Leisure Projects

Charging! The original 1969 Dodge vs. the young stud from 2015. Our way to pay respect to one of the most iconic car in history. That first Charger, based on the prosaic Coronet, was an odd-looking piece; it’s fastback roofline a bit ungainly on its lengthy 117-inch wheelbase. The car’s bows to sportiness were the headlights hidden in the full-width grille, radiused rear wheel openings and four-bucket seats. One advantage of the fastback roofline was nearly station wagon-like carrying capacity with the rear seats folded. That was nice, but it wasn’t going to win you any street races. Still, at the reasonable base price of $3,122, the Charger sold in reasonable numbers in ’66 and in ’67. Dodge then came out with a much-improved redesign of the Charger in 1968 model year. Featuring a Coke bottle-shaped profile, the Bill Brownlie-designed body had a wide-mouth grille with hidden headlights and a pert upturned spoiler on the decklid. The pillarless greenhouse had a very fast rear roofline tapering into the trunk. With “mag” wheels and white-lettered tires, it certainly had curb appeal. The unibody chassis relied on mundane independent front suspension with a horse-and-buggy leaf spring-live axle rear suspension. And the engine? The 426 hemi, right? Well, sometimes. But most Chargers were fitted with other Mopar engines, with the 440 cubic inch “wedge” engine, sporting 375 horsepower a popular choice for the street. While the ’68 Charger was a looker and a street racer to be reckoned with, Mopar racing mavens discovered that the design wasn’t very good for the track. Both the blunt nose and indented backlight (rear window) were aerodynamic disasters, so for the 1969 NASCAR season Dodge created a special sub-model dubbed the Charger 500 that remedied these ills. NASCAR dictated that 500 examples of the Charger 500 be built to qualify it as a stock car. Unfortunately for Chrysler, though, Ford had gone even farther in the creation of its Ford Talladegas and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II’s, so the Charger 500’s were usually also-rans. Midway through 1969, the folks at Mopar racing decided they would not be outdone, creating what have to be the most outrageous “stock” racing car ever built. Drawing from research conducted at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Chrysler engineers covered the Charger’s nose with a pointed end-cap. Extreme as that change was, however, it was nothing compared to the giant wing that jutted up from the rear decklid. Christened the Dodge Charger Daytona, the car was again built in limited numbers to satisfy NASCAR’s homologation standards.