By John S. Fackre
I purchased my 1966 Charger on Nov. 13, 1970, only 3 months after beginning my first full time job as an industrial designer, after graduating with a Bachelors of Industrial design degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, in May of the same year. When I was about 1⁄2 way through school, I had a strong desire to become a car designer. Well, my wishes almost became true, as I excelled in art and science in high school, and was accepted into the into the industrial design program at Pratt. In my senior year at Pratt, I was one of 9 students in a car styling class, led by the late Professor Jerry Okuda. Most of us in that class were confident that we would be hired as auto stylists soon after graduating. But the reality was that none of the “Big Three” car companies hired any stylists that year from any of the art and design colleges! This was due to the focus on stricter engine emissions and the 5 M.P.H. bumpers.
I tried for several years to get hired by the auto industry to no avail. In 1974, during the 1st gas crisis, about 100 stylists were laid off from Chrysler alone! I’ve had a very rich and rewarding career as a designer, working in a great variety of design disciplines, the closest to car design being a corporate identity designer and photographer with Michelin Tire Corp. in Lake Success, NY, where I also did some auto and tire illustration (1974-1985).
Because of this position, and design work in the aerospace industry, I am a well established auto historian and have a press pass to all Javits center auto shows for over 25 years. My specialty is photographing concept cars continuously since 1968, beginning with the old NY coliseum at Columbus Circle, in New York City.
I chose to purchase my 1966 Charger, as I wanted a practical car with exotic styling. The Charger “filled the bill”, as it has a “2+2” bucket seat interior, but also station wagon capabilities, due to the foldable rear seats & panel beneath the rear window, giving proper access to the trunk.
My car is equipped from the factory with the 2nd rarest available engine that year, the 361 cu. in. “big block” developing 265 H.P. I believe this was the only year that the 361 was produced with both the single exhaust and 2 barrel carburetor. To the best of my knowledge, the 361 was first available in the 1958 Chryslers and DeSotos, and later, in the early to mid 60’s, the Dodge Polaris, all with dual exhausts. Other options on my car are the 3 speed “727” Torqueflite automatic with console mounted shifter, power steering, AM transistor radio, remote control left side mirror, in- side glare proof mirror, parking brake warning light, retractable front seat belts, trunk compartment light,, front and rear bumper guards and whitewall tires.
From 1970 to 1972, my charger shared duties as daily transportation with our other family car, a 1962 Ford Galaxy 2 door sedan. In my desire to get the Charger “up to par” as a show car, parts of the sides below the chrome were touched up and sprayed in 1972 as the car had some minor chips and scrapes when I bought it, the remainder still factory original paint. Also, I was a little dissatisfied with the “tinny” sound of the unibody, so I carefully masked the underbody and undercoated it myself, with a borrowed lift from a local Texaco station owner.
A couple of things amazed me with the factory body rust proofing quality. When I went to prep it, there was absolutely no rust nor stone chips after 30,000 plus miles, as the dark green zinc chromate primer held up remarkably well!
Also, when I was first looking for an exotic looking car, I was considering a 1963-1964 Avanti, but they were about $2,000 to $3,000 out of my budget then! In 1970, while specifically seeking 1966-1967 Chargers, I was surprised how hard it was to find any clean original ones, even though they were only 3-4 years old. I’m glad I found this one at the Dodge dealer in Garfield, NJ. It has approximately 27,000 miles then, and was still under the 5 yr, 50,000 mile warranty. I took advantage of the warranty, as it partially paid for the repair to the left rear axle due to a factory defect that scored the differential housing. I am the 2nd owner, and as of this writing, the car has 100,670 miles.
The 361 cu. in. engine in my car was the biggest one Chrysler made that year that could run on regular gasoline, which was 93 octane then, the same as premium gas today, very good for me as I only add a little Marvel Mystery Oil to keep it running smoothly! Other engines available that year were the 318, 383 and 426 Hemi.
It seems other folks weren’t interested in the 1st generation 66-67 Chargers, as the “Blue Book” on an average one bottomed out at only about $750. In the early 1970’s, but started creeping up by the mid-1970’s.
As far as the styling history of the original Charger’s, I’m sure you are aware the 1st Charger was a factory modified 1964 50th Anniversary Polara Convertible with cut down windshield, “nerf” bars for bumpers, a custom interior with prominent bar mounted headrests, and a 426 Hemi in an otherwise pretty much stock body.
However, the production 1966-1967 Chargers were based on the Charger II Show car from 1965. Chrysler Historical was most courteous in supplying me with factory black and white photos of the Charger II many years ago. If you can obtain photos of the Charger II and compare it with the production 1966-67’s, you will be amazed to see how very similar the center part of all cars are, especially the roofline and rear window, which appear to be exact.
In fact, when I did further research, I noted that both the show and production cars are the exact same height, 53 inches! Also, the factory equipped instrument cluster and backs of the front bucket seats are exactly like!
The Charger II had a different front and rear ends from the ’66’s and ’67’s, as the show car front was pointed and had exposed headlamps, while production models had a different grille with a similar texture to the Dodge Monaco and Polara, but with hide-away headlights in rotating pods which match the grille. Both the show car and ’66-’67’s had wall to wall taillights, with “C-H-A-R-G E-R” spelled out, but the show car had extended fenders, and no rear bumper. The Charger II has the 318 cu.in. V8 and was painted in silver metallic with a mostly silver interior.
The ’66-’67 Chargers were ingeniously styled, as they were based on the Coronet 2 door hardtop. Same understructure and wheelbase as well as front windshield, exterior door skins and front fenders. The interior was mostly unique to the Charger, except it shared basic dashboard (except instrument cluster) and same front bucket seats as the Coronet 500. Rear quarter panels were similar, except Charger wheels were fully exposed, whereas the Coronets were partially covered.