For 1966, the new Charger was Dodge’s entry into the "fastback" craze of the day. Sharing parts with the Coronet, which also ran on Chrysler’s B platform, it featured a unique body with full width, convex grille and hidden headlamps. The fastback roof blended into the rear quarter panels and trunk. In back, full width tail lamps with the Charger name spelled out in chrome letters. Inside, a full-width centre console and four bucket seats greeted passengers. Rear seats folded down and a pass-through to the trunk allowed for a spacious cargo area. Sales were sluggish and the car had some odd handling challenges as NASCAR racing entries switched to allow intermediate models to compete.
By 1968, the whole game changed as a new Charger hit the showrooms. Still based on the B-body platform shared with several mid-size models, the Charger’s unique styling included a tunnelled rear window between the rear fender sail panels that blended into the roof. Sales tripled and the muscular Charger became one of Dodge’s top sellers.
The Charger saw another total restyle in 1971 that separated it from the Coronet line. As a separate model, it was available as a new Charger Super Bee coupe riding on a 115-inch wheelbase with a roomier interior. As years passed, the big-block V-8s faded from the option list and the sales thrust for 1972 to ’74 turned to making the Charger a more opulent ride. First introduced on the Charger line in 1969, the special edition, or SE model, brought some high style, including opera windows and vinyl roof treatments.
For Richard Langille of Winnipeg, his 1974 Charger SE was his first car. At just 15 years old, Langille and his father went looking for a vehicle at the Manitoba Public Insurance Salvage Auction in 1985. Initially they were looking at bidding on a Ford Maverick until they noticed the Charger. With the car in lock-up, they had limited access to it, but it didn’t seem to have any real damage on it. Finished in black with an off-white interior and equipped with a 360 V-8 and Crager five-spoke mag wheels, it really stood out. With the Charger coming before the Maverick on the auction list, they felt they could bid on the Charger, except Langille only had $800 to spend.
"I had all of the money I saved from my paper route and the funds from the sale of my dirt bike, but that was it," Langille says. Bidding started slow but picked up to the point where he thought it might be out of his price range. When the hammer fell, Langille was the winning bidder and his payout was $799 after sales tax. Towing the Charger home was bittersweet. "I had to let it sit for two months until I got my driver’s licence," Langille says.
The Charger SE was well equipped with a 360 V-8 engine, automatic transmission, power steering, power disc brakes, bucket seats, centre console, dual chrome racing mirrors, tinted glass and vinyl roof. Over the years, Langille modified the car, selling the 360V-8 to a friend and running a big-block 440 V-8, that he drag-raced at the track in Gimli.
Today, Langille’s Charger is now powered by another 440 V-8. This one displaces 502 cubic inches, thanks to the installation of a 440 Source stroker kit. Topped off with Edelbrock aluminum cylinder heads and a very rare aluminum cross-ram intake manifold sporting twin 500 c.f.m. Edelbrock four-balled carburetors, it’s an impressive package. The ignition system utilizes an MSD distributor and ignition box and Powermaster alternator, while an aluminum water pump, March pulley kit and three-core radiator with two Derale electric fans cool the big-block V-8. Exhaust duties are handled by big tube headers leading to a Minute Muffler-installed 2.5-inch diameter custom dual exhaust system with Flow Pro mufflers. Built by Ken Murray at Ken’s Kustom Auto Machine, it produces more than 620 horsepower.
Backing that power up is a 3,300 r.p.m. hi-stall torque converter mated to a 727 Torqueflite three-speed automatic transmission with Cheetah manual valve body, leading to an 8¾-inch posi-traction rear axle with 4.10:1 gear ratio. Rolling stock is a combination of 14-inch Centerline aluminum wheels up front turning radial tires, with 15-inch Mickey Thompson ET Street radials in back.
Body modifications include frame connectors, fibreglass front fenders and lift-off cowl hood. Paint is a custom bright red with a fade to cherry black. While it’s still very much an ongoing project, Langille plans to replace the fibreglass front clip with factory steel fenders and hood, albeit with a hood scoop that will clear the dual cross-ram induction system.
"I’ve always loved cars, and this is one I’ll never let get away" Langille says. Today, the 1971 to 1974 Charger coupe is on the upswing in the collector car market. Its ability to accommodate the big-block V-8s and relative affordability in comparison to the earlier models has it as one to watch.
Richard Langille with his 1974 Charger SE, which he bought in 1985 at an auction in Gimli for $799.Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press
Langille first bought the car in 1985.Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press
Langille’s Charger SE is now fitted with a 440 V-8.