This is my 1969 Dodge Charger. I know all about the legendary muscle cars, the General Lee, Bullitt, Fast and the Furious, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, Hemis, NASCAR Daytonas, timeless styling, etc. etc. etc. I get it, I’m a fan. And yes, I know, what they sell for at Barret-Jackson.
I don’t own one for the bragging rights or to make a profit on a flip. I just love Chargers.
My deep love for Chargers, and actually my love for cars in general, started out like many other Gen X males: The Dukes of Hazzard. I spent most of my growing up in New York’s Long Island but my family is deep-rooted in the South so it just made sense to me. For the entire run of the show from 1978-1985, I was glued to CBS on Friday nights.
And then there were my brothers. I am the youngest of 3 boys, so while I had to be in bed after the Dukes on Friday nights, my older brothers were tearing up the streets in the heyday of the street machine era; oldest brother Jimmy in his yellow ’73 Road Runner and Tommy 2 years later in his root beer brown ’73 Camaro, each jacked up on Cragars and dotted with Hi-Jackers and STP decals, obnoxiously loud exhausts, Kraco stereos blaring great music from Marshall Tucker, ZZ Top, Boston, The Cars, Rush, Van Halen, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and trunks filled with empty beer bottles.
Jimmy’s best friend Freddy had a brown ’69 Charger that held the title of fastest car in neighborhood; I found out later it was a real 440/automatic R/T, and I’m sure it wast stock. I even think it had side pipes. Cheap, used, clapped out muscle cars were everywhere it seemed at the time. To my 8-year-old self, these cars were scary, but in a way that a roller coaster is frightening to a kid; you’re scared because you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen but you want the rush anyway.
Immediately after I graduated from high school in 1991, I joined the Coast Guard, left home, and within a few years got married and had 2 children. I still desperately wanted a Charger, though, and while I was serving in the military and through the course of a few moves, a 1970 and a 1969 Charger came and went. Both had 383s but were in various states of disrepair, and required more work, time, money for my young enlisted salary and new husband and father status could keep up with, and neither one lasted for more than a year. Eventually, I left active duty and settled in the Tidewater area of Virginia in 2003 and into a law enforcement career. Now that I was grounded, I was set on finding just the right Charger, the one I always wanted, the one I would have spec’d out had I bought one new in 1969.
I found one in 2005. But not really. The mid-2000s were the height of Mopar muscle car prices, and along with the E-Body Barracudas and Challengers, 2nd generation Chargers were (and still are) sitting at the top of the market. Nice Chargers were too far out of my public servant salary’s reach. Rotten carcasses, which just a couple of years earlier wouldn’t have even been considered parts cars, were now selling for five figures.
And I bought one of those cars. When it was new, it was a gold 1969 Charger R/T SE with a 440 Magnum, Torqueflite automatic, black vinyl top with a black leather interior, AM/FM stereo, disc brakes, air conditioning, and even a luggage rack. It was a pretty cool, rare, well-optioned Charger, right? Well, a lot changes in 40 years because by the time I got a hold of it, almost all of those parts, including the engine and transmission, were gone. And so was a lot of the body. It needed floors, quarter panels and a valance panel. But I figured since I had some (very) basic welding skills and those parts were finally being reproduced that this would be an easy project and a blank canvas for me to build the Charger I always wanted. And since I had a couple of complete 440s in my garage, I can whip an engine together pretty quick, so no problem right?
There was a problem. At the time, I also had a pretty nice 1968 Coronet R/T, also a factory 440 car but with a 4 speed. It was a nice, fast, reliable car that I found in 1998 when I was stationed in Texas and I pretty much built myself in the course of the preceding 7 years. It already took up much of my very little spare time and money, but I guess there are worse problems to have.
By 2008, my marriage was beginning to fall apart (for reasons other than the cars) and my civilian career wasn’t going in the direction I wanted, so, since I had stayed in the reserves after my discharge from active duty, I went on extended active duty orders at Camp Lejeune, NC, almost 200 miles away. In the 3 years I had it up until this point, I did manage to get the floors done in the gold Charger, but not much else; it was still basically a shell of a car. Now that I was going to be what’s known in the military as a “geographic bachelor,” which is where a military member’s family stays in their home location while the serviceman works at his duty location, spare time didn’t exist and I was losing patience as I really wanted a driveable Charger. It didn’t have to be fast and it didn’t have to be pretty, I just wanted a running, driving 1969 Charger.
Every year since moving back to the east coast, I attend the annual Chryslers at Carlisle megashow and swap meet in Pennsylvania. If you are even a tiny hint of a lover of anything Chrysler, Carlisle is a must-attend. When I made the trip in 2009, they held a 40th anniversary tribute to the cars from the 1969 model year and among all of the meticulously restored show and race cars, I found a lone survivor Charger, sitting by itself as if it were ostracized from the show community. Its original blue paint was faded, its quarter panels were rusty, it sagged on its springs, and the engine was “just” a 318 instead of a sexier 440 or Hemi.
