A piece of American automotive history, the original 1964 Dodge Charger Concept was sold on Aug.18 at the Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction. Albeit auctioneers estimated that the car would fetch in $1.5 to 2.0 million, the lusty ’64 Charger Concept changed hands for a significantly lower, $1.1 million.
Deemed as the first car to wear the iconic name, the Dodge Charger Concept was introduced in 1964 as a one-off show car based on a bone-stock Dodge Polara to introduce the company’s new 426 cubic-inch Hemi V8. Ironically, due to the fact that a very limited number of hand-built 426 Hemi V8 motors were being produced for select racing teams, when a racing team blew up their Hemi, the one slated for use in the show car was diverted. So the ’64 Dodge Concept ended up with the same 305 horse, 383 cubic inch V8 that came with the donor Polara! However, due to the positive response, Dodge came out next year with the ’65 Charger Concept II which was styled very close to how the production Charger would come out in 1966. -Continued: Click “Read More…” below
Back to the ’64 Charger Concept, as you can see in the R&M Auction’s release that follows, the concept changed various hands until 1999 concept and show car collector Joe Bortz acquired the Charger. Bortz not only reinstated the concept back to its original "intended" glory but he also managed to find and fit the car with one of the original 15 engines produced for the racing circuit, complete with a block casting dated October 1963.
Story & Pics Via: R&M Auctions
R&M Auction Release:
The ultimate of all muscle and concept cars, the Dodge Charger offered here is likely the most important Hemi powered car in existence. Fantastic in its presentation, unmatched in its provenance, this Concept Car represents an early look at the evolution and origination of the muscle car and, simply put, its historical importance is without comparison.
Est. 600bhp, 426 cu. in.
race-prepped V8 engine with hemispherical cylinder heads, three-speed automatic transmission, independent torsion bar front and rear
semi-elliptic leaf spring suspension with a 4.56:1
"Sure Grip" rear axle, four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 119"
In the late 1950s, America's major car companies got together and agreed that they would stop trying to sell their cars based on such things as horsepower, acceleration and performance, but would concentrate on comfort and safety. After the snickering quieted down it didn't take long for backroom committees to take things into their own hands and within two years, the more ponies you touted often meant the more cars you sold. In the summer of 1963, rumors started floating that one company was going to produce a super-car based on a big-block V8 stuffed into a medium size car.
When Pontiac's GTO hit the market not, everyone was blindsided, for over in the Chrysler camp they had been waiting for the right time to unleash their newest weapon for competition: the new Hemi V8. To introduce it, a request for a one-off show car was put into corporate headquarters; the approval came down and the Charger was given the green light.
Starting with a bone-stock Dodge Polara, stylists set about to create a package that would be awe-inspiring. Unlike many of the showboats from the 1950s that looked good but often didn't even run, there was every intention to make this machine one that would blow the doors off the competition - literally.
Upon arrival in the studio, many of the stock components were removed. Up front, the chrome bumper was replaced with a smooth blended roll pan fitted with a quartet of rubber faced "nerf" bars. They were positioned under the opening for the grille, which had been replaced with a hand-built blacked-out unit that deleted the inner set of high-beam headlights.
Hand fabricated surrounds were created for the remaining outer lights, while the front of the hood was rolled slightly and a functional scoop was added as a much needed air intake. Several production detail items such as the D-O-D-G-E letters across the hood and the ornamental fender badges were retained, but body side trim was modified, leaving only a hint and basic outline of the original brightwork.
The passenger compartment received its fair share of attention, as virtually everything was custom-crafted. Transformed into a two-passenger configuration by use of a panel that extended the rear deck to the back of the front seats, a special low-cut wraparound windscreen was just high enough to deflect the onrushing air from the driver and passenger's faces. Probably the Charger's most dramatic feature was the integral roll-bar/headrest equipped with individual pods for the two occupants. Special bucket seats were produced from Superform padding and covered with the highest quality leather. They are finished in a dark charcoal to complement the rich burgundy exterior.
Notably, this also marked the first time that the name “Charger” was employed. This prototype example was given the nomenclature for the first time in 1964 and it would be the only time the name was used until the production examples hit the showroom floors.
Separating the front-seat passengers into individual pods was a padded divider that housed many of the controls on the center console. A tri-spoke steering wheel with a rim made of walnut was used, along with handcrafted bright metal accelerator and brake pedals. While the basic original instrument cluster was retained, a unique Stewart-Warner tachometer rated at 8,000 rpm was installed in the center of the dashboard, canted so the driver could monitor the all-important performance of the engine.
