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A 17k-Mile '69 Charger R/T Survivor Was Too Good To Be True; Reality Mauled Expectations

It might sound almost unimaginable to some, but (some) American cars do have fans over in Europe; I’m not talking ‘that cool poster of a ’69 Charger would look great on my wall.’ Nor am I referring to muscle truck enthusiasts (like Richard Hammond) but real-deal gearheads who want to buy an iconic classic muscle car made in Detroit. Like this 1969 Dodge Charger R/T that was a whisper away from crossing the Atlantic to Germany but didn’t because of its low-mileage originality discovered by accident.
1969 Dodge Charger R/T Survivor with under 17,000 miles 48 photos
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
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The car now belongs to a Mopar fanatic of epic proportions – his collection is a literal museum with stories so cool they’d drain all the juice from an EV’s battery pack in seconds. However, this F8 Dark Green Metallic Charger almost slipped through his hands after spending close to two decades in his garage. The story is almost too good to be true - just like the car.

Chris Lehuede has a soft spot for everything Mopar; well, ‘spot’ might cover it if we think in terms of ‘solar black spots’ dimensions. That’s how big his love for Chrysler Corporation products is, and it probably runs in the family. His niece asked him back in 1999 to buy an investment car for her. Naturally, he found a Dodge. Charger. R/T. 440.

Since he was the undisputed authority on all things crankshaft, he took care of the acquisition. Upon buying the car and driving it back home, he noticed something odd about the Charger: it drove like a new car. For something supposedly driven to the point of odometer rollover, it seemed too out-of-place-right at the time.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T Survivor with under 17,000 miles
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
Regardless, he put the iconic muscle car in his garage, where it sat until the rightful owner – Chris’ niece – decided it was time to capitalize on her investment and put it up for sale. A Swedish dealer inquired about it, and the negotiations opened. The client was a German man who – like all Germans with a wrench-minded attitude – needed precise details about the Dodge.

The Germanic inclination for accuracy was so strong in the prospective buyer that he wanted to know whether or not the door panels had been removed because the ‘rivets didn’t look right.’ Upon doing a magnifying-glass-type inspection, Chris learned the car was factory-line original. The actual mileage was what the odometer read  - 16,000 miles (25,700 metric clicks) and not 116,000 miles (like Chris initially believed when he bought the car).

More research only revealed the never-been-messed-with originality of this iconic survivor, and Mr. Lehuede made a red-white-and-blue patriotic decision to keep the car States side. In fact, he bought the Dodge himself because ‘it is a museum piece; it has to stay in the States.’ Sometimes, luck favors not only the bold but also the deserving.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T Survivor with under 17,000 miles
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
The ’69 Charger was riding a very high horse, coming in the wake of the redesigned second-generation model from 1968 that made the car an instant classic. 1969 was a busy year for Dodge, with the Daytona and the 500 sub-versions of the Charger taking the spotlight as America’s main muscle car superstars.

After the 1968 ‘Bullitt’ turned a silver screen antagonist into a real-life bestseller following the greatest car chase scene in the history of Hollywood, the Road/Track emblem suddenly became a medal of high-performance distinction. Almost 105,000 chargers rolled off the assembly lines for 1969, and 19,298 wore the R/T badge.

The scheme was simple: a 440-4 Magnum was standard, and the 426 HEMI was the alternative. End of story – the R/T Charger was all business (tire-vaporizing business, that is). Out of the bulk production of over 19k units, the U.S. got the lion’s share, with over 18,776 sold on the car’s domestic market. With 432 HEMI exceptions, they came with the biggest standard engine in any ‘super car’ of the day (two words, as per the Charger sales brochure in the gallery) – the 7.2-liter Magnum with a single four-barrel carburetor.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T Survivor with under 17,000 miles
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
Chris Lehuede’s 1969 Charger is one of the ‘mean machine’ production run from 54 years ago, and it drives just like one from then would during its first year of life. The 440-4 was rated at 375 hp and 480 lb-ft (380 PS, 651 Nm), and it blasted the quarter-mile in 13.83 seconds, at 102.2 mph (164.44 kph) in a period test performed by Super Stock & Drag Illustrated.

This All-American legend doesn’t have many options – the clock and radio are the most notable – and it puts the power down via the three speeds in its standard-equipment bullet-proof TorqueFlite automatic. With 16,664 miles (26,812 kph) on the clock (as of last September), this Charger is so unmolested that even the elastic bands holding the lap seat belts on the headliner above the doors are still in place (see them in the gallery).

The owner has nothing but praise about his car, although there is one cloud on his Mopar sky that casts a shade over this unbelievable Charger: unknowingly, during the two decades of accommodation in his garage, the Charger got a new coat of paint. At that time, Chris hadn’t yet undergone the scrupulous investigation that eventually led him to get a firm hold of the Dodge, so he whole-heartedly believed it was doing the Charger a big favor. It turns out he didn’t, but this sure as internal combustion doesn’t stop him from enjoying the Mopar to the fullest.

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About the author: Razvan Calin
Razvan Calin profile photo

After nearly two decades in news television, Răzvan turned to a different medium. He’s been a field journalist, a TV producer, and a seafarer but found that he feels right at home among petrolheads.
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