The owner, who I believe was the original owner’s nephew, wasn’t interested in selling at the time, but 6 months later, I stumbled across an online ad for it; he needed the cash for another child he had on the way, so in January, 2010, we agreed on a price, I sent him the cash, he sent the title, and I sold the gold Charger that I knew would never get finished under my ownership to a well-known restoration shop.
A nice bonus for me was that since it wasn’t a tarted-up, overbuilt show poodle Charger, the seller was asking a reasonable enough price for it that would allow me to hold on to my Coronet. Early 2010 was a “snowmaggeddon” year on the east coast so I had to wait until late March to pick it up for enough snow to melt for him to be able to pull it out of the storage building where he had it parked in central Pennsylvania; that was a long 2 months!
The car itself was a stripper model with manual steering and brakes, no air conditioning, AM radio, and standard hubcaps; the only options are the light package, which feature the cool hood mounted turn signals recessed into the simulated hood scoops, and a floor shift with console. I fell in love with it immediately. That’s my kind of car as I really have no interest in owning an over-built, over-restored show car. Its just an honest car that’s not trying to be anything that it isn’t.
Remember I said I was geo-batching to Camp Lejuene, which is a 3 1/2 hour drive from my home, and I went home every weekend that I didn’t have duty. That’s a lot of driving, and I refuse to be confined to a penalty box like a Civic or a Prius, which is what a lot of guys in my situation did. The previous year, I bought a clean, low mileage 1973 Duster with a /6 and plugged it into service as my primary commuter car. Why not? It got 25+ mpg and had a decent stereo plus I carried some key Mopar-centric spare parts (ballast resistor!) and tools in the trunk, and, wouldn’t you know it, I never needed them in the 3 years I used that car for commuting duties. While I was spending so much time driving, I decided that I may as well make it fun and committed myself to taking old cars and making them reliable and safe enough for the daily drive. I was going to demand that safety and reliability from my new Charger.
When I got the Charger home, I found that it was just about to turn the 200,000 mile mark but the car was so well-loved by its original owner, who took great care of it and kept all of its records, that the 318 literally ran as good as new, save for some oil burning presumably from leaky valve guides. It still had good compression in all cylinders and didn’t leak fluids. Not only did it run fantastic, but it appeared that it had never been rebuilt-the original cylinder head and intake manifold gaskets were still on the car!
The Torqueflite transmission was equally as reliable, though it appears it may have been rebuilt at some point. I also got a large folder of records with the car, including the original bill of sale and assembly line build sheet, and the car itself was incredibly original, down to its original hubcaps. Based on its records, it has been registered and on the road constantly since it was delivered in late 1968. The interior is in incredibly good condition and every light and switch works the way its supposed to; its like the car thinks it’s still 1975. The original owner was a Vietnam veteran who purchased the Charger after coming home, trading in a Rambler convertible for it. He wasn’t particularly a car guy, just a meticulous owner that loved the car and took very good care of it until he passed away in 2008, when the nephew I bought it from took ownership. The car stayed in Delware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania throughout its life, and thanks to factory undercoating and a careful owner, the rust has been confined to just the lower quarter panels.
After driving the car locally around town for a few weeks to test out its road-worthiness and reliability, which didn’t reveal any major concerns. I deemed it mechanically sound and put it into a regular weekly Lejeune rotation, along with the other cars I owned at the time, which included the Duster, the 1977 Grand Prix, my late-model pickups, and occasionally the Coronet (all will their own COALs in the future.) Surprisingly, the Charger still wore its original (ugly) hubcaps and tiny 205-series tires, which immediately were swapped out for a set of 15″ Magnum 500s on BFG Radials, for both looks and safety reasons; a car that big should not be on tires that small.
The Charger still has its original 10″ drum brakes at all 4 corners, and since I’m not going to do any competition driving with it, they have proven to be fine for normal street driving. For the next 2 years, I drove that car on my weekly road trips on the rural Virginia and North Carolina highways between home and the base, silencing my cell phone and leaving the stereo turned up, and trying to forget how much of my children’s lives I was missing by being away from home so much, and how close my wife was to becoming an ex-wife. During those drives is where I became very attached to my Charger.
Other than one tire blowout on the VA/NC line in the summer of 2010, the car also did not need any of the tools or parts I carried in a milk crate in the trunk. I remember driving home at around midnight one warm early fall evening with all the windows down, feeling good, and one of my favorite songs, Blackfoot’s “Train, Train” came on the radio; I looked down at the speedometer and saw 100 mph. He he.
In the summer of 2011, my orders at Camp Lejeune came to an end and I was reassigned to a new unit locally in Portsmouth, VA for another 2 years on active duty in Uncle Sam’s Confused Group. Also coming to an end was my marriage as my wife declared that she was leaving. We came to an agreement on the house, the kids, and of course, my cars, and I was able to keep them all. The Charger, along with with the rest of my little fleet, got to stay with me without having to play any custody games, which was nice. Professionally, I was doing well; I got a billet that I wanted close to home, which also allowed me to be promoted one more time before I would retire, but personally I was miserable. Just as I was getting back home and could once again see my family everyday, or at least as much as a military officer can, my wife moved out and I filed for divorce.
