A fresh paint job, and the restoration of its original vinyl top, has this ’73 classic turning heads. (Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press)
With the introduction of the new 1973 lineup of cars, the door was almost closed on the intermediate muscle car. High insurance rates, rising fuel prices and increased emissions requirements, left manufacturers scrambling to maintain a balanced package with the ability to bring buyers into the showrooms.
Chrysler’s Dodge division had totally restyled the Charger line in 1971. The fastback roofline and amplified Coke-bottle silhouette, rode on a new 115-inch wheelbase and offered a larger interior.
With a full-width grille and rear taillamp treatment, it took on a look of its own, far from the rest of the Coronet line. Still a player, it offered a degree of comfort and performance all rolled into one.
Along with the standard 318-cubic-inch V-8, Dodge still offered two big-block V-8s as a performance option. The 255 horsepower 400-cubic-inch V-8 and the 280 horsepower 440-cubic-inch big-block V-8 were available, but for the shrewd buyer, the 240-horsepower 340-cubic-inch Magnum V-8 was often chosen as the hot street ticket. Lightweight, and just 40 horsepower less than the 440 V-8, it offered decent performance, better fuel economy and the insurance agent didn’t levy the additional premium for the larger V-8.
For Brandon Smith of Winnipeg, the Charger was a second choice as a muscle car project.
Having shown an interest in old cars since high school, he started with a 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S hardtop. It was determined early that the body was so far gone with corrosion, that it was time to look for a more favourable restoration candidate. While selling off the Cutlass for parts, his uncle in Saskatchewan located a 1973 Dodge Charger Rallye.
Parked in a shed since 1993 in Coderre, Sask., just south of Moose Jaw, the Charger was a time capsule. Covered in a thick layer of dust, and with a ’70s inspired button and tuft interior upholstery job, it was a rust-free, complete car. Equipped with the numbers-matching 340-cubic-inch Magnum V-8, 727 TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission, power steering, power front disc brakes, bucket seats, dual side-view mirrors with driver’s remote, tinted glass, hood pins and fender-mounted turn signal indicators, it was a nicely equipped car.
Smith and his father Jim drove out in August 2014 to see the car and make the deal. It included the 1973 Rallye, as well as a ’72 Charger and ’73 Charger SE as parts cars.
With the Charger Rallye moved to his uncle’s property, the engine and transmission were removed and taken to Winnipeg for a full rebuild. The 340 Magnum V-8 was completely rebuilt by Heads-Up Automotive. Equipped with a mild performance camshaft, Edelbrock Performer aluminum intake manifold, 600 c.f.m. Edelbrock four-barrel carburetor, and MSD electronic ignition with digital controller, the upgrades add increased performance and reliability. The three-speed automatic transmission was rebuilt by ERM Automotive and leads back to the factory equipped 8¾-inch rear axle. With the powertrain reinstalled, the car was trailered to Winnipeg and Smith drove it for two summers, taking in cruise nights and the odd show.
In the fall of 2016, the Charger was turned over to Kevin Torrance for a full body restoration and repaint. After several months, Torrance had the Charger’s body back to factory condition and it emerged finished in a new Deepwater Blue base/clear paint finish, with it’s original black vinyl top. For the interior, a new B&M Megashifter floor shift controls the transmission and AMA Glass and Trim installed a full black vinyl interior kit, including, headliner, upholstery and carpet. There’s also a custom centre console and Autometer Tachometer.
Exhaust was fitted with a new custom 2.5-inch dual exhaust with crossover tube and Flowmaster 40-series mufflers by Benders Brake & Muffler. Rolling stock was upgraded to 15-inch Crager SS five-spoke wheels with tri-bar spinners, turning a set of Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/T radial tires. In place of the original AM radio is a Kenwood/JL Audio system with 400-watt power amp to take car of the road tunes.
A great looking car, with plenty of road appeal, it was finished in time for an entry into the 2017 Piston Ring’s World of Wheels car show at the Winnipeg RBC Convention Centre, where it received a class award.
Now parked for the winter, Smith is looking forward to another season behind the wheel of his Charger and getting out to more cruise nights and shows. There’s also another project on the horizon as he gets ready to restore another Charger, this one a 1972 SE model.
There were 45,415 Charger hardtop coupes built in 1973 and of them, 2,415 were Rallye models powered by the 340-cubic-inch Magnum V-8. Comfortable, well-built and with its unique styling, the 1971-74 Chargers are now seeing an increase in demand. The problem is, finding one today is harder than finding the popular ’68 to ’70 model, but they are out there.
Brandon Smith, right, with his father Jim.
The 340 Magnum V-8 was completely rebuilt by Heads-Up Automotive.
Upgrades to the interior included a full black vinyl interior kit, including, headliner, upholstery and carpet. There’s also a custom centre console and Autometer Tachometer.