The first Dodge to wear the famous Charger nameplate was this one-of-one show car constructed in 1964. It bears little resemblance to the first production Charger introduced in 1966, or to any of the famous Chargers that followed, for that matter. But the car does have an interesting history in its own right.
Built to showcase the new 426 HEMI® race engine at hot rod shows around the country, the Charger was based on a production ’63 Polara chassis and body. The body was cut in half, radically shortened, and then spliced back together behind the doors to create a close-coupled two-seater. A low roll bar with streamlined headrests and a wraparound plastic windscreen added to the sports roadster theme.
Oddly, while the car was built to promote the 426 HEMI engine, it didn’t have a HEMI in its engine compartment for most of its life. As the project neared completion, a severe shortage of completed race engines arose, and the Charger’s scheduled powerplant was rerouted to the competition department, where it could be put to more serious use. A standard 383 ci Dodge V8 was installed in the Charger instead, and since the hood was seldom opened for display, few spectators were ever the wiser.
Decades later a Chicago collector tracked down an original 426 HEMI V8, number 13 of the first 15 race engines constructed, and united it with the unique show car. In perfectly restored condition and with a correct engine for the first time, the Charger sold at a classic car auction a few years ago for more than seven figures.
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