A cool and collectible car

by Larry D'Argis . Oct 14 2016
LARRY D'ARGIS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

LARRY D'ARGIS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The 50th anniversary of the Dodge Charger is this year and so today we will take a look at the second generation Charger built from 1968 to 1970.

Totally redesigned for 1968, the car bore little similarity to the ’67 model.

Stylists adopted the popular “Coke-bottle” shape and the concealed headlamps were now recessed in a new grille.

Available only as a two-door fastback coupe, the Charger retained its 117-inch wheelbase — along with the other Chrysler “B” body intermediates — and allowed seating for five with a roomy, comfortable interior and ample trunk space.

The new road and track or R/T model played on the suggestion that youthful car enthusiasts not only used their cars to get to work each week, but they also used it at the track on weekends.

With the R/T option, buyers received the 375-horsepower, 440-cubic-inch magnum V-8 or they could opt for the 425-horsepower, 426-cubic-inch Hemi V-8.

The R/T also came with better brakes and suspension packages than the base model.

For 1969, there was little change in the Charger’s appearance other than the addition of a new rear taillight treatment and a divided front grille.

The model lineup expansion consisted of 4 sub-series ranging from base Charger to the Charger 500 and upscale leather clad interiors of the Charger SE or special edition.

In the performance camp, the R/T reigned supreme and engine options remained the same, with the exception of a new “Six-Pack” or three Holley two-barrel induction system option for the 440 Magnum V-8, which increased horsepower from 375 to 390.

Derek Newton’s desire to own a ’69 Charger R/T goes back to when he was nine years old, when he took his first ride in his Uncle Glenn Kroeze’s Charger.

“I had always wanted one and began looking seriously in 2014,” says Newton, a Winnipeg native.

In April of 2016, Newton and his wife, Mullein Thorleisson, were wrapping up a one-year fellowship at a hospital in Melbourne, Australia, when he spotted a nice ’69 Charger R/T on eBay — an original California car that had received a full restoration and many bids in the online auction.

But the couple’s attempt to send funds from a Canadian bank account to a United States recipient while in Australia caused a red flag and it took over a week to get the bank transfer straightened out in order to buy the car.

Copper in colour with a black R/T bumblebee stripe and vinyl roof and wearing 15-inch Chrysler Magnum 500 wheels and BF Goodrich T/A radial tires, the car looks like a time capsule.

The jewel black interior features bucket seats, centre console, headrests, “tic-toc tach” in-dash tachometer clock and original thumb-wheel AM radio, making it seem as though it came straight from the factory in 1969. It also has power steering and power front disc brakes that have been upgraded to four-wheel discs.

Powering the Charger is that 375-horsepower, 440-cubic-inch Magnum V-8 I wrote about earlier.

Rebuilt by the previous owner, it is now bored .030-inch oversize with forged pistons, high-performance camshaft, roller rocker arms, MSD electronic ignition, Offenhauser high-rise aluminum intake manifold, Carter AVS four-barrel carburetor and aluminium radiator with fan shroud.

Backing the potent V-8 is a TorqueFlite 727 three-speed automatic transmission. A bonus is the added Gear-Vendors overdrive unit. The unit attaches to the transmission extension housing and uses an electronic control to engage the overdrive unit at will and can be used creatively for split-shifting, enabling six-speeds or a drop of 25 per cent for highway cruising.

In Newton’s car, the 4.11:1 gear ratio in the 8 ¾-inch rear axle housing will allow for drag-strip performance, yet drop the effective ratio to 3.40:1 for highway use.

Newton and his uncle flew to San Francisco to pick up the Charger shortly after he had returned home from Australia.

“Driving through the desert at speed was a highlight of the trip,” Newton says.

The car only required a few minor tune-ups to meet safety standards.

Upgrades since purchasing the car have included the installation of Hooker Competition headers, leading to a full custom dual-exhaust system.

The past summer provided a chance for Newton to get to know the car and he enjoyed taking it out to local cruise nights.

Newton has a few changes planned in the future for his Charger, including the addition of the “Six-Pack” induction system and a full rewire of the car’s electrical system.

The 1968 to 1970 Charger is one of the most noted collectible performance vehicles.

Its popularity has been solidified through appearances in movies and television shows for decades.

In 1969, there were 69,142 Chargers produced, including 392 Charger 500 models, 503 Charger Special Edition models and 20,057 R/T models.

For 1971, the Charger lineup saw another update due to the ensuing fuel crisis and smog legislation.

57ford@mymts.net

LARRY D'ARGIS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

LARRY D'ARGIS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

LARRY D'ARGIS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

LARRY D'ARGIS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS