Bob's Component Resto, Part 26: The Battery

Good evening Mopar guys and gals. Are you itching to get your A-Body Mopar back on the road once spring arrives? Up here in the northland, we have to wait for the snow and salt to go away before we can get out on the roads, and this provided the perfect opportunity to dive into a winter project that I had been putting off. So prepare to fall asleep with tonight's somnolent installment: The Battery. How many of you have been at a car show admiring the engine compartment of a beautifully restored Mopar, only to see an off the shelf battery from Auto Zone? Yuck. Talk about a buzz kill! Everything in there was perfect right until he installed the modern battery. Yes, modern batteries are great and I use one in my 69 Charger, so I'm as guilty as the rest. But a correct repro battery is truly the finishing touch in a beautifully restored engine compartment. When I bought my 74 Duster in 2019, it had a typical parts store battery in it. I can't really blame the owner back then, as he really didn't know much about cars. So restoring the correct battery to my engine bay became a priority to me, and here's what I'm recommending if you're going for this look under the hood. First, pull out all the junk, including the battery, starter relay and both cables. Once I did this, I removed the corroded battery tray and the gallon sized Ziploc bag that was residing under the existing cheapo battery in the bottom of the tray. Needless to say, the Ziploc bag didn't do much to prevent the tray from rusting. I then bead blasted the tray and hit it with three coats of self etching primer, followed by three coats of JY9 Tahitian Gold Metallic paint that I had a body shop mix up in a rattle can for me (see before and after photos of the battery tray below). Once the tray was back in, I bought a new Group 24 repro Mopar OEM style battery from The Antique Auto Battery Co. in Youngstown OH. I believe that since I bought the battery (in 2016) this company has been bought out by someone else. In any case, this is a absorptive glass mat (AGM) battery, not a lead acid battery like your father's Mopar. And since it contains no liquid or acid, it can never leak and ruin the paint under your hood. I also opted for the date code of 3K (September of 1973, correct for my Duster's October of 1973 build month) to be stamped on top of the negative terminal. So in went the correctly green capped battery, fastened with a repro hold down strap. The hold down that came with the car was severely corroded from battery acid, and the repop straps are virtually identical to the factory originals. Being a stickler for detail, I found a really nice set of the original cone top hold down J-bolts with their correct captive washer nuts. They were a bit rusty, but an overnight soak in Evapo-Rust cleaned them up and now they look like new. I then turned my attention to the cables and the starter relay. The existing non-original relay wasn't working very well, so I installed a new one from NAPA (Echlin SR-5) that looks exactly like the original and works perfectly (see photo below of the old and new relays side by side). Next came the cables. I bought a repro positive cable and spent the extra money for the one that has the correct starter end terminals. It was very easy to install and works great. Unfortunately, nobody repops the negative cable so I had to use the closest thing that I could find: A 32" black negative cable from NAPA. It'll have to do until someone comes out with a correct repro negative cable. In any case, it all went in and looks and works great. I love the AGM battery which briskly cranks over the little slant six even on the coldest days up here in Minnesota. One recommendation: If you do go for the AGM repro battery, purchase the specialized charger/maintainer that they sell along with the battery. Regular off the shelf chargers are incompatible with AGM batteries so its best to invest in the charger up front. As I mentioned earlier, I bought this battery in 2016 and it has run flawlessly since then so I can give it my strong recommendation. So there you have it: My engine bay now has the correct cabling, starter relay, and battery in a nicely refurbished tray. I can sleep at night, and so can you now that you've read this. Please feel free to weigh in with your questions or experiences with the AGM batteries. So why are you still in the living room? Get your milk and cookies, go upstairs and dream of riding in that lovely Mopar with your best girl sitting next to you on some beautiful evening. Night night!