This is a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T. In the early 1960s, Chrysler had a problem. And no, it wasn’t LSD or disapproving parents who didn’t understand your love or being kept down by “The Man” or any of the other everyday problems people faced in the early 60s. No, Chrysler had a problem, and it was a problem that could be boiled down to three otherwise innocuous letters: GTO.
Here’s what went down. In 1964, Pontiac released what many consider to be the father of the American muscle car in the form of the GTO. At the same time, Ford introduced the Mustang, leaving Chrysler, and its Dodge subsidiary brand, a little out in the cold. Which is why, in 1966, they introduced the Charger which, amid much fanfare and excitement, people treated like saltine crackers. That is to say, disinterestedly. I’m struggling to think of a better word for customer’s reactions than “meh.” See, 1966 was when the whole fastback trend (where the roof of the car slopes into the rear end) was at its height, and by the time the Charger was introduced, most critics were over the whole idea. The Mustang pulled it off, sure, and so did the Chevy Impala, but the Charger’s fastback just looked pasted on. People, for the most part, just crumbled it up and put it in their soup.
That tenuous saltine metaphor leads us to 1968, which is where this car comes in. Back and better that ever, the new Charger boasted fresh bodywork, doing away with the fussy fastback in favor of a more traditional trunk. Power, as was expected of American cars in the late 1960s, was immense. This is the R/T (Road and Track) model, which meant the car featured 383 cubic inch V8 developing 340 horsepower. That’s a fair deal, and makes it the second most powerful car ever on Forgotten Metal, in fact. What’s more, this isn’t even the most bonkers Charger you could have: that honor goes to the 426 Street Hemi, which experts conservatively estimate develops 425 horsepower.
This is the iconic Charger, the one everyone remembers. And with good reason too: this car was General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard and Vin Diesel’s mode of transport in the Fast and the Furious franchise. It also had a memorable role in a Spice Girls video, but we won’t get into that. No, the 1968 Charger’s real claim to fame is in a little movie from the same year called Bullitt. It’s a long and slightly confusing movie, but is a piece of pop culture every gearhead and cinephile should know about. Bullitt was one in a long line of iconic Steve McQueen films, and the reason this one gets so much attention is simple. It has a downright wonderful car chase.
Chase scenes are a big draw to the movies for me, and Bullitt is probably the best. Yes, the same VW Beetle shows up in something like fifty percent of the shots, and hubcaps fly off the two cars with reckless abandon. And yet it’s such a simple sequence: there’s no CGI, there’s not a ton of dramatic music. It is kind of like the Charger itself in many ways. Simple, unfiltered and undeniably cool to look at. It plays the part of the villain too, which is oh-so-fitting. This car may not handle well, the brakes are pretty much nonexistent, and fuel consumption comes in at around 7 miles to the gallon. But none of those things are what the Charger was meant to do. It was meant to look like it was up to no good. And that, to me at least, makes it worth its salt(ine).
- If you’re interested and have a minute, you can watch the full chase sequence from Bullitt here and here. Seriously, count how many times the hubcaps fly off the Charger. It’s absurd.
- The Street Hemi option on the Charger cost $604 in 1968, which was something like twenty percent extra. No wonder only 475 people bought one
- This Charger uses Chrysler’s 3-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission
- That last shot has some pretty interesting cars in addition to the Charger- there’s a 1966 Mustang Convertible to the far left, a modified Datsun 240Z facing the far wall, and what looks to be a Porsche 912 on the lift in the back
- This is the first post using a Classic Car Club car! Get ready, more are coming soon!