I had spent so much time driving (as opposed to having to work on) my Charger that I had grown about as attached to a car as anyone can and it was very much a part of my life now; my kids too, as we use it so much in everyday life. Normal routine everyday car duties such as school dropoffs and grocery shopping were now a part of the Charger’s routine and it never once failed. It’s never driven in rain or snow but one record-breaking cold winter morning when it was 1 below zero, I went out to start it just to see if it would, and of course, it did.
One of my duties while I was in Portsmouth was to periodically get underway on various local USCG Cutters. On one such mission, as I pulled up to the pier in the Charger, one of the young Coasties came running excitedly up to the car, saying that he had never seen a real 1969 Charger in person before, only in the movies and TV. I tossed him the keys and let him drive it around the base before we got underway. I like to think that he will never forget that.
In July, 2012, I made the trip back up to Carlisle again for the annual Chrysler show in the Charger. The show is normally held the second week of July and central Pennsylvania is usually pretty hot and humid in the summer anyway, but that summer was particularly hot. Like Iraq hot. The trip that year was memorable for several reasons. The first was the weather. When I left the fairgrounds on that Saturday afternoon, it was a 116 degree heat index. Did I mention that the car has a black interior and no air conditioning?
The second was that I got to meet up with the original owner’s widow, who lives not far from the fairgrounds in central PA, and, after a ride around town for a trip down memory lane, decided that the un-air conditioned black vinyl interior was too much. I agreed. And the third most memorable reason for Carlisle ’12 was that I had yet another tire blowout, this time on I-81 in West Virginia on the drive home, and this was on the new set of tires that followed the blowout in NC the year before. This was at about 4 PM, the hottest part of the day. Now I’m a pretty big fella (6’2″ 270) and I naturally sweat a lot. After changing the tire, getting back on the road, drinking all of the water I had in my cooler, and opening all of the windows and dash vents, I just couldn’t cool off. I pulled off my sweat-soaked shirt and that helped dry off my torso but my groin and legs, not so much, so off came my khaki shorts and I made the remaining 200 mile drive home in my tighty-whiteys. Very refreshing. Thankfully I didn’t get pulled over, because as a cop, I would have a hard time believing that I wasn’t some kind of pervert. I still go to Carlisle every year but now only in air conditioned cars.
(Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, AKA James Best, signing the trunk lid of the Charger at Carlisle in 2010.
I left active duty again in late 2013, returned to the reserves and accepted a new position with another civilian law enforcement agency which required that I go to training in Georgia for 7 months. I took the Charger with me and of course I drove it. I hated that I had to leave it outside for all that time but since it was south Georgia in the winter, it wasn’t exposed to extremes and it already had faded paint and rusty quarter panels. I took the car on weekend drives to Daytona, Savannah, Jacksonville, and to see my family in central SC, and people everywhere were shocked that I actually drove a 45 year old Charger from Virginia to Georgia and points beyond. My response was always “that’s what cars are for.”
(cruising in Jacksonville, FL in winter, 2014)
As we come to the end of 2018, I still have the Charger and still drive it regularly, though not as much as I did from 2010-2013 since now I work locally, but it remains as the most reliable member of my little fleet of 10 cars(!) and I know that at any time, all I have to do is top it off with gas and oil and it is ready to go on an extended road trip anywhere. It makes friends wherever it goes and gas stops usually take a few extra minutes because of people that want to look at the car, with the inevitable stories of “you know my brother had one just like it except it was a GTO.” Either that or they suggest that I paint it orange with a Confederate flag on the roof.
Now I’m married to a great new wife, with whom we had our first date in the Charger, and a new baby daughter, but my oldest daughter has claimed the Charger as her own so it will be fun to watch them all fight over the rights to the car. Its gone through several wheel and tire swaps; like I mentioned earlier, immediately after I bought it, the original hubcaps became garage art and are hanging over my work bench, and its been through the Magnum 500s, followed by Keystone Klassics, Appliance slotted mags, and now its rolling on my favorite wheel, Cragar SS’s that were cast in 1972; I only like period-correct aftermarket wheels on musclecars.
(the Charger in 2016 showing off its Cragars)
The 318 is pushing 250,000 miles and runs as good as ever; I want to see at least 300K before a rebuild and there’s no reason to believe it won’t make it. In fact, in the years I’ve owned it, the only repairs I have made have been replacing the ball joints, U-joints and motor mounts, plus I have tossed out the ignition points and installed an electronic ignition, and I put a dual exhaust on it with Charger R/T tips. It burns about a quart of oil every 1000 miles and I’ve changed plugs once or twice. The rust in the quarter panels had gotten to be too much to ignore so last year, I finally got the body work done. Several years ago, I picked up a pair of new replacement quarter panels at Carlisle and thankfully, as is often the case when restoring old cars, there was no surprise additional rust hiding anywhere else in the car so I was able to get by with just replacing the quarters and rear valance panel. Unfortunately, we had to paint over the original paint but its still the original B5 blue.
