1969 Hemi Charger: "More Wheel Spin Than a Vegas Roulette Table"

The 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona equipped with a 426 Hemi was one of the most serious street cars of its time. In this vintage Car and Track road test host Bud Lindemann finds out how hot the Hemi really is.

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In 1969 only 67 Dodge Charger 500s were built with a 426 Hemi. One of the 67 ended up in the hands of Car and Track, the first syndicated television show involving car tests. The video you see here is the result. Although the Charger looks Panther Pink (which wasn't introduced until 1970) due to the age of the vintage footage, the car is actually red. Like the 1968 Shelby Mustang 500KR Car and Track road test we saw last week, watching this video is an rare opportunity to see a unique and valuable car get tested to the limit of its abilities.

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The Hemi Charger ran a 14.1 second ¼ mile during Car and Track's testing while averaging 7 MPG. Although that 1/4 mile time doesn't seem too impressive today(the 7 MPG never was), at the time it was enough to be worthy of the supercar status that host Bud Lindemann frequently references. This performance came at a sacrifice and a price which is perhaps why so few were made. As the host explains "During the time we had with the Charger 500 I couldn't help but ask myself ‘Where do you draw the line?'; where does the docility of a street machine end and the fury of a full blown race car begin? That line seems to be getting narrower each year. This Hemi Charger is right on the border".

Amidst the excellent narration from Lindemann and the dramatic period music it becomes pretty clear that although it is the Charger being tested, the 426 Hemi is the star of the show. In reference to the Hemi emblems stuck on the Charger doors Lindemann points out that "With this 4 letter exciter hung on each side you won't find too many takers at the traffic lights". Speaking excitedly of the 425 horsepower produced by the 426 cubic inch Hemi, Lindemann explains "That's about one horse per cube and if that doesn't excite you, you better check your pulse." Where are these kinds of quality American road tests today?

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DISCUSSION

van-sarockin--rogue-trebuchet-old
Van Sarockin, rogue trebuchet

That was way over the top. Just amazing what the car could do, given what it was based on. I think the diagonal brace in the trunk might have been the best piece of all. Being a two door sedan was a pretty good trick, too.

But brakes that lock up for a thirty mph stop, and that have to be 'rested' after a few 60-0 stops, not to mention the cornering wallow, are very disturbing, given that the engine can put you into way more than anything in the car could get you out of - including the engine that 'let's you put the rear anywhere you want'. Worst has to be the fake hood vents that are only there for turn signal repeaters.

But I have to give it up for the test driver - putting his foot into it on those overinflated bias ply tires. And one could be bothered to clear the dirt off the apexes. At least the driver gets some time to rest. Besides the cooked brakes and flat spotted tires, he needs to stop about every hour to refill the gas tank.