After being unable to put high-enough quality pictures of the Dave Ferro’s article on the Super Charger on Oppo, I went to the trouble of squinting at the highest-quality versions of the pictures I could get so you don’t have to. I was able to read most of it, although I’ve placed a question mark in parenthesis after the few words I’m not sure if I got right. So without further ado, here it is:
Car companies have done some strange and sometimes secretive things. Case in point: You’re walking along Detroit’s waterfront, the window of an old brick building glowing bright then fading dim. Streetlights flicker with each massive(?) gulp of electricity and the glare is reflected in the water like some weird kind of lighthouse. A closer look reveals a Frankenstein-type display of sparks and flame. You move in – wipe the window to see. Suddenly, the secrecy is exposed. You squint your eyes and focus on what kinda looks like a Charger, but like none other you’ve ever seen. You’ve just witnessed history in the making, the Dodge Boys hard at play.
Other cars are built to showcase design and engineering developments. Sometimes they’re designed simply for the fun of it. Few latter types ever get built. But if you had a good reputation at the company, and you added the title “FACTORY SHOWCAR”, occasionally the beancounters would foot the ball. Such was the case when one Elwood P. Engel, then chief stylist for Chrysler Corporation, had an idea. He wondered how a ’68 Charger R/T would look without a roof. By carefully choosing his words and replacing terms like “car of the future” with “aerodynamically styled”, Engel got the OK for a styling evaluation that eventually became his personal ride. Hence, the first rendition of the Topless Charger.
The car was white with black rims, the bumpers were painted to match and there were non-gloss black panels painted on the hood. A patterned(?) stripe graced the rear, and the door handles were removed for a smooth look. Customizing included dual cone-style mirrors (mounted far forward on the fenders), finned sidepipes, dual flip-top gas caps (only one was functional), mag wheels and a stainless steering wheel. The two-seater showcar had the roof cut off at the beltline. Two raised tunnels ran from the front headrests to the non-opening deck lid. The engine was a 440. The car was, as they say, far out.
For ’69 the Topless Charger was restyled with stock items updated to new model specs. The grille, marker and taillights from the ’68 were swapped for ’69 units. No simple task, considering that ’68 and ’69 Chargers use different tail panels. The stripe was changed to match the ’69 design.
Then came 1970. The Super Charger shown here was created from the old Topless Charger to be Dodge’s showcar at auto shows and exhibits during the ’70 season. Designed by Dodge stylists and built by Creative customs of Detroit, this sleek, low-slung factory experiment made a strong statement. A seemingly seamless, new-orange body incorporated a molded-on Daytona nose and fender scoops, but not the wing. Instead, a low rear spoiler was fabricated with its pitch electronically controlled by the driver. Opening louvers in the hood were also electronically controlled. There are no side windows, even the gap the glass had filled was filled. Window crank holes in the door panels are plugged with chrome fillers. Take a look: This may be the coolest Mopar ever built. Check out the cut down windshield, it stands just 10 inches high. Notice the trim? The Super Charger performed showcar duties until its retirement in ’71 when it was warehoused. There it sat alongside other concept cars until 1974 when Chrysler fell on hard times and began selling off the collection. The roadster went to Van Nuys Dodge and was displayed in the dealership until late 1976. By now, new cars were dismal and a vehicle as flamboyant as the Super Charger did nothing to make them look any better.
Again the big marvel was retired, this time to the dealer’s back lot, where it sat until ’79. On memorable day Van Nuys Dodge’s owner decided to let his son drive the car to his senior prom. They brought it out (and filled its spot with two colts), got it running, cleaned it up, and off it went. The evening was uneventful, at least for the Dodge. That was a lucky night for someone because the car was placed back in the showroom, out of the weather and safe again, where it resided until the early Eighties when a private collector purchased it. He owned the car for two years before selling it to a man who, unfortunately, died just three weeks later.
September 1983: a father, son, Ford and a pocket full of money are heading north on I-405. Fate had them heading to an obscure estate sale where the final bid of $11,250 ($1,500 of which had to be borrowed from dad) would put young Raffi Minassian(?) in the driver’s seat of a piece of Mopar history. The ride home must have been nothing short of fantastic. Surprisingly, Raffi reached into the glove box and pulled out eight sun-curled 8X10 black-and -white press photos.
[it is at this point that I, Austin, think there may or may not be a chunk of the story missing, as the transition to this next part strikes me as slightly odd. Either that, or this next part is from a different article, although that would be weird because this part has the same page layout and style as the first two parts. It still continues the same story though, so… ]
Dad thought his son was nuts until he got a chance to drive the car. (Later he reversed his opinion as Raffi’s investment doubled, then tripled and so on.) At this point, the 15-year-old car had accumulated just 9,000 miles, most of which were put on by the designer.
For years Raffi tried to register the car, but the DMV red-taped him to death. First it was the bumpers, or lack thereof. Then it was the wipers, or lack thereof. “Hey, that wind-shield can’t be legal.” You get the picture. Finally, he submitted the title for what it was, a 1968 Charger R/T. As it turns out he became the first person ever to register this proud steed, straight form Chrysler! Funny, when you talk to Raffi you’d expect to hear claims of “one of one” or how rare and collectible it is. Not so. Instead, you hear stories about Dad driving the car at 100-plus or how he drive his five-month pregnant wife at 120 in the rain (using a Mopar towel he just won at a raffle to keep the dash dry), racing an SS 396 and winning at 125, getting stopped (and let go) by the cops for driving with no tags or registration; real street stories. You’ve got to love a guy like that. Thirteen years and 7,000 miles later, Raffi and the Super Charger living happily on the west coast. Raffi thinks he might like to have this high-water mark vehicle restored. He shipped it cross-country to my shop (Totally Auto, Bensalem, Pennsylvania) for a look-see. I’ll admit, based on all the fiberglass in the car, our lead parody with sparks flying must have been the steel roof being removed. There some battle scars: The “custom” bodywork was starting to crack, but the paint was all original (at least all-’70 original). The car was in such great original condition, we recommended he leave this fine example as is, for historical reasons. We went over the car with a fine tooth comb and finally Raffi talked me into doing one thing: drive it. Wow, what a car! It spins heads like no other and feels brand new, as well it should. After all, underneath all that cool resides and all-original 16,000-mile ’68 Charger.