And that’s precisely what the car did to its current owner of 45 years – it instigated him to do ‘Duke boys’ stuff. Alright, take out the interminable jumps, just leave the speed in, and that’s pretty much the whole deal. Except this happened when the man we see in the video remembering his teenage deeds was only 16 years old, fresh out of his driver’s license exam.
Let’s rewind the string of time two years before that moment and go from the beginning: the year is 1978, and the second generation Dodge Charger was a decade old. A bike-riding fourteen-year-old boy used to pass by a house, and he’d be seeing a familiar muscle car silhouette under a tarp. One day, he happens to catch the car’s owner out and asks him if the vehicle is a Charger.
When you’re 14, even going to the Moon isn’t beyond reach, so the owner played along. After the usual inquiry about the nosy visitor’s age, the Charger-man went straight to business. ‘How much money do you have?’ Now, in 1978, you don’t expect an awful lot from a kid with a bicycle as his most prized possession.
‘450 dollars, mister.’ The prospect of getting two birds with one stone must have been too tempting for the adult, so he honestly admitted the yellow car didn’t run (that was the Chrysler-applied hue this car was born with). ‘But if you want it, come back with your dad, and I’ll sell it to you for $450.’ That’s the end of the deal, but not of this story.
It took him a solid two years’ worth of work, but in 1980, the resurrected Charger was rumbling down the roads. In fact, it was roaring, a tell-tale symptom of ‘speed ticket exposure.’ The reason is bluntly simple – the person behind the wheel was the restoring mechanic, Chris himself, now the proud owner of both a running, driving Charger, and a legal right to blast it on public roads.
‘Right’ didn’t equal ‘Dukes-of-Hazzard-intangible’ – something the young Lehuede discovered just half a year into his driving experience. With a stack of tickets in his name, he had to temporarily park the fast Charger and get a four-door Chevrolet Nova as his daily driver. I feel I don’t need to emphasize the heartdrop experienced by the overly enthusiastic 16-year-old.
But Mr. Lehuede vows now that it is Pauline who will sell this car to its next owner because Chris will not part ways with it for as long as the good Lord of Mopar lets him breathe on this planet. And, looking through his Mopar muscle car collection, we can immediately tell this Charger is not going anywhere, not on his watch.
If you say to yourself, ‘This is a nice story,’ I invite you to read one. After he got the Charger back on the road, he decided to have it repainted – at that moment, this Hemi Orange Dodge was very much blue. In true gearhead fashion, he takes the car to a body shop and leaves it there for the livery refreshing.
Some two decades ago, he had the car repainted and restored to its current condition – and there’s one reason it looks this good: Mr. Lehuede keeps all his Mopar gems in climate-controlled storage. And, although he has quite a selection of fine Mopars, he drives them all regularly – not excessively, but just enough to keep them in good shape.
For example, this splendid Charger has gained only around 15,000 miles (24,000 kilometers) on the clock since he bought it 45 years ago, with about 45,000 miles on it (72,000 metric clicks and some change). It may be a 55-year-old Dodge Charger, but it’s still an R/T.
With 375 hp (380 PS) and 480 lb-ft (651 Nm), the Magnum was second only to the powerhouse 426 HEMI in 1968 – but the elephant was a hard-to-tame ogre, so the 440 Raised-Block V8 was a much more reliable choice. To deal with the copious amount of horsepower and torque, all R/Ts got heavy-duty everything: brakes, rear leaf springs (with an extra leaf on the right side), brakes, torsion bars, sway bars, and shocks.
The revised Charger dropped the fastback looks of the first generation, and sales recoiled that stratospheric leap: nearly six times more Chargers were sold in 1968 (just over 96,000) than in the previous year (15,788). In ’68, the R/Ts alone – 17,582 strong – were outselling the model’s assembly numbers from just 12 months prior.