Charger an instant classic

BY Larry D'Argis. Jan 27 04:00 am

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 both youth and middle-age buyers. The fifth-generation Charger would continue production on the Dodge Omni L-Platform from 1982 until the end of the 1987 model year. It would again see semi-retirement, but would reappear 19 years later in 2006.

The Charger was now part of the LX full-size platform sedan. Most notably, the new Charger had acquired an extra set of doors and, as a four-door model, it gained more in market share. The styling harkened back somewhat to the original Coke-bottle styling and with several powertrain options, it did offer buyers a performance perspective that had been missing from the Dodge lineup. With several trim versions available and returning to rear-wheel-drive, it was closer to the original image of a performance car, than had been seen in decades. For 2012, the Charger received a new interior and more aggressive and aerodynamic styling that had an even greater connection to the popular 1970 model. Also on tap were new engines, including a 3.6-litre V-6 with variable valve technology and a lively 470 horsepower 6.4L V-8.

For Vince Proteau of Winnipeg, cars have always been a part of his life.

“I started out working on cars with my father and as I grew up, I would buy old police cars at auction and fix them and drive them,” Proteau says. In 2014, he saw an internet ad at a local car dealer, for a 2013 Dodge Charger. What set this one apart was that even though it was a year old, it had only 100 kilometres on it. It turned out to be a vehicle the dealer had bought from a Quebec dealer’s stock liquidation auction. The other twist is that this wasn’t a vehicle normally available from a dealer. This was a specially produced version available only to government agencies or fleet vehicle operators. Unlike regular production vehicles, it came with the reduced severe service warranty of three years or 60,000 kilometres, like that offered on the SRT 8 performance cars.

After purchasing the Charger, Proteau set out to enhance and improve the car’s suspension and performance.

Proteau says, “I was sure to keep all of the factory parts and it could easily have been returned to its original state.”

The car was already equipped from the factory with heavy-duty brakes and suspension; Proteau turned to Petty’s Garage to supply a rear suspension brace and up front, Razors Edge supplied a sturdy tubular piece. An Eibach Pro suspension kit with Bilstein shock absorbers rounded out the suspension upgrades. Tires were upgraded from the stock Firestone Firehawk radials to Nitto Motivo 255 / 55 / ZR 18-inch ultra performance radials.

Engine modifications for the 300 hp, 3.6L VVT V-6 were limited to a Diablo tuner with Tazer sport mode setting, a Mopar cold air intake and oil catch can. Body modifications were held to visual items including blacked out hood panels, roof and a rear Mopar performance tape stripe that pays homage to the rear deck stripe the Charger was noted for in its heyday. What Proteau ended up with in his personalized Charger was a very good handling and performing road car for all seasons. The car took him on some memorable trips to British Columbia and Dallas, Texas as well as being a staple at local car cruises and shows. Neat as a pin and with only 53,000 km on the odometer, it was destined to be a keeper.

Sadly, Proteau and his Charger were involved in a recent rear-end collision. While the injuries were minor, the Charger is a total-loss insurance write-off. “People need to pay more attention to road and traffic conditions,” Proteau says. “I lost the car because of a distracted driver; now I have to find another.”

Today, the Charger continues to be a sales leader. Further styling upgrades and performance enhancements, including the 6.2-litre SRT Hellcat 707 horsepower V-8, ensures the Charger is here to stay as one of Dodge’s performance leaders.

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