The year 2016 marked 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, caught an immediate following with youth and middle-age buyers alike. 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; its days as a performance car were clearly behind it and the Charger name would be retired after 1978.
The Charger name would resurface in 1982 on the Dodge Omni platform. With other intermediate models phased out, Dodge looked to the smaller Omni to regain the Charger’s sporty image. On the surface, it looked like a stopgap move to keep the name alive, but as Chrysler was downsizing every other model into the “K” car platform, it made sense. The L-Platform, front-wheel-drive, hatchback was a lightweight, nimble package, with just enough horsepower to keep it attractive as a performance offering. For 1983, it would become available as the Charger Four and Charger 2.2. In 1984 things got really-interesting, as a link with automotive designer Carroll Shelby brought the prominent performance name and some added horsepower through turbocharging and other performance modifications.
James Blatz of Winnipeg says his experience with the mid ‘80s Charger began in high school.
“I had a 1983 Shelby Charger in high school and always regretted selling it,” Blatz says. He found another a few years later, but still attending university and with money tight, he had to pass on it. In 2013 he started looking in earnest and found a car in Florida, that looked promising in an online auction, but was outbid. In May 2015, a 1986 Shelby Charger popped up online in Val Caron, Ont. After many telephone calls and an exchange of several photos, he purchased the second-owner car over the phone and booked a flight. He drove the Shelby Charger from Val Caron to Hamilton, then had the car loaded on the train for transport to Winnipeg.
The Shelby Charger is finished in black with silver stripes and it carries a 2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Fitted with multi-port fuel injection and a Garrett turbocharger producing 8 psi, the engine produces a respectable 146 horsepower. Coupled with the five-speed manual transmission, this 2,390-pound hatchback was quite the performer; its zero-to-60 mph and quarter-mile trap speeds could rival those of many ’60s muscle cars. Inside there is a grey cloth interior featuring the CS logo on the bucket-seat headrest, identifying this as a Shelby Charger. Options include power steering, power disc brakes, centre armrest, a sound-and-sun shade package that included rear-window louvres and stereo radio. The wheel package includes 15-inch cast aluminum wheels with upgraded 205-by-50-series Falken radial tires. With 118,000 kilometres on the odometer, this Shelby Charger is listed and recognized as part of the Shelby registry for Shelby production vehicles.
The Shelby Charger was originally listed at $9,361 before optional extras, when it was purchased from Crestview Chrysler Dodge in Regina. Of the 7,669 produced in 1986, Blatz’s car is one of only 3,495 examples with the black-and-silver paint scheme. Blatz, a member of the Manitoba Mopar Association, will continue to enjoy the ride, but future upgrades will include a full rebuild of the engine, the addition of an intercooler and a larger turbocharger, all in the quest of greater horsepower.
The fifth-generation Charger would continue production on the L-Platform until the end of the 1987 model year. It would again see semi-retirement, but would reappear 19 years later in 2006, with a model going back more to its roots.