The Dodge Charger received a complete restyle in 1971, transforming it into a semi-fastback coupe with high, sweeping rear fenders that gave it an even more pronounced "Coke bottle" silhouette.
Riding on a new 115-inch wheelbase, a full two-inches shorter than 1970, models included the base Charger, Charger 500, Charger R/T and a new Charger Super Bee. For 1972, the base Charger was joined by a new Rallye model, and the R/T, Super Bee and 500 designations were discontinued.
Still, the Charger Rallye continued to offer optional big-block power in 1973 with the 400 Magnum available with both Torqueflite automatic or four-speed manual transmissions. The top-performance option, the 440 Magnum, could still be had, but only with the automatic gearbox.
In 2001, the idea of restoring a car was a totally new venture for Ray Howes of Winnipeg. "Building plastic models was as close as I had come in the past, but in 2001 I purchased a '73 Charger as a project car," he said.
The Charger was a bit of a rust-bucket, but it was an original 400 four-speed car that had been fitted with a 1977 vintage 440 V8, Howes thought he could bring it back, but quickly found that a lack of quality replacement panels available on the market was going to make it a very expensive and time-consuming restoration.
A couple of years later, Howes found another Charger Rallye on eBay. The sale fell through, but the same seller offered Howes another Charger. Described as having no rust and original paint, it had been sitting in Fresno, California since 1987. After several telephone calls and photo exchanges, the deal was done and the Charger made its way to Winnipeg.
With the help of friend Ken O'Conner, the project moved from the original car to the new one, and most of the useable mechanical parts were swapped over. Aime Verrier at ALV Automotive ensured the freshened 1977 high-performance 440-cubic-inch V8 had all of the right date-correct 1973 components to ensure a factory look, including the right Thermoquad four-barrel carburetor and dual-snorkel air cleaner.
The engine exhales through a new 2.5-inch-diameter TTI-supplied dual exhaust system, complete with factory-correct slotted exhaust tips. Paul at Town Transmission rebuilt the Chrysler A-833 four-speed manual transmission and 3.23:1 ratio Sure-Grip rear axle.
As for body parts, anything that could be reused was sandblasted, finished in primer and set aside. In 2010, Howes turned the body restoration over to Dan Robinson at Car Craft Enterprises, who expertly prepped the car before laying down a fresh base/clear EW1-code, Eggshell White paint job. A new set of black factory Rallye stripes to accent the exterior was sourced from Phoenix Graphics. The rolling stock is as simple as white bread -- a set of Mopar steel wheels shod with BF Goodrich T/A radial tires and redline dog-dish hub caps.
For the interior upholstery, Ray Monkman worked his magic with the flawless installation of the Legendary Interiors-supplied black seat covers and headliner, while Otto Szalai redid the dashboard. Fresh carpet was installed, and a new Classic Auto Air heat-cool system replaced the bulky and problem-prone original air management system.
A culmination of many years of work, Howes' Charger serves as a testament to the last true years of Chrysler's performance era. The 440-cubic-inch V8 and four-speed Hurst-shifted manual transmission were rapidly fading from view, and performance cars were quickly becoming extinct, often reduced to a mere tape-stripe option.
The Charger refused to go out with a whimper, and still offered buyers big-block power in 1973. For 1974 the Charger limped along with small-block power and was replaced in 1975 with an upscale version, the Charger SE, which shared the same platform as the Chrysler Cordoba.