To the rear of the Charger, the chrome bumper was removed, as up front, and fitted with a roll pan and rubber padded nerf bars. Stock taillights were retained, but were spaced wider apart and mounted to a custom panel that eliminated the housing for the license plate. Other custom touches including shaved handles and, installed just behind the doors, two mysterious ports were molded into the panel. These chromed outlets would be where the full roar of the engine would be heard when the cutouts were opened, diverting the exhaust from the stock dual mufflers. A final touch was the use of special Halibrand alloy wheels fitted with Goodyear Wingfoot narrow whitewall tires. When completed, the package was low, wide, lean and mean. At just under 48" high, it was a visual masterpiece.
Of course, Dodge’s intention was to make a show car that would not only wow the crowds on the show circuit, but light up a few eyes with its under hood performance, and that is where a problem arose. The new secret weapon in MoPar's performance arsenal was the rebirth of an old idea: a big 426 cubic inch V8 fitted with ultra-high compression hemispherical heads, better known as the all-new Hemi. A very limited number of hand-built motors were being produced for select racing teams, but at least one was earmarked for use in the Charger. However, Dodge "GO" overruled "SHOW", and when a racing team blew up their Hemi, the one slated for use in the show car was diverted.
As the time drew nearer for the curtain to go up on the Charger, there simply was no engine available to fulfill the "426" badges placed inside the air scoop and on the fenders. Despite press releases to the contrary, when it hit the stage the engine under the hood was the same 305 horse, 383 cubic inch V8 that came with the donor Polara. (One show folder actually stated it had the 426 "Wedge" V8 with 365 hp, but that engine also was never installed). Shifting was accomplished through a beefed-up automatic transmission with power delivered to a Sure-Grip rear axle.
Maybe the media was easier in those days, for as the car toured the country, the engine compartment was never opened. However, we think it would have been interesting to hear the excuses from the PR folks about how they hadn't been informed as to how to open the hood.
For nearly a year the Charger was toured to auto shows and appearances at select dealerships around the country. When it was retired, a quirk of fate helped it escape the crusher’s jaws, which claimed so many show and concept cars of the day. A prominent Dodge dealer in Pennsylvania acquired the Charger, later giving it to his son who performed a number of modifications to it and eventually put it away in storage for nearly 35 years.
In 1999, concept and show car collector Joe Bortz located the Charger, negotiated its purchase and brought it back home to Chicago. Starting on a project that would consume several years, he enlisted the services of Fran Roxas, world-famous restorer and artisan with sheet metal, to bring the car back to its original "intended" glory with a no-expense-spared rotisserie restoration. One of the hardest items to locate were period correct Halibrand alloy wheels, as the originals were now worn from age. Amazingly enough, Roxas had a customer willing to part with a set of NOS correct wheels, and the project was now rolling.
As stated earlier, when Bortz started on this project, his goal was to bring the Charger back as it was "intended" to have been built, and that meant putting a Chrysler-built Hemi under the hood. Not just any Hemi was going to do either; he wanted one of the early hand-built special Hemis that was supposed to have gone into the Charger. Turning to the man considered the ultimate expert in the art of Hemi V8s, John Arruzza, a mission was issued: find the right engine and related parts for this car, then rebuild it so that it will roar as originally planned back in 1964.
It took some time and a lot of money, but they hit the proverbial jackpot. Arruzza located one of the original 15 engines produced for the racing circuit, the lucky 13th one to be built, complete with a block casting dated October 1963. Arruzza was also able to score a pair of original 1964 NASCAR spec heads and even a vintage correct Holley four-barrel carburetor fitted to a magnesium intake manifold. Many of the other components used were also original or NOS, such as the new exhaust manifolds, spark plug tubes, valve covers plus many of the valve train components. A number of new aftermarket parts were installed inside the engine including Manley connecting rods, Ross custom pistons and a Callies forged crankshaft. One of the reasons for the scarcity of these early Hemi blocks was that they did have their problems in the casting department, and #13 was no exception. However, the ever thorough Arruzza carefully inspected and made the necessary repairs to insure that the integrity of this engine would fill Bortz's goal of being just as it had originally been intended to be - a "GO" car as well as a "SHOW" car.
When finished, the Hemi built up a 9.6:1 compression ratio and pumped out an estimated 600+ horsepower! Transported to Roxas's shop, