(Welcome our new Saturday COALer, Seth A.)
Ely Park, Binghampton, NY just after sunrise on 4-16-1981. My first roll of 35 mm film with my dad’s then 20+ year old Canon camera on a frigid cold morning. Google says that it was 27° F at the Binghampton airport at sunrise that morning. I guess that’s why the photo is a little blurry. Amazingly it appears to be the only photo I ever took of the car.
It had the venerable 318, allegedly bored over with 340 heads. A few weeks after this photo was taken, I swapped the manifold and added a Holly Double Pumper 4 BBL carburetor and wider tires (60’s in the front, 50’s on the rear).
Looking at the colors from the sales brochure the exterior was Medium Tan Metallic
It’s not surprising that I ended up with a Dodge. My parents owned a series of Dart’s. A 1967, a 1968 (270 2 -door), a 1970, a 1972, a 1973 and a 1975 (Dart Custom). I took my driver’s license road test in the 1975 and passed despite refusing to do the mandatory broken U-turn in the middle of an icy hill. The other cars of my youth were a 1964 Barracuda with the push button automatic (the only new car my father ever bought) and a green station wagon. I believe the station wagon was a Polara. I’d had a crush on the theatre club’s prima donna since the 5th grade, I wanted to learn to fly and really liked Harry Chapin’s “Taxi”. I eventually got my Commercial Pilot’s License. While she’d had a small part in a 1976 movie and lives in the San Francisco Bay area she never became an actress.
Before buying this Charger, I’d looked at an Orange 1968 Charger. The seller of the 1968 wanted more than I had and the floor boards were so rotten that my feet got wet during the test drive. The rust on this 1973 was confined to the rear quarter panels and bottom of the trunk and the asking price left me enough cash to go register it.
It was late October or early November of 1981, a few weeks past my 17th birthday when I bought it and I was several months shy of my 19th birthday when I traded it in on my first new car in April 1982. I owned it for roughly 18 months and put about 22,000 miles on it. I look back at how I drove and am kind of amazed that I survived this car. I never hurt the car, nor did I hurt any people or animals. I certainly contributed more than my share to global warming, especially when the secondaries (on the carb) kicked open.
A scare on Daytona Beach made me decide to sell it. Suffice it to say I was lucky that the breakwater is visible at low tide and I had good brakes. Surprisingly I only got two tickets in this car, neither for speeding (although by rights they should have been). I did get a bunch of warnings (there are advantages to being in the Navy when you’re young and stupid). The nicest was on Christmas Eve 1981 from a South Carolina Sheriff who suggested I stop at the rest area just up the road and take a nap until the State Boys just up the road got off duty. It was around 11 pm and I’d left the Orlando Naval Training Center (NTC) after a full workday so I guess I might not have been holding my lane position so well. About 24 hours later I got a ticket on NY 17 (in an area called the Wurtsboro Hills) for failure to maintain my vehicle in a single lane of travel. I’d caught a little air, blew out the right front tire when I landed and woke the State Trooper up.
In June of 1981 I’d left the Charger in Binghampton when I shipped to boot camp. That led to the purchase of my second car, a mid-sixties Dodge Dart (to give to my sister to get my Charger back) and the first car that I really wanted but couldn’t afford to buy. I’ve found the photo sleeve that in theory should have pictures of those two cars, but those photos and about half the negatives are missing. Without photo’s neither of those is worth its own write up.
In late September 1981 I was finishing up my class “A” training school at Great Lakes NTC and thinking about what I was going to do for transportation. In the parking lot across from my barracks was a Carolina Blue Plymouth Superbird with a for sale sign. The owner was asking $7000. I had $3000. As an E-3 earning $642 / month who was about to transfer to another duty station no one was going to approve me for a loan so I ended spending $400 on a relatively solid mid-sixties Dart. That Dart took me from Great Lakes to Binghampton the weekend before Columbus day and served my sister until she and her husband traded it for a stake bed truck the following December. It had the small slant 6 and a really good heater. I still don’t understand how the first snow storm of the season caught up with me in Ohio…
In closing I’d like to thank Paul for the opportunity to share my memories
Welcome to the COAL mines. It looks like you got your Charger just a few years after my college roommate’s father found a used 74 for his kids to drive. At least yours had the V8 and auto. I had no idea that we were driving around in such a unicorn, a six/3 speed/zero option “coupe”. At least it was red. Yours sounds more normal for the breed. Something like this would have been a great first car – cool enough, with a small enough engine to keep you out of worse trouble than you were able to find as it was.
I look forward to more.
Binghamton! The hometown of my first wife. I drove up there from Long Island many times going up the NY State Thruway and turning West onto 17. This was in the mid 1960s when the West bound part of the trip became local roads at the Roscoe diner. When the “Southern Tier Expressway” was completed in that area the trip became much faster, but we often just flew by the diner trying to make time.
The pre-expressway route took longer, but it was more interesting and the diner was enjoyable.
