THE Dodge Charger has been with us since 1966 and through the decades we’ve seen the car’s popularity on a steady increase with both collectors and enthusiasts.
Immortalized in film, it’s usually cast in the role of the bad guy’s car. Back in ‘68, it emerged as the mob hit men’s ride in Bullitt. The yellow getaway car in Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Stuntman Mike’s sinister pursuit car in Death Proof, and who could forget the General Lee, moonshine-hauler in the Dukes of Hazzard television series?
The list goes on, including several appearances in the Fast & Furious movies, showing the Charger has staying power.
Based on the Chrysler “B” body intermediate, the Charger is similar to the late ‘60s Coronet, Super Bee, Road Runner and GTX models, but through time, it has basically been a one-off body style.
Immediately recognizable as one of Dodge’s premier muscle cars, with its Coke bottle shape and hideaway headlamps, it also packs a powerful punch, thanks to its 440 Magnum and 426 Hemi V-8 engine options, making it the perfect chase or getaway vehicle.
For Randy Zaborniak of Winnipeg, he’s owned and restored several Mopar muscle cars. A member of the Manitoba Mopar Association since 2000, in 2008, he had decided on a new project.
“I’m a builder by nature, so as a challenge to myself, I decided to do a full restoration by myself,” Zaborniak says.
Purchasing a 1969 Charger in 2008 from Thunder Bay, Ont., sight unseen, was a first for him.
“I had my daughter send me over 150 pictures of the car before we sealed the deal,” says Zaborniak.
The purchase of another Charger in 2009 from the Toronto area, for use as a parts car, set the project in motion.
After stripping down both cars, the Thunder Bay car was the rebuild candidate and that started on the rotisserie, hand-built by Zaborniak, with the installation of rust-free, rear-frame rails, new front and rear fenders, and floor pans.
The rear torsion bar mount was rusted, so the mount was removed from the parts car and installed.
Next, new suspension and brakes, along with a new power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering kit were installed.
For power, the original 383 four-barrel V-8 was replaced by a completely rebuilt 1969 vintage 440 Magnum V-8 supplied by club member Darryl Klassen.
Equipped with a hydraulic performance camshaft, Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold and four-barrel carburetor, it easily surpasses its original 375-horsepower factory rating. A Pertronix ignition system gets the spark to the plugs and a set of exhaust headers direct exhaust gases to a 2.5-inch diameter dual-exhaust system, with Flowmaster mufflers, supplied by Summit Racing.
Backing the potent big-block is a Rick Lumsden prepared 727 TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission, complete with shift kit and heavy-duty clutch pack.
Getting the power to the ground is the job of a Chrysler 8¾-in. Sure-Grip rear axle fitted with a 3.55:1 ratio gear set.
Rolling stock is a set of seldom seen 1981 Dodge Mirada road wheels with custom centre caps, shod with 15-in. BF Goodrich white letter radial tires.
After several months of blocking out and surface preparation on the body, paint for the Charger was done by Zaborniak in his garage.
The gunmetal grey metallic was applied to the body and bumpers, while the hood received a coat of hot rod black.
A new tinted windshield was installed, along with a full new white vinyl interior upholstery kit supplied by Legendary Auto Interiors.
Options on the Charger include, power steering, power front disc brakes, Music-Master, thumb-wheel AM radio, bucket seats, centre console, with floor shift.
A four-spoke custom steering wheel was added and aftermarket oil pressure and engine temperature gauges were installed under the dash, to keep tabs on underhood functions.
The full restoration took six years to complete and through it all Zaborniak’s grandson Gavin was in the garage lending his support for the project.
As an eight-year-old at the end of the build, he insisted that the original 1969 Ontario licence plate that came with the car was reinstalled.
Not a trailer queen, and built as a nice driver, the Charger was completed in its bad boy image.
Fast and loud as one would expect, it takes on that gritty street machine vibe.
Zaborniak’s plans are just to drive the car and enjoy it, with the possibility of a four-wheel disc brake upgrade in the future.
“The car stops very well, I’d just like it to stop better,” says Zaborniak.
Look for the Charger, and other great cars from the Manitoba Mopar Association, at local shows and cruise nights throughout the summer.