(fall of 2017 just after we sprayed the paint)
Last summer, after checking the weather forecast and determining that it wasnt going to be oppressively hot, I returned with the Charger to Carlisle for the first time since the Great Skivvies Run of 2012. This time, I was approached by a vendor that was selling therapeutic soft shop mats who liked my car so much that he asked to use it for his display; I said sure, as it would give him the opportunity to sell more mats and it gave me a shaded parking spot right in middle of the show. As I was packing up at the end of the first day, and because I get easily distracted, I locked the keys in the trunk. I’m sure passerby’s found it amusing watching my 270 lb self gut the backseat and crawl into the trunk to retrieve them. But at least I kept my shorts on.
(Carlisle 2018, just before I locked the keys in the trunk. That’s me holding the soda can and cell phone)
The Charger and I are coming up on our 10th anniversary together, and the car just had its 50th birthday in October. I sometimes fantasize about swapping in a big engine but I feel that would destroy the character of the car, plus, I mean, the car has survived for 50 years the way it is so I think it would be an automotive deadly sin to change that. There are dozens (maybe hundreds?) of muscle-era Chargers that go to the Carlisle show every year and mine is one of only a handful of intact 318 cars that I can remember seeing; all the rest are R/Ts, R/T clones, modified hot rods or General Lee clones. I’ve gotten some serious cash offers for the car but I think my faithful Charger and I will keep chugging along on our adventures together, and I will be writing up more COALs on it’s garagemates soon, each with adventure stories of their own.
Lt Dan in his tighty-whiteys… hehehehehehehehehehehe
Can’t admire this car’s shape enough. It transcends borders and oceans to be one of the most attractive bodies ever set upon four wheels. Ever.
My two cents – keep as is. Sounds like you have enough extraneous horsepower under other hoods. Great read. Definitely looking forward to more.
LOL, thanks Don. You and Vince were definitely a motivating factor in my getting up and getting this one done.
May this lovely stripper Dodge and its stripper owner both remain unmolested.
Comment of the day.
Given my “Abby Normal” mind, i thought of this also but hesitated to post it.
Thank you for keeping it stock! When I go to car shows I love seeing a Lemans or Tempest and not just GTO tributes.
I don’t like the wheels.
That may have been for ease of tire procurement, I know 80’s Mustangs with the TRX wheels pretty much all need new wheels now.
Yeah, should have stuck with the Magnum 500s. Hell, they were even the earlier (and probably period-incorrect) ones with the chrome rims and not the cheaper aluminum trim rings.
I don’t usually give much thought to wheels on any car, with the occasional exception. I had an ’87 Audi 4000 quattro for 15 years. I saw other 4kq’s with various aftermarket wheels, but IMO the stock Ronal R8’s (which my car had) looked best.
Have to agree with Ben here, Cragars are kinda played out in my personal opinion. But those Keystone Klassics, mmm mmm! Those look so satisfyingly perfect, same with mag wheels/Ansen Sprints.
This is a fantastic story; over 250,000 miles on a 50 year old American car that is both a good looking reliable classic driver and an immediate attraction to car fans everywhere.
And regarding your fleet of 10 cars … I am looking forward to a whole bunch of COALs.
USCG … Any stories about the Eagle? As a a 12 year old I saw the Eagle in Block Island’s Great Salt Pond (before the days of the JFK red stripe) and was told all USCG personnel spent some time going up the rigging. The Eagle would be a great Coast Side Classic!
Thank you sir. Your COAL series was so good that I went and pulled some of them for reference.
Not all Coasties sail on the EAGLE, just Officer Candidates and Academy cadets, and as an OCS grad, I did my time on the Bird. Its a different kind of sailing experience than any modern ship or boat, that’s for sure and we had to learn the name of every damn line on that stinkin’ boat but Im glad I did it. It sails every summer, usually up and down the East Coast to OPSAILs and Tall Ships Parads and is usually open to public when in port.
Outstanding to have found, used and maintained your Charger like this! Kudos to a Coastie!!
I hope you see the 300K mark with your rugged “little” 318. 🙂
Very nice writeup……..DFO
I echo MrEdCT, above…thank you for keeping it stock. And for your service to our country.
Given that an estimated 300 1969 Chargers were destroyed during the filming of The Dukes of Hazzard, and no telling how many have been turned into “General Lee” replicas, it’s remarkable that there are any unmolested cars still out there.
I must say that reading your story has inspired me to keep my 85 Lebaron convertible(i am the 2nd owner)and bring it back to close to showroom condition. Like yours it always starts and the paint is original maroon and white top. Your story is wonderful and like in the old days when your horse was your most trusted companion,we true car lovers know that our cars are the reincarnation of those old trusty steeds. May you enjoy your Charger and your new wife as well as your life for years and years!!!
