tops have the cop car look going, so they both run well with solid, dark colors. Both have aggressive grillwork, so a nice paint job really sets these cars off and gives them a no-nonsense appearance. Dog dish hubcaps, pushbars and a spotlight will make most people do a double take in traffic. However, you can wind up being police bait in many metropolitan areas where ex-police cars are popular with young people. If you decide to paint your car in black and white police colors, you are guaranteed to get more attention than you will ever want. Body color cop car wheels and dog dishes also provide a nice effect.
- Classy Look - Fifth Avenues generally fall into this category. They are beautiful, elegant looking cars that do equally well with solid colors or with two-tone paint schemes. A vinyl roof done in a nice material is a plus. Continental kits can also be adapted to Fifth Avenues and painted with a matching body color for a nice effect.
- Coupes - The 1977 to 1982 M-body coupes tend to be interesting due to their limited produced numbers compared to 4-door models. You can go in many different directions with these, though I personally recommend the period-correct "little up front, big out back, tail up" '70s Custom look. The Coupes, particularly the 1977 to 1979 body styles, respond well to a small (2" max) rear end lift.
- Stock/Civilian Look - These are usually 4-door LeBarons, Diplomats or Gran Furys with vinyl tops that are usually well-kept daily drivers.
- Mild Custom/Street Machine Look - cars that fall into this category usually have a nice paint job and a set of custom wheels, with some of them being all out street machines. The best examples are Coupes, which are sportier. However, there are several Farley's members who have well-executed 4-door street machines. As far as hood scoops and wings go, I've only seen one hood scoop that works; the '82 Mustang GT 5.0 scoop. The 1982 to 1992 Pontiac Trans Am rear spoiler works well. I've also seen some homemade setups that work well; Bobbo hand-made a ducktail spoiler for his car that has a nice shape to it.
- Sleeper Look - A sleeper is a very powerful car that appears to be stock looking at first glance. This particular look falls into any of the above categories, as it can be used with either the Stock/Civilian, Cop Car or the Classy look. Sleeper Tips gathered from various sources:
- Make it look as stock as possible and a little run down. Maybe a bumper sticker like "AARP", "AAA" or "I brake for Bingo". You could also drip a little oil or brake fluid on the exhaust pipe for the smokey oil burner 'look'. Maybe one missing wheel cover.
- Ugly is better. Dont wash the car or clean the windows. Give the appearance that you dont spend any time on the car.
- Full wheel covers are best. No dog dish hubcabs unless you have a cop car. You can even use cheap parts store, or Wal-Mart hubcabs.
- No hood scoops
- No aftermarket shifters
- Whitewall tires are less threatening.
- No duals or fancy tailpipes showing in the rear. You can either use a big 3" single exhaust setup, or run a quiet dual exhaust and tuck one of the tailpipes behind the wheelwell with the other one showing in the stock location under the bumper.
- Avoid chrome engine dress-up items in case someone looks under the hood. Paint aluminum heads and intakes engine color. Use a stock cop car 4-barrel air cleaner. You can even add a "Lean Burn" sticker if you can find one.
- Lose extra weight...
- Race Cars - Cars in this category have obvious modifications that make them appear to be more suitable for the track instead of the street. They may be street legal, but they will also attract unwanted scrutiny from the emissions folks and from the police.
There is a lot of room to play with here from the factory, from stripper to fully-optioned luxury. The key here is to know what you want before you get the car in the first place. Many interior parts can be swapped between the various F/J/M lines, so keep that in mind. Engine Bay:
At a minimum, the engine compartment can be kept clean. WD-40 works well to remove grime on the body-color paint inside the engine bay without harming the paint. Oil and/or fluid leaks can be corrected to improve the appearance. A shop vacuum is good for removing dead leaves from of the many nooks and corners around the fenderwells and elsewhere under the hood. A shop vacuum especially comes in handy down in the trough where the windshield wiper mechanism is. A good engine cleaning also helps. There are also many aftermarket engine accessories available that offer a nice touch. Keep in mind that certain chrome aftermarket parts like oil pans, waternecks and valve covers should be scuffed up with fine to medium sandpaper on the gasket side to prevent seepage. Wheels and Tires:
Usually this comes down to personal taste. I've pretty much have seen it all from 15" mags to 18"s-20"s to wire Daytons, The key is to select a rim that will work with your car and your planned usage. Make sure the wheel offset, backspacing, width and tire size is exactly what you want beforehand, or you'll regret the purchase (and possibly damage your vehicle in the process.) A useful (but spendy) tool that is now available is the Wheelrite - Wheel & Tire Simulator by Percy's High Performance
Let's go over some wheel terms:
Common Factory F/J/M wheels include:
- Wheel Diameter:. This is the diameter of the wheel. 1989-down Chrysler passenger car wheels are usually 15". Some earlier Chrysler wheels were also 14". diameter. This dimension is usually in 1" increments (i.e. 15, 16, 17) but some manufacturers offer 16.5, which is rare.
- Wheel Width: This is the width of the wheel, measured inside the outer lip of the wheel where the tire makes contact. This dimension is usually in 1/2" increments (i.e. 7.5" - 8". 80s M-body rims are 7" wide.
- Total Wheel Width: This is the physical width of the wheel, measured from the outboard edge of the wheel to the inboard edge.
