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Casual Mopar Man: Five Charger R/Ts, an R. Petty-Signed Superbird, and a New '97 Viper GTS

Being a gearhead is not easy – ask any woman married to one. But owning a car that is more than a means of personal transportation and taking said car indoors to keep it nice and cozy are about as far apart as EVs are from the muscle car club. Don’t take my very subjective word for it; look at this Mopar collection instead, and then draw your own conclusions.
Mopar Heaven - Five Charger R/Ts, Two Superbirds, Two Challengers, and a new 26-year-old Viper GTS 68 photos
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
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Five Charger R/Ts, Two Superbirds, Two Challengers, and a new 26-year-old Viper GTS
Let’s make one thing clear: Chris Lehuede, the man presenting his unbelievable collection, has a piston-centric story like no other. He bought his first car in the late seventies, at the age of fourteen. Care to guess the make and model? Here’s a hint – it’s a Dodge. The verb tense is correct – ‘is,’ not ‘was.’ He had the car since he got possession of it – with a two-year hiatus – and it’s the crown jewel of his sparkling collection of Mopars.

You can read his first car story in a separate article, but the rest of his Chrysler-built muscle cars are just as fantastic as that ’68 Charger R/T he bought for $450 at the end of the eighth decade. And I’ve just let slip the first clue about the congregation of Dodges and Plymouths in his house.

Play the video and tour the museum-like pieces – and I’m not talking about the models so minutely displayed in the garage antechamber. However, that is a neat piece of classic car memorabilia. But it’s behind what’s door number ‘Mopar’ that we’re after – and right off the bat, a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner says ‘Hi!’

Mopar Heaven \- Five Charger R/Ts, Two Superbirds, Two Challengers, and a new 26\-year\-old Viper GTS
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
Why does this car deserve a title of distinction from the 43,404 Road Runners assembled for that model year? Because it has no roof – no permanent one, that is. It’s one of 824 convertibles – and that alone makes it worthy of climate-controlled storage. While it’s not one of the rare 440 Six-Barrels soft-tops (only 34 of those were put together), and it’s not a unicorn one-in-three HEMI-powered ‘birds,’ it’s still a very cool car.

The Demon 340 sitting next to it is a restomod – the first of the two non-stock cars in the collection – but it’s one done right, with a Halloween interior and a four-speed behind the six-pack-armed high-revving puncher. And, speaking of triple two-barrels, the third car in line is another ‘ice cream on a hot day’ of a Mopar – a first-year E-body ‘Cuda with the Super Commando six-barrel.

Re-launched for 1970 on a newly-developed E-body platform, the ‘Cuda 440-6 came hand in hand with a Dodge icon – the Challenger. Both muscle car legends, the twins are just two symptoms of the ‘Mopar madness’ that Mr. Lehuede openly admits having.

Mopar Heaven \- Five Charger R/Ts, Two Superbirds, Two Challengers, and a new 26\-year\-old Viper GTS
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
His craze sprouted in 1974 when he saw a movie that’s often left outside the list of ‘Most famous big screen car chase scenes:’Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry' is the Hollywood-transmitted Mopar virus that Chris Lehuede doesn’t want to find a cure for. See the film's trailer in the second video at the bottom of this story.

The movie reference is not arbitrary – five years after seeing the film, Chris bought his first car (the one sitting next to the restored ‘Cuda), the ’68 Dodge Charger that also starred in a Hollywood title. I won’t even say what it is; if anyone on Mopar’s old Planet Speed needs to be told ‘Bullitt,’ then they should drive only EVs from now on.

Coincidence or not – I think not, personally – lined up alongside the Hemi Orange Charger R/T (not a 426 HEMI, but let’s not be picky) sits another Charger. Four decades younger than Chris’ first car, the Detonator Yellow SRT8 SuperBee is one of the 1,000 built for the model’s inaugural year. Since this collection consists of non-mainstream pieces, let’s note that this third-millennium Dodge is one of the four built for California in 2007.

