In 1978, Dodge rolled out a new family member for their popular Charger nameplate. This new car, anointed the Dodge Magnum, would be the last vehicle to use the Chrysler’s faithful “B-body platform.” Looking to replace the aging Charger in NASCAR’s premier series, the Chrysler designers took a slightly rounded appearance for the Magnum’s body.
Much as Richard Petty and NASCAR wanted, the adage of win on Sunday, sell on Monday was true. Unfortunately, the Magnum never won and sales were dismal. No one liked the car then, and no one remembers the car now. “I started with a car that was not the most popular to begin with,” said car owner James Bursma. “So, a lot of people don’t remember seeing these cars back in ’78.”
The Bursma Magnum is the second vehicle featured in this Winfield Select Six video:
This 1978 Dodge Magnum custom belongs to James Bursma of Marne, Michigan, and he likes to point out that it was a build that he designed 27-years ago, and finally finished in 2016. “It always draws a good crowd of all ages,” said Bursma. “At first glance, the common expression is ‘what is that.’ Very few can guess the make and model of this car.”
When asked what most people think when they see this highly-modified custom, he responded with; “Most people guess that the car started out as a Monte Carlo. “It’s the first guess I hear,” said Bursma. “Others guess it was a T-Bird.”
The car is popular wherever it appears. We found this modern custom at the Goodguys’ PPG Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, parked in Cardinal Hall at the Exposition Center. This is where styling is honored and on display during the show. Bursma’s Magnum was one of the few cars that always had a crowd of onlookers around it. We stood back and watched the enthusiasts as they looked around the machine and ventured guesses as to what it was, and what work was done.
Calvalcade Of Customs
Right out of the gate, the car received high honors as it was awarded a display in the Calvalcade of Customs at the 2017 Detroit Autorama in Cobo Hall. This is an invitation-only honor that signifies that a build is one of the cream of the crop creations that is worthy of being presented to custom car connoisseurs that attend the show. For most car designers and builders, this is the pinnacle of success.
The awards and honors have not stopped either. Directly following the PPG Nationals, Bursma and wife Cindy took their custom to the Syracuse Nationals at the NY State Fairgrounds in July. This ended up being a trip well worth the effort, as the Magnum Custom was picked by Gene Winfield as one of the Winfield Select Six award winners.
What Makes This Car Special?
The chassis and drivetrain are pretty much stock, so what makes this car so special? The body is one of a kind, and there is nothing else like it in the world. Bursma summed it up saying, “Although it was designed 27 years ago, it is a true retro-concept, inside and out.” Pointing out the rare nature of this project car, Bursma again explained; “These Magnums were not a common car to begin with, so there is nothing else in the custom world that comes even close to this concept.”
We have to agree that the original Dodge Magnums were unloved and unwanted, but hot rodders by nature pick up cars that are affordable and cheap, and then work with them to come up with something cool.
Bursma’s concept was to make the car that Dodge tried, to capture the aerodynamic styling of the late ’70s even more aerodynamic. Part of that was lowering the car’s ride height. “At 45-inches tall, it is a real low rider,” said Bursma. This required the team to chop the top 5 inches, then section another 2 inches from the door to keep the window opening proportional and looking correct.
About The Body
“The body is completely one-piece formed,” according to Bursma. “It was formed from only four-pieces which included the two doors and the hood.” This one-off body is truly a single piece for all real description. The doors and hood have to open to allow access.
“The only seams are the two doors and the hood,” he confirms. “The trunk has been sealed off.” The only exterior part that is OE original is the grille, but even that has been slightly modified. “A single bar was removed from the grille,” he stated.
Many observers thought that the car had been lengthened, but that is not the case according to Bursma. “The car’s length has not been changed, but the appearance seemed to get longer as the car got lower. The lower it got, the longer it got.”
The modernized interior features Zebra wood throughout. The front seats slide and rotate 180 degrees so the driver and passenger can turn around and watch the drop-down, in-cabin TV/Video player between the rear seats. The interior is masterfully done in attention-getting Tahitian green pearl finish. Highlighting the cabin is a unique steering wheel that was purposefully designed to replicate the “M” off of the Mopar emblem.
Any car that is singled out from hundreds of customs by a legendary custom car builder has got to be something special. By all standards, Bursma’s Magnum is one of those special builds that draws enthusiasts into its universe. We can’t wait to see what other honors and accolades this beauty racks up.