1968 Dodge Charger R/T: Thirsty mover

Staff reports
Farm Forum

“It doesn’t go too far on a gallon of gas,” Gary Williams says of the 1968 Dodge Charger R/T he purchased in the autumn of 1978. He needed some cheap wheels; and for $200 he got the title to an ugly, pea-green Dodge that had seen better days.

All of the original owner’s children had learned to drive at the helm of the Dodge. It came with a 318-cubic-inch V-8 attached to an anemic automatic transmission. “It was very dull,” Williams remembers.

But, it ran, and for the money it was a good deal. However, Williams had previously owned another Charger with a factory 440 R/T under the hood. Because of how much he enjoyed the earlier high-powered Charger, he started looking for a bigger engine to transplant into his second one, and found a 383-cubic-inch V-8 engine that was a vast improvement.

Upon investigating the problems associated with an engine swap, Williams decided to go whole-hog and get a 440-cubic-inch V-8. The bigger engine wouldn’t be any more difficult to install, making him a happier camper. On a used-car lot, he finally located a 1969 Chrysler Imperial with a well-cared-for 440-cubic-inch engine and 69,000 on the odometer. He scooped it up for $350, pulled the engine and sent the rest of the car to the junkyard.

Chrysler engineers had set up the Imperial 440 engine to deliver a smooth, steady 350 horsepower while they prepared the same 440 block differently for the Charger. The engine breathes fire when set up for the Charger at 375 horsepower. Williams rebuilt the engine to the 440 Magnum specifications even though, he explains, “I do get the urge from time to time to build more of a race motor.”

The muscular Charger was driven sporadically for about a decade. Circumstances changed, causing Williams to store the car in a barn. Years later he discovered he was sharing garage space with mice. They had moved into the engine compartment and made themselves completely at home. Therefore, the vehicle was moved to a rodent-free garage.

After the car bug bit him again, he began working on improving his 17 1/3-foot-long car and has been driving it ever since. The stock wheels were replaced with a set of chrome five-spoke Cragar wheels upon which he has mounted Mickey Thompson S/S Indy Profile tires to replace the original bias ply tires. The front tires are G60X14-inch and the rear wheels turn L60X15-inches. “All that means,” said Williams of the mismatched tires, “is that my speedometer doesn’t work right.”

“I got serious about fixing it up.” He hand-sanded the entire car. Once the Dodge was stripped to bare metal in some spots and bare rust holes in others, he could determine what surgery needed to be done to bring the car back to good health.

With the bodywork done, the car was painted an authentic Charger forest green metallic. It then was completed with a forest green interior, along with forest green carpeting.

The powerful Charger is equipped with power steering and power brakes. The windows must be hand-cranked down, but Williams keeps the cranking mechanism in good order. “You’ve got to cruise with all the windows down to look right,” Williams explains. How else to display the pillar-less hardtop?

The imitation air scoops stamped into the engine hood provide a place for turn signal warning lights. Warning lights also flash on the 150-mph speedometer. Six pleated slots grace each of the front bucket seats. When the slots are opened, the material within is light green, but, more importantly, the slots allow air to circulate around the occupants.

Williams said he must use lead additive whenever he fills the gas tank with what goes for high-test these days. “If I don’t,” he said, “the hydraulic lifters chatter.”

His 1968 Dodge Charger may not have left the factory as a 440 R/T model, but it now has the requisite rectangular exhaust tips and the 440 muscle to back them up. “It has a 19-gallon gasoline tank,” Williams reminds us, “and it needs every bit of it.”

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