- Wheel Centerline: This is the center of the wheel in relation to the total width. This measurement is one half of the 'Total Wheel Width', or 'Total Wheel Width' divided by 2. It is important to know this measurement in order to calculate 'Offset'.
- Backspacing: Backspacing is the distance from the mounting surface of the wheel to the inboard edge of the wheel. This measurement is closely related to offset. To determine backspace, lay a straight-edge across the inboard edge of the wheel and measure from the mounting surface of the wheel to bottom of the straight-edge.
- Offset: Wheel offset is the distance from the Wheel Centerline to the mounting surface of the wheel that contacts the hub. The formula for determining offset is:
Wheel Centerline - Backspacing - or - [Total Wheel Width / 2] - Backspacing
Offset values can be zero, negative or positive:
- Zero Offset: Indicates that the mounting surface is at the wheel centerline.
- Negative Offset: Negative offset means that the mounting surface of the wheel is inboard of the centerline of the rim. This is often found on standard rear-wheel-drive vehicles and on so-called "reversed" rims.
- Positive Offset: Positive offset means that the mounting surface of the wheel is outboard of the centerline of the rim. Positive offset wheels are often used on front-wheel-drive cars, and they are lately very common on many rear wheel drive cars and trucks.
- Center Register: The center register (or bore) of a wheel is the size of the machined (or stamped) hole on the back of the wheel that centers the wheel properly on the hub of the car. This hole is machined to exactly match the hub so the wheels are precisely positioned to minimize the possibility of vibration. With the exception of early A-bodies and a few early Imperials, all Chrysler-built passenger cars from as early as 1934 through 1989 used a 2 13/16” (2.8125" center register.
- Bolt Circle: The bolt circle represents the diameter of an imaginary circle that goes through the center of the bolt holes. As with the center register, with the exception of early A-bodies and a few early Imperials, all Chrysler-built passenger cars from as early as 1934 through 1989 used a 5 lug, 4.5" bolt circle.
Common Factory F/J/M Hubcaps include:
- Steel 14" X 5.5" 4.25" backspace - stock F-body steel wheels. Found mostly on pre-1980 Aspens and Volares (except Super Coupes). 1980 appears to have been a transition year, as there are both 14" and 15" hubcaps listed for that year.
- Steel 15" X 7" 4.25" backspace - stock M-body steel wheels. Found on civilian (non-cop car) models. Possibly used on some 1980 F-bodies as well.
- Steel 15" X 7" 4.25" backspace Heavy Duty with 6 slots for brake cooling - also called "cop car wheels". These are very sturdy wheels that were used on police cars. They are also about 4 to 5 lbs heavier than stock M-body steel wheels.
- Steel 15" X 8" (unknown backspace) Heavy Duty with 6 slots for brake cooling - used on Aspen and Volare Super Coupes and "Kit Cars". These look like cop car rims, except that they DO NOT have the nubs needed to secure dog dish hubcaps. Instead, they use a chrome center cap with deep chrome trim rings. The chrome trim rings are deeper and will not fit regular steel wheels.
- Forged 15" Aluminum "Road Wheels" with 10 spokes and slots - used on Miradas
- Alloy 15" Wheels with 5 spokes. Each spoke has a less prominent spoke between it an the next spoke.
- Forged 15" Aluminum "Snowflake" wheels with 10 delicate spokes. Each spoke has a less prominent spoke between it and the next spoke. - used on Fifth Avenues
- Steel 15" X 6" and 15" X 7" "Road Wheels" with 16 slots, a chrome trim ring and a chrome center cap. The middle section between the trim ring and center cap was often silver. Others were painted body color. They were used on many mid to late 70s, and possibly 1980 Chrysler car lines.
- Aluminum 15" X 6" "Road Wheels" with a false wire center cap. These were also used on late B-bodies.
Photos - Cop Car Look:
- 18-Hole Dog Dish caps - usually found on cop cars.
- 70-Slot Full Wheel Cover - usually standard on 1980 to 1989 civilian (non-cop car) models and on many state trooper cars. Also used on 1980 to 1985 RWD vans.
- 16-Slot Full Wheel Cover - usually found on earlier M-bodies. Also used on 1979 vans.
- 15 Spoke False Alloy Wheel Cover - used on 1980 to 1981 Miradas.
- Simulated Classic style Wire Wheel Cover - usually found on 1980 to 1989 models.
- Jasonz's 1985 Diplomat AHB with body color wheels (Courtesy of Jasonz)
- A nice pair of Diplomat AHBs (Contributors unknown)
- Woodvark's 1984 Diplomat AHB. Woodvark's Diplomat is the ultimate sleeper. It looks like an ordinary well-kept 18-second Diplomat AHB cop car. However, don't let appearances fool you. It sports a .020" over 360 with ported 915 casting 2.02"/1.60" Aeroheads, a Mopar Performance .484" lift cam, Edelbrock RPM Air Gap intake, a Holley 80670 carburetor, Summit headers, dual exhaust, 3.55 gears and a 2400 stall converter. The car runs an awesome 12.79 seconds at 109.52 MPH in the quarter mile!! (Courtesy of Woodvark)
- TomP's 1983 Diplomat Slant 6 (top) and his 1988 Diplomat AHB (bottom), both with pushbars (Courtesy of TomP)