The concept of being a one car brand family is fun to think about, and your family certainly earned the title as a Dodge family. In my experience Dodge offered a wide variety of automotive formats over the past years and had fewer soft years (or deadly sins) than other makes. Even the mid 1990 Intrepids had the fun to drive (but not necessarily well built) 3.5 V6 powered rocket ships.
A commercial pilot’s license is quite an achievement. I am guessing some of your log book’s total hours may have been on US Navy aircraft. As an former Grumman employee, I’d love to hear more about your Navy (*) endeavors and experiences.
(*) These experiences could be written as a POAL (planes of a life time).
There are a lot of adventures packed into your first COAL. I look forward to the unpacking over your series 🙂
Someday, I want to know how you pulled off passing that driver’s exam when refusing to perform the random ridiculous task that your test presented. Seems like these things (random ridiculous tasks) are a feature of many drivers’ exams…I know there was one when I took my test, and 40 years later when my kid took his, there was one that he and his friends complained about as well.
Oh, and “Medium Tan Metallic”. Such a 70s color. I’ve seen so many Chrysler products of that generation in that color or one very close. Looking at the brochure’s color wheel, there were so many other colors available; but apparently most of those colors were seldom ordered. No wonder why nowadays the manufacturers have narrowed the consumer’s choices…apparently nobody orders most of those colors anyway.
Keep up the good work, looking forward to next week.
Best guess was he respected my judgement. It helped that I was polite about it. I grew up to work in Safety & Mission Assurance (for NASA) so mitigating risk must be in my blood 🙂
“Looking at the brochure’s color wheel, there were so many other colors available”
The choices narrow considerably if you chose to avoid one of the ten versions of gold/tan/brown/yellow/green.
Exactly. The wide colour palette lends the illusion of large choice. When the colour variance, is really quite limited.
Three fewer colours offered on the 1978 Volare, with less representation of gold and browns, and more reds. And slightly more distinction between colours.
And nowadays it’d be 10 versions of gray, charcoal, or silver. Boooring!
That out of focus picture gives the car an in motion look and feel to it.
Looking forward to your next vehicular writeup!
ah, the wurtsboro hill. That long climb up from bloomingburg around the hook at the top of the hill past the eagles nest and then the downgrade into the valley of the Basha kill.
My old strategy in the wagon was to pick it up around Fair oaks and hit the upgrade at 80 Crest at 50 and Coast down until I got to 85 for the long long upgrade into Monticello.
In 1986, the third owners of my mother’s 1969 Plymouth valiant neglected to add the obligatory weekly quart of oil, and the valiant died on the upgrade and the opposite direction coming up from the Basha kill.
Welcome to CC from a Binghamton (Endicott) resident! Are you still around the area? BTW no P in Binghamton, though many do like to add it. I live in the house owned by the former service manager of the local Chrysler-Plymouth dealer (now one), did you buy it from them.?
I’ve always liked this era of the Charger, they’ve gotten pricey like many Mopars recently. Hope we’ll hear from you again Sal!
Roger in NY
My sister did a year at SUNY and stayed in the area for another six months. We’re from downstate, New Rochelle. I ended up in Arizona after I got out of the Navy, then California, Texas, Baltimore, Philadelphia and back to Texas. My sister moved to Colorado in Dec 1981 and I haven’t been back to Bingo since. You can proof read a dozen times and still miss a typo.
Some of the gear ratios available back then were kinda crazy, but that one is at the top of the list. My ’79 Trans Am had the totally ridiculous 2.41 gears in it when I got it. A 2.41 posi! I changed them as soon as I could to 3.21 and it was a totally different car. There’s an article about my mods on that car on Curbside. Lots of fun once it got some decent power.
I had a 74 Charger very similar to yours; base model, 318, Torqueflight…
Not a bad car but the worst I’ve ever had in snow – even with snow tires and a bag of Quikrete in the trunk it just spun its wheels.
Hope you had better luck with yours…
With the alleged 340 heads and the Holly Double Pumper it didn’t need snow to spin the wheels, just a heavy foot. I bought rear tires twice and was ready for another set when I traded it in.
A nice and well written COAL .
Looking forward to the next one .
I got lucky, my driver’s license tester only complained when instead of stopping when another car began backing out without looking was I down shifted, crossed the center line and gave him the finger as we rolled on around him .
My ex wife flat refused to follow the basic rules and so needed _SEVEN_ attempts before they relented and gave her a driver’s license, I was often scared when she drove as she flat ignored stops signs and so on .
Welcome! This is exactly the first car I always wanted but instead ended up with a rusted out 6-cylinder Chevelle. A warmed over 318 was probably just about perfect for teenager, providing some tire burning fun but not enough power too crazy. I am looking forward to reading your series.
Sister/brother in law had a “75 Charger”.Was purchased in “1977”, I believe. Pretty nice driving car. Sliver out/cranberry in, 360 V8, was a tight fit getting through the garage doors.
As to that brown color, brothers, brother in law had a “73 Roadrunner” in that color. (the one in the center of the chart, I think.)