When Chrysler’s design chief saw the first renderings of the 1968 Charger he proclaimed, “Now, that’s what a car should look like.” They skipped the usual management reviews, consumer clinics, etc., and went directly with their instincts. The quick decision on the latest incarnation of the Charger rewarded the crew handsomely when the estimated sales figure was eclipsed four-fold by the end of that year. From the beautifully photographed book The Art of Mopar: Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth Muscle Cars is the story behind the 1968 Dodge Charger 426 Hemi.
1968 Dodge Charger 426 Hemi
When Car and Driver tested the ’68 Charger, they remarked, “It looks like the Chrysler Corporation is flat out in the automobile business again. The only 1968 car which comes close to challenging the new Charger for styling accolades is the new Corvette, which is remarkably similar to the Charger, particularly when viewed from the rear quarter . . . Originality takes guts in Dodge’s position as the smaller division of the number three automaker, but the Charger’s aerodynamic wedge theme is not only distinctly new but it is very like the new breed of wind-tunnel tested sports/racing cars which are just now making their debut in the 1967 Can-Am series.”
Diran Yazejian, a young designer at the time, told allpar.com: “Bill Brownlie, Dodge Studio Executive Designer, wanted an evolutionary design from the ’66—a fastback. Meanwhile, off in a corner of the Dodge Studio, Richard Sias was making a 1?¹º scale ‘speed form’ clay model. It was ‘aircrafty’ and had the double-diamond shapes built into its form, but it wasn’t a fastback. . . . The ‘sail panels’ made it look fastback enough to satisfy Brownlie.
“It was such an exciting shape that Chuck Mitchell, Chief Designer, wondered if it could be morphed into a B-body size car,” Yazejian continued. “Since the program hadn’t yet started, a full-size clay model was started while hidden behind two 20-foot blackboards. Frank Ruff, B-body Car Line Manager, with his experience and Richard Sias’ vision, directed the clay modelers to what soon looked like the ’68 Charger. Everybody knew it was a winner. While still behind the boards, it was informally shown to Bob McCurry, Dodge Division VP. He approved it on the spot; it was moved out onto a regular platform in the studio, finalized, and refined, and released to Engineering.” Having the approval of Elwood Engle was also a big boost, as he proclaimed, “Now, that’s what a car should look like.”
Detroit design studios just didn’t work this way. There were always studio design competitions for new models, then management reviews, consumer clinics, more management reviews, and other formalities before a design was chosen. Not the second-generation Charger. It looked so right that Dodge’s leadership pulled the trigger immediately.
Everything underneath the shapely skin was standard B-body Coronet, reducing cost and making the transition from concept to showroom easier. Only the windshield and A-pillars were shared with the other B-body cars. Powertrain also matched the Coronet. The base Charger model had the 318 V-8 as standard, so the performance R/T model with its standard 440 Magnum (and optional Hemi) was the one to buy. Graphic designer Harvey Winn adopted his bumblebee stripe from the Coronet R/T, but if that was too showy for a buyer, it could be deleted. “With all this performance image going for the Charger,” said Car and Driver, “we just had to order an engine to go with it—and when you’re talking a Chrysler product, the performance engine is the Hemi. There just isn’t more honest horsepower available off the showroom floor than you get from this bright orange monster.” Honest, as in 0–60 in 4.8 seconds, and the quartermile in 13.5 at 105 miles per hour. Note, this was in a Charger packed with test equipment weighing in at 4,346 pounds.
Dodge production planners, using sales of the 1966–1967 Charger as a baseline, estimated 20,000 ’68 Chargers would be sold. But the new Dodge Fever ad campaign had gone viral, and by the end of the model year, 92,590 Chargers were sold, including 475 with Hemis. Demand was so high that Hamtramck Assembly couldn’t keep up, and the St. Louis plant also began building Chargers.As beautiful as all second-generation Chargers are, The Brothers Collection is home to an R/T that is really unique. The ’68 is Hemi-powered, of course, with four-speed, one of 211 so equipped. The R/T stripe was deleted, as was the console, and since air conditioning was not available with the Hemi, it has the optional power windows. What’s more, the code LL1 Medium Turquoise Metallic Paint is rarely seen, and it is believed this is the only ’68 Hemi Charger in this color.
Maybe this is what dreaming in color looks like.
The Art of Mopar: Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth Muscle Cars is the ultimate portrayal of history’s ultimate muscle cars. This is the ultimate visual history of the greatest muscle cars.
The history of Chrysler Corporation is, in many ways, a history of a company floundering from one financial crisis to the next. While that has given shareholders fits for nearly a century, it has also motivated the Pentastar company to create some of the most outrageous, and collectible, cars ever built in the United States.
From the moment Chrysler unleashed the Firepower hemi V-8 engine on the world for the 1951 model year, they had been cranking out the most powerful engines on the market. Because the company pioneered the use of lightweight unibody technology, it had the stiffest, lightest bodies in which to put those most powerful engines, and that is the basic muscle-car formula: add one powerful engine to one light car.
When the muscle car era exploded onto the scene, Chrysler unleashed the mighty Mopar muscle cars, the Dodges and Plymouths that defined the era. Fabled nameplates like Charger, Road Runner, Super Bee, ‘Cuda, and Challenger defined the era and rank among the most valuable collector cars ever produced by an American automaker.