What a story Dan! For years I have been reading about your many cool cars on this site, and it’s great to finally read the full story about one. Your Charger has quite the story, and it is an awesome car. I had no idea it was a 318 car with so many miles on it. Kudos to you to actually driving it and keeping it a 318. As a huge gear head/performance guy, when I was younger I was all about swapping in the biggest and baddest motors into these old cars. But I didn’t have the money to drive anything but cheap old slow cars. Now that I have the money to do that sort of thing, I’d rather keep the stock engines/drivetrains (although I am not opposed to some warming over).
From reading your posts over the years, I think the one thing you and I have in common is that we are semimetal over our cars. I know for me, the most valuable part of my cars is the memories me and my family members created with them over the years.
Again, thanks for the great read and looking forward to more posts!
Thanks Vince. You were the ‘kick in the butt’ I needed to get started writing about my old clunker cars. And yes, as soon as I turn my first wrench on them, they become my cars.
I have a saying that once a car enters my driveway, it never leaves, kind of like the automotive version of Hotel California.
Great article. I can relate to loving Chargers since childhood. My friend’s father worked for Chrysler for many years and still has a 69 RT SE that he bought from the executive pool, so I was exposed to Chargers from an early age, besides their appearances in TV and movies. I eventually bought a 70 Charger 500 which I still have. It was largely original, though the wiring harness needed to be replaced after many cuts and splices (and wire nuts!). I also like original cars, so I appreciate the 318 staying put. It is a great engine and provides plenty of power for ordinary driving. I think it would be OK for you to add an aftermarket AC system though, just to make it more comfortable.
Outstanding! The irony that by keeping the 318 your Charger is more unique than most.
Our whole family watched Dukes of Hazzard together, mom always bought a bag of chips for the occasion.
I’ve long maintained that the Dodge Charger was the most enjoyable, the best actor on the show.
A beautiful car, and you’re 100% correct about keeping it the way it is. If you ever do sell it, put the hubcaps back on it, and with the original engine, it’d sell 10x as fast as all the over restored ones sporting non-original 440’s & Confederate flags.
I’ve been watching too much Mrs Brown’s Boys on YouTube…..it is just a guess, you are Irish?
For me, the Charger is like the Cougar. What I mean by that is that Dodge had the Coronet hardtop/coupe but they went “above and beyond” with the Charger. The 2nd and 3rd generation Chargers managed that difficult task of being different without being odd/outlandish that doesn’t always happen with cars.
Great write-up, and I have to say how amazed I am that the intermediate and compact Chrysler products have risen so sharply from their values just a few years ago.
Great story! Running a vintage rig as a DD is something I’d love to do. i missed an opportunity in 1984 on a gold 68 Charger with the 318. I think he wanted $1200! My very rusty 67 LeMans was a freebie and I had to pass. I’ve always loved to look of these. Took me nearly 30 years to finally have my own Charger. My 2013 base model R/T was a real blast and like the 68, a great looker. What really hooked me was how the rear styling of the ‘13 paid homage to the 68!
Meant 69 rear taillights!
Fabulous story! I love your car and admire your determination to keep it as stock as is reasonable for daily driver use. I did not appreciate these enough when I was younger and they were plentiful – I liked the big C body sleds better. But now I see that I missed my window. I am glad you managed to sneak in before that window slammed completely shut.
One nit – that ain’t no stripper Charger. Stripper Chargers have a /6, a 3 speed, a bench seat and rubber floors. And I would sure love to find one of them. 🙂
You wouldn’t like the Slant 6 in that Charger body if you drove one, J. P.
I have. Yuk!
I recall the 318/Torqueflite powertrain (often speced out with the 3.23 rear end/final drive ratio) as being most enjoyable and “Real World Peppy” in the Charger/Satellite body of this time period. No supercar, of course, but more than capable of keeping up with/sometimes leading traffic away from stop lights.
In this body, the gas mileage between the two engines was (perhaps) only a mile or two difference.
The 225 six, on the other hand, was quite a bit slower and more sluggish.
The six also had more vibrations and noise than the V8 did. (Esp if the mechanical (non hydraulic) valve lifters were not fastidiously adjusted; something few people bothered to do/have done “back in the day.) OK in the earlier Valiants and Darts, but a “Bow-Wow” in the later, heavier Mopar models.
I recall reading (I believe in “Popular Science” magazine?) that the 318/Torqueflite powertrain was Mopar’s lowest warranty claim unit in all of their history of keeping records.
(Waiting for the “Leaning Tower Of Power” fans to crucify me……)
Mark, I spent a lot of time behind the wheel of my college roommate’s stripper-spec 74 Charger, so just one series newer. It was indeed a miserable car to drive, mostly because the heavy weight/manual steering and the too-tall axle which made standing starts a test of clutching skill at every traffic light. I will have to write about the experience some time.
