Charged up and ready to go

by Larry D'Argis . Nov 25 2016
Photos by Larry D'Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Photos by Larry D'Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

The year 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the Dodge Charger. What began in 1966 as Dodge’s offering of a fastback/personal performance car, based on the intermediate Coronet, it caught an immediate following with both youth and middle-age buyers. Today we take a look at the third-generation Charger built from 1971 to 1974. Redesigned and completely restyled in 1971, the car bore little, if any resemblance to the earlier models. The unique body transformed the Charger into a semi-fastback coupe with high sweeping rear fenders, giving the Charger an even more pronounced “Coke bottle” silhouette. Riding on a new 115-inch wheelbase, a full two inches shorter than 1970, models included Charger, Charger 500, Charger SE, Charger R/T and a new Charger Super Bee.

For 1972 the base Charger was joined by a new Rallye model. This meant the often confusing R/T, Super Bee and 500 model designations were discontinued. Continuing for 1973, the Charger Rallye still offered buyers optional big-block power with the 400 Magnum available with both TorqueFlite automatic or four-speed manual transmissions. The top performance option 440 Magnum could still be had, but only with the automatic gearbox. For 1974 the Charger remained popular with buyers, especially the top trim level SE model. Optional concealed headlamps, upright SE hood ornament and stainless-steel wheelwell trim resulted in 30,957 being produced.

For Lawrence Palmer of Winnipeg, he drove his new 1974 Charger SE off of the lot at Pembina Dodge in the summer of 1974. Finished in Aztec Gold Metallic, with a white pinstripe at the beltline and topped with a white landau vinyl top featuring six opera windows, it had definite road presence. Inside, passengers were greeted with the Brougham interior package featuring gold fabric and vinyl upholstery, with a split back-bench seat and fold-down centre armrest. Optional extras on the car include power steering, power brakes, air-conditioning, tinted glass, AM radio, electric clock and a remote driver’s side-view mirror.

The Charger is one of 9,811 SE hardtops equipped with the 318 cubic inch V-8 that produces 150 horsepower and 265 lb.-ft. of torque. Backed by a TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission leading to a 3.23:1 final drive ratio rear axle, easily powering the 3,625-pound car for both city and highway driving. Using the car as his basic transportation until 1977, he then sold the car to his Aunt Rose in the small town of Rossburn. Palmer’s Aunt drove the car sparingly and logged few miles, so few in fact it spent most of the time just sitting in the garage over the next three decades.

When aunt Rose passed on in 2011, she left the car to to Palmer in her will. With the car back in Winnipeg, Palmer cleaned it, tuned it up and gave the mechanicals a good going over to ensure everything was safe. Next, he had the car undercoated to preserve the body and installed a full custom dual-exhaust system. For added curb appeal he installed new chrome five-spoke Crager SS mag wheels, along with 15-inch BF Goodrich T/A radial tires.

Over the past five years, Palmer has enjoyed the car during the summers, taking in many of the weekend car shows and cruise nights both in town and around the Winnipeg area. With 98,000 original miles on the odometer, the car is a well-maintained survivor and Palmer intends to keep enjoying it for many years to come.

For 1975 the Charger SE was placed squarely in the specialty car market alongside of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Ford Elite. Sharing the same two-door coupe platform as the intermediate Chrysler Cordoba, the emphasis on comfort and formal style were clearly established. Rich leather and plush velour fabrics took centre stage and its days as a performance car were clearly behind it.