Mopar Heaven \- Five Charger R/Ts, Two Superbirds, Two Challengers, and a new 26\-year\-old Viper GTS
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
Remember there was that ‘His and Hers’ shift lever quadrant in some classics? Chris Lehuede took it one step further – he has a His Dodge and Her Dodge. A pair of 2017 Challenger R/Ts, with one only claiming 600 miles (960 metric kilometers) on the road. In the owner’s words, the Octane Red ‘is still at its first tank of gas.’ He ventures so far as to say this Dodge is the lowest-mileage example of that model year production.

Everything up to this point has been a warm-up for the great stuff in Mr. Lehuede’s collection: a survivor ’69 Charger R/T with 12,000 miles (20,000 km) and a marriage-mending story in its past. This particular Dodge will be the subject of a separate video from Lou Costabile, the YouTuber who video-documented this collection.

Because there’s no such thing as “too many Charger R/Ts,” a third one – also from 1969 – has found a safe haven under the roof of Mr. Lehuede’s collection. Again, it’s a survivor, it’s low-mileage (just 16,653, or 26,794 km), and it’s coming up in a separate video. Stay tuned.

Mopar Heaven \- Five Charger R/Ts, Two Superbirds, Two Challengers, and a new 26\-year\-old Viper GTS
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
And we get to the hot part: a 1970 Plymouth Superbird is already a rarity, but this particular example is the curtain-dropping Road Runner – the last one of the one-year production run of 1,920 (allegedly, this was the planned batch to meet homologation requirements, but sources vary). It is the final Superbird and proudly wears Richard Petty’s autograph on the wing. Yes, this, too, will have its own YouTube episode – and some say Christmas only comes once a year.

This collection's best things come in twos, so one more Superbird can’t harm anyone, right? (By the way, have you kept track of the Mopars so far? We’re at eleven, with more to see). Unfortunately, this yellow NASCAR-validating Plymouth Road Runner Superbird won’t get its own video.

Moving along (with a sigh), we meet a new 1997 Dodge Viper GTS, something not too many 26-year-old cars can claim. However, because this V10 sportscar was a showroom car, it got driven to a few Christmas parades, and that’s all there is to its service record.

Mopar Heaven \- Five Charger R/Ts, Two Superbirds, Two Challengers, and a new 26\-year\-old Viper GTS
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
Almost three decades old and brand-spanking-new – what a piece of Mopar to brag to your friends with! Not that the 1972 Plymouth Satellite Sebring, with an updated interior, several high-tech amenities, and upgraded mechanicals for comfortable cruising, is any less spectacular.

Have I mentioned there’s never enough R/Ts in one garage? The 1971 Charger proves that theory, and it’s another survivor. Twice as surviving as the rest of its nameplate siblings from the Lehuede collection – this magnificent 440 was rescued from a fire unharmed. Not only did it brave the odds against time, it also dodged a blazing end. Stand by; it's getting its own screen time soon.

Last, but not least, it’s a drum-roll-waiting smoking-hot 1970 muscle icon with a feelings mixer under the hood. First, it’s another Charger R/T – the fifth in this fifteen-Mopar collection. Statistically, one in three of Chris Lehuede’s cars is a classic Charger R/T from the great era. However, this also must have something about it that would set it head and shoulders above a crowd of ‘normal’ Scat-Pack-running Chargers.

Mopar Heaven \- Five Charger R/Ts, Two Superbirds, Two Challengers, and a new 26\-year\-old Viper GTS
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
First of all, please accept my sincere refusal to apologize for the ‘normal’ adjective, but if it isn’t in this collection, it’s not medal-worthy, even if it’s a Charger with the Road/Track seal of performance slapped on its rump. Secondly, this particular example is a Q-code – which, in liberal translation, indicates a boss car (built for a Chrysler top-tier white collars) or a movie star – meaning it was ordered for a Hollywood production. Currently stripped of it's numbers matching engine, this Dodge will get reworked to its original state - we'll probably see it in a video some time in the future, once it's done.

Speaking of the California film-making factory, this collection probably wouldn’t have existed without that 1974 motion (should we call it ‘high-speed?’) picture featuring a 1969 Charger R/T – I promise it’s the last time I’ll mention the name (in this story, anyway).

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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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