I will probably be crucified as well but I am not a /6 fan either. That Duster was painfully slow, even with a 3 speed stick and I would often say a prayer before trying to pass or merge on the interstate. And the truth is, in those years, the economy of a 318 wasn’t that far off from the six so why not get the smoothness, extra power and better resale value of the V8.
Fun fact-Chargers weren’t available with bench seats until 1970.
My Dad traded in a slant six/3 on the floor 1960 Valiant (the earlier model of your Duster) for a 361 “Golden Commando” V8 1962 Plymouth. He said that the Valiant was just ok; but was an “ice wagon” loaded down with the 4 of us and a trunk full of luggage and was becoming small for our growing family.
Dad said that, during the test drive, he down shifted to 2nd gear, floored it and held on. By the time he shifted into third gear he was sold on the ’62.
Since the Valiant was supposed to be “her” car; Mom was upset at the trade. Until SHE stomped the gas pedal of the new Plymouth.
Nitpicking here, but the ’69 came standard with a split-back (center fold down armrest) “bench seat” and not buckets. But you undoubtedly know that, since yours has the optional buckets.
But rubber floor mats, no.
(Waiting for the “Leaning Tower of Power” fans to crucify me……)
The slant 6 is kind of like a bowl of chowder. Some people taste delicious chowder but some people just taste warm milk.
Very nice Charger, a true survivor.
Excellent story! It made me feel as if I were along for the ride in that Charger! I’m glad the car is still original, those make the best CC’s.
Looking forward to hearing more about your fleet. Did you keep the Duster?
Thanks Lee. I sold the Duster back in 2012 after I was done at Lejeune since I didn’t need both the Charger and the Duster for extended driving duty anymore and I wanted to free up some garage space. It went to a good home though; a young guy in the Navy bought it and I still see it around from time to time.
Awesome story and absolutely LOVE the car! The part about driving in your drawers….PRICELESS!!
I like how your car keeps the Day 2 look. Im with you on only liking period correct mags on these cars. Nothing else looks right, and a lot of otherwise amazing restomods are ruined by modern, too-big wheels with import-oriented designs that just don’t work on classic lines. I get the desire for more under the hood. Have you considered just beefing up that 318? Obviously it’s a good motor, and while there are much sexier options, that little 318 has plenty more in it. You don’t have to get nutty with it…some bolt ons will wake it up significantly.
Looking forward to COALs on that sweet Duster and Coronet too!!
Thank you for your service, as a military man and a LEO. You’ve given a small glimpse into how the job can affect the personal lives of those who serve.
thanks! That 318 has so many miles on it that I wouldn’t even consider hot rodding it. Its the if-it-aint-broke-don’t-fix-it principal. Heck I don’t even like changing the oil for fear of something breaking, lol. And because it has so many miles on it, I go easy on it in an effort to preserve it as long as I can, like they say, they are only original once. I have a couple of hot rods in the barn to go fast in; Im happy just driving that car like a normal car.
IF it ever is broke though, some 360 heads, cam and RPM intake wouldn’t hurt. But keep those valve covers and air cleaner lid as is no matter what!
A wonderful story, and hats off to your dedication to owning and driving old cars, and your service to our country. I’m a bit older than you, and whileI can’t imagine DD’ing a car older than me, I’d have trouble with a car older than about 1975. Disc brakes, at least. But the reference to Kraco stereos brought back some memories!
Always enjoy your postings her, LT Dan.
My “mind’s eye” can easily and vividly picture what is goin’ on as I read your entries here.
Don’t be a stranger!
It’s great to hear the full back story on your Charger. Kudos for keeping it as a stock DD.
Thanks Paul! And thanks for your help and allowing us to post our stories here.
The Jacksonville twilight photo is the best because it really highlights the beautiful, classic shape of a pedestrian, but well-preserved, second generation Charger survivor. Many have said this was one of the best-styled cars to ever come out of Highland Park (and maybe even Detroit, in general) and it’s tough to argue with that sentiment.
In fact, this generation of Charger is the kind of car that when you nonchalantly walk up to it from doing, well, anything, you just can’t get out of your mind what a well-styled car it is, from any angle. Walking up to drive away in most vehicles is just like walking up to a washing machine; it’s just an appliance. But the Charger is a thing of beauty, like walking up to a stunning super-model.
That’s why the option sheet of this one is so remarkable for being ‘unremarkable’. Just the basic look and options of the type of Charger that one would have been seen the most on the street back in the day is perfect. It’s a stunning example of a stunning car with a superb history, a true CC COAL.
Thing with the 318 Chargers, all the best stunts in dukes and dirty Mary crazy Larry were done with 318 cars. In fact, save for bullitt, the most iconic screen used Chargers were in real life just like yours! Personally possibly my favorite big screen Charger is the 68 in Christine, and it looks a whole lot like yours! 🙂
Also of note my Dad’s first car was a 318 Charger in B5 blue and a black vinyl top, it was the 71 bodystyle though, which I do like, but will never match the perfection of these.
