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1964 Dodge Charger

1964 Dodge Charger's Success

Bortz made one unusual -- and intriguing -- decision about the 1964 Charger's restoration. He decided early on that the Charger would actually be finished the way it was always supposed to be: with an original race Hemi under the hood.

Joe managed to locate the 13th Hemi block ever cast, the earliest known surviving example and literally one of the engines originally scheduled for the Charger's engine bay. Destiny would finally be fulfilled for both car and engine.


The task of obtaining all of the necessary engine parts was put in the capable hands of Hemi guru John Arruzza, who used his extensive contacts to locate all of the pieces necessary to correctly accomplish what Dodge wasn't able to back in 1964. After completing the project, Arruzza told Bortz that there are literally not enough parts still in existence to ever do this kind of engine again.

Once the engine was in place and mated to the 727 TorqueFlite automatic transmission, the same kind as was used originally, the focus turned to paint and final assembly. Bortz has always taken pride in the quality and correctness of the paint on his dream cars. At times, he has even tracked down the very people who originally painted his cars back in the day and hired them to repaint the cars in their original colors.

This time around, he had Roxas repaint the car. In order to get the correct color, they found an area where the original paint was still visible. With the aid of a color spectrometer, they were able to take a digital sample, feed it into a computer, and have the color replicated to perfection. Roxas was then able to reapply the original deep-burgundy hue to the Charger's rejuvenated sheetmetal.

Luck played a bit of a hand in the restoration, too. Roxas managed to find a new original-stock set of the Halibrand magnesium wheels from a customer who happened to be at his shop one day. During the Charger's lifetime, the Hali­brands had been replaced by off-the-shelf chrome slotted wheels, though the originals did stay with the car.

The customer noticed that the pitted originals were identical to a set he had at home. Needless to say, Bortz jumped at the chance to get them. They were shod with a new set of Goodyear Wingfoot bias-ply whitewall tires.

Bortz says he's very interested in running the Charger down a dragstrip one time, just to see what it would do. He believes that an 11-second elapsed time is within reach.

"The only problem is that the stress could possibly hurt the engine or perhaps twist the body enough to crack the paint," he explained. "Maybe I'll wait a few years until the 'fine edge' is off the restoration and run it before the car gets touched up."

Of course, the 1964 show season was just the beginning for Chargers from Dodge. Showgoers in '65 and '68 saw the Charger II and Charger III, respectively. The former was an expressive fastback that tipped off what Dodge had in mind for a production car that arrived for 1966 -- with the option of a version of the 426 Hemi better suited to street use.

Charger coupes continued in the line through 1978. Then, in the Eighties, the name was revived to enhance the image of the subcompact front-wheel-drive Dodge Omni hatchback coupe, including a cooking Shelby Charger.

After 1987, the name lay dormant again for a dozen years, until the division trotted out a swoopy Charger R/T show car. Now Dodge is proposing to put the badge back in circulation on a rear-drive sedan powered by Chrysler's newest-generation Hemi V-8.

With the impending return of the Charger nameplate to the Dodge lineup, it seems fitting that the first car to bear the revered moniker has now reemerged to take its rightful place in the show-car world. It is pretty safe to assume that it will be a familiar sight at concours around the country.

It may not have been the most graceful show car ever to be displayed -- the proportions are pretty crazy and it's just not something to which design students will be referring for structured inspiration.

However, the 1964 Charger is one of the most aggressive and muscular of show cars. You'd almost expect it to ooze sweat from its sheetmetal and spew clouds of vaporized testosterone from its unmuffled side exhaust ducts as it roars past, shaking the very ground on which it rolls.

Bortz's faithful-to-the-concept restoration of the Charger makes it the alpha male of dream cars, with huge tattooed biceps and an attitude to match.

Dodge hit the nail on the head in 1964 when it presented the Charger show car to its first enthusiastic audiences.

Its "grab you by the throat" persona boldly announced to the world that the Dodge Boys were joining the muscle car revolution and they were planning on taking over.

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