Cohort Alternate History: 1969 Dodge Charger – Setting The Bar For Fifty-One Years

Posted by Nifty 43 (Nifticus)

My parents married in October 1968.  Sometime during the late afternoon of that particular Saturday a connecting rod in the engine of my mother’s 1962 Chevy II decided it wanted to see the world.  Exiting through the other delicate parts of the engine, the Chevy II’s best days were now behind it.  Thus my parents were immediately faced with their first marital dilemma – fix the Chevy II or buy a different car.

While the Chevy II received a heart transplant, it still compelled them to purchase a blue 1969 Dodge Charger.  It was ideal for a young, professional couple.

While their Charger was not an R/T model as seen here, it was still no slouch.  Powered by a 383 attached to a Torqueflite transmission, the Charger served them through the hectic early years of a marriage that is still going over fifty years later.

The Charger saw a lot more action in more of the world than originally anticipated.  Shortly after the Charger was purchased in early 1969, the US Army remembered that nifty little deferment my father had signed while in college.  Thus, at age twenty-five Dad was cordially invited by Uncle Sam to improve his physical condition by undertaking basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, the Army base in the foothills of the Ozarks.  It was a four hour drive away from my parents new home.

With Dad away in basic training, Mom kept the Charger active, letting Dad’s 1965 Ford Fairlane hibernate under the poplar tree in the front yard.  On Easter Sunday 1969, an event happened that forever changed my father’s life.  While far preferable to other potential outcomes at that time, my father still had the misfortunate of breaking his hip.  Falling off the monkey bars and landing flat-footed has consequences.  It still affects his life to this day, yet he doesn’t complain.  He knew he was lucky.

Since the Army wanted to recoup their medical investment on somebody who was no longer able to serve as intended, Dad wasn’t released anytime soon after convalescing in Ft. Wood’s finest medical facilities.  He was given various menial office duties on base, duties that still provide new stories about poor choices and inappropriate conduct.  The upshot of all this?  He could now have a car on base, a real boon for somebody who was to be on crutches for an extended period of time due to his immobility.  With the Charger having an automatic transmission, versus the three-on-the-tree of the ’65 Ford, Dad used the Dodge for his weekly commutes from the fort to home.  He still brags about how the 383 in that Charger could scoot down the road like no other car he’s ever experienced, making his 220 mile trip seem like a stroll around the block.

Upon Dad’s discharge, Mom resumed driving the Charger to her job as a school nurse at nearby Egyptian School.  She said that Charger was great for passing all the pokey school busses on her trip to and from that kindergarten through twelve-grade facility.  Having sick students come into the nurse’s office was often accompanied by them commenting on her “bad ass Dodge”.  Mom always smiled to herself.  She has a foot equally heavy to Dad’s and she loves the sound of the secondaries of a four-barrel carburetor doing their job.

Mom and Dad would soon prove to the world just how ecstatic they were to be reunited.  She quickly became pregnant with their first child, an event that has forever enriched their lives in ways countless and beyond description.  Mom still talks about that pregnancy, talking about the general stubbornness of a child who decided to arrive eleven days late.  When telling others of this triumphant event she generally makes it sound as if she was in active labor for that entire time.

There’s little doubt that Charger was hard-charged the twelve miles to the hospital when the time came.

So when I completed their lives by arriving nine months and eleven days later in 1972, the Charger was still a marvelous machine despite the odometer now having a “9” in its first digit, a truly cryptic thing at that point in time.  Somewhere hidden in a long buried family photo album is a picture of the blue Charger, parked in the driveway.  It had just carried them, and me, home from the hospital making my first ever car ride in none other than a 1969 Dodge Charger.

The next year that beautiful blue Charger was tucked away for special occasion use, as my parents knew their Charger was truly a special car.  The Charger’s daily duties were assumed by a new base model Ford Torino sedan.  That Torino was a mere shadow of the Charger, with the Charger still being the yardstick by which my parents measure all their cars.  It was simply that good through those tumultuous and rapidly changing times.

While it’s looking a little frayed around the edges, they still have the Charger to this day.

We should all be so lucky as to have a 383 powered Charger in the family, particularly if it is used as one’s first ride after being born.

But I wasn’t so lucky.  My parents bought a boring 1969 Ford Fairlane instead of the Charger they test drove.  What a botched opportunity on what could have been.