If one listens carefully, the “bum-bum-bum-bummmm” rumble of what sounds like a Mopar factory dual exhaust system can be heard in the movie, as well as the oiled metal on metal sound of a Torqueflite automatic in first gear.
(Yes, I AM a car sound geek!)
I think the Academy Award Bullitt won was for sound editing, too. While it certainly seems that the actual sounds from the Charger were used, I once read that another car was used for the Mustang, maybe even a GT40.
I don’t know if this is accurate but if you watch closely, the Mustang’s double-clutch shifts towards the end of the chase seem to be timed perfectly with puffs of blue smoke that come from the Mustang’s tailpipes. So, if a different car’s exhaust sounds were used, it’s some remarkable editing to time the shifts with the Mustang’s smoke, making it worthy of the Oscar the movie won.
And, besides being much more widely available, using 318 Chargers for stunts makes more sense than the more front-heavy big-block cars. Again, this can be seen in Bullitt as the Charger ‘always’ comes down nose-first (and hard) in the jumps.
Yup! Unlike all too many Hollywood movies of then and now, on “Bullitt” the sound effects were well choreographed.
As a “Mopar Man” of this time period; I (of course) still take issue with the Mustang staying so close to the Charger.
Yeah, there are a few of the Ford-faithful that insist the 390 Mustang had no problem keeping up with the 440 Charger. I’m sure not feeling it, though. The sounds, alone, suggest the 440 was loafing during the final highway scenes while the 390 was screaming, trying to keep up.
The 390 Ford was generally considered a stone back in the day (with magazine road tests backing this notion up) The modifications Balchowsky claimed (cam, headers, smallish Autolite carb) might have helped some, but still no match for the stock 440. Supposedly, the mis-match was so bad, they actually put smaller tires on the Charger to slow it down in the corners to let the Mustang try to catch up. This would be a great explanation as to why the Charger was always sliding around and, at one point, took out one of the expensive movie cameras hidden in a mailbox.
I’ve read the Mustang engine sounds were actually a GT40, which makes sense for me as it sounds very throaty for a Mustang.
#IMO: The ’68-70 Dodge Charger body is one of those rare cars that just doesn’t have a “Bad Angle” for photographing and admiring/lusting over.
I feel the same as you about the look of that Generation of Charger. Not only today, but ever since Back in the Day. Of course I am biased as I owned a 1969 Charger R/T back in 1974. But the 440 Magnum made the car rather heavy and a real gas hog driving around town. And, much as I loved the car, that was my real reason for selling it.
Thanks! I admit that I always leaned more toward Dennis’ Charger than Christine herself (but don’t tell her that)
And I thought that I was the only one who preferred Dennis’ Charger over Christine.
Right on for Dennis’ ride in Christine!
WONDERFUL!! KUDOS on driving and enjoying your Charger – and the other old rides in your fleet.
That’s what cars are for. Nice to see rare rides at the cruises and shows but it’s the more common old CCs we drive that I admire the most.
A fantastic COAL – I’m really glad you’ve been able to enjoy it as you’ve wanted to. Too many are bought as trailer queens which is a real shame.
What a great story, and echoing others on here: good for you for just driving it. I like to hear that
Thanks for a great read
The 318/Torqueflite always seemed to be the “sweet spot” in the early 70s midsize Chryslers, and of course in the Valiant and Dart. It lost a lot of pep with the very long gearing that was installed to boost Government-cycle fuel economy in the Malaise Era, but overall it didn’t seem to make much if any fuel consumption difference in the real world, as you had to push a lot farther down on the go-pedal to get the car to GO!
Agree 100% with G. Poon!
I always found the 3.23 rear end/final drive ratio in the 318Torqueflite powertrain a fine compromise between highway gas mileage and stoplight to stoplight scoot.
Good story that captures the essence of car love. Thanks. -Rich
Thanks for this great very personal write up. Your story is shared by many thousands of true car lovers around the country and even around the world. I will echo the sentiment that a survivor car has a lot of appeal. But you know that the old rusty Charger body he sold earlier will be loved, rebuilt, and treasured by another enthusiast.
If there’s a lesson to be taken away from this story it might be this: If you have a car that you really want, then find a away to get it. Save up, sell some other things, borrow some money, buy a fixer upper. Then the hard part. Hold onto it! Fix it up over time, keep it in use, and find a way to hold onto it through life’s challenges. Like LT. Dan has shown, the bond between the owner and car can survive for decades. You’ve just got to keep the faith. Easier said than done!
I don’t know. A better lesson might be, if you want to live with the car you’ve always wanted, try to find the most practical, livable, easiest-serviced version. Dan’s Charger isn’t the most luxurious or desirable model but, for a long-term daily-driver, it’s about as good as one is going to get. Yeah, it doesn’t have power steering or brakes or A/C, but the flip-side is manual brakes and steering are easier to maintain and no A/C means no leaking and not having to upgrade to new refrigerant.
Likewise, a lo-po, stock 318 and TorqueFlite is going to serve a whole lot better over the long run on the highway than a gas-guzzling big-block and hard-shifting 4-speed that eats clutches.
The struggle is often great.
Too funny! We’ve all been there, automotive and otherwise.
Great story, thanks for it. All your fearless trips in it over long distances is inspiring. Love the wheels too, those are always a fav of mine on the right car.
And I agree that it’s hard to find a bad angle on this body style of Charger. They just nailed it.
Congratulations on a great car and story and thank you for preserving a 69 Charger as it was in the day.
Original low spec vehicles have become increasingly rare as they are neglected, or transformed so it’s great to see one preserved.
Also I totally agree about period correct wheels, I would much rather see a 60s car on Cragars or Torque Thrusts than those 20″ billet abominations.
Thank you all so much for the nice comments! Its very humbling and I admit I was very intimidated writing this as I wasn’t sure how it would come across so I truly appreciate the feedback. My spare time is limited so I can’t guarantee how quickly I can will get these things turned out but I’ve already started on the next one.
No, thank YOU for giving us such a well-told story of a car everyone knows about but few have experienced. And major kudos for keeping it stock apart from wheels – it’s alarming what small tyres we used to drive on. I feel it must be your favourite from the way you told its story – would that be right?
Maybe this isn’t an issue when you have 10 cars to choose from on a given day, but how hard would it be to retrofit a/c?
One takeaway, not original with me by any means: unless you really enjoy the process of restoring a car, get a car that’s in good shape in the first place. Clearly that was true of this car.
Great story. I’m very glad to hear that you’ve kept it pretty much original, particularly the engine. I’ve done the same with my ’68 Cougar, a 289 (2V)/C-4 automatic/AC car. Such cars are becoming more and more rare, even though they were sold in the greatest numbers when new.
Awesome COAL, LT Dan!
I think the fact you car is powered by the venerable 318 is why it’s a true survivor still chugging along. And I agree completely… Keep it that way. I feel the same way about my V6 Mustang. It’s for please cruising, not the drag strip or show circuit. It’s plenty fast enough, just like your Charger.
I really appreciate your holding onto the original paint as long as you could, too. Again, I feel the same about original paint if it’s possible, but WOW, she sure looks good after being re-shot.
One last aside: My wife is about as far away from being a car person as it gets. There are only two classic cars she can positively identify. One is a ’72 Buick Skylark. The other is a ’69 Charger. She would be happy to have either one of these in her favorite car color… that very shade of light blue.
What a great read. Thank You!
Man, I am looking forward to this COAL series. I’ve got a similar Charger, but alas, it’s only 1/18th scale.
A thoroughly enjoyable read, Lt. Dan. Like you, I can very much appreciate an example of an awesome car that is not a top-spec restomod – but I will say that yours is perfect just the way it is. Those Cragars set off your Charger just perfectly.
LT Dan, my hat is off to you for resisting the temptation to ‘improve’ the car. It is so much more interesting as-is and, as you say, not trying to be something it isn’t. Thank you for the very engaging story. I agree these have to be among the top 5 most beautiful designs to come out of Detroit.
Great story & thanks for sharing it.
I can relate to many parts, including removing the seat and tunneling through a trunk to open it – part of a bag jammed the latch in our case, at the start of a week-long run an hour from home.
Lt. Dan–this was one of the best CC’s I have read in a long time! From what you have written, we are of the same vintage, age-wise, and have the same memories of the Mopars that prowled the streets back in the day (and certain orange Chargers occupying the Friday night airwaves…). Kudos for finding and keeping your basic 318-powered ’69. Back in the day, I would’ve overlooked it (“Nah-it needs to have at least a 383…”), but now, I’d love to find a 318-motivated mom & pop survivor. The R/t’s (and RT/SE’s) had all of the glory, but the basic Charger was the one that was the daily driver for many (complete with the best looking design that came out of Detroit in the late 1960’s). This is the car I’d be circling at any Mopar show! Nicely done!!
I totally agree that this is a great write up and unique [nowadays] car, instead of ‘going with the crowd’. 🙂
318’s were anvils as much as slant-6’s. Family had a ’68 Fury wagon with one and it served us well. Lots of fun vacations.
“318’s were anvils as much as slant-6’s”
And the 318 always punched above its weight class. A Plymouth Fury with a 318 was always somehow more satisfying than a big Ford 289/302 or a Chevy 283/307.
Lt Dan: I really enjoyed reading about your car! Although we have a lot of things in common, unlike you, I DESPISED “The Dukes of Hazard”. My suspension of disbelief was snapped after watching the car “supposedly” continuing to run after one of those hard landings where every body panel flexed and the suspension collapsed; and because of the number of ’69 Chargers that were destroyed. You’ve inspired me to consider doing do a COAL on my ’70 Charger…don’t know how long it’ll take, though! 🙂
I’m very late to the party, but just had to say this COAL is in the “Best of the Best”! Great write-up of a great car and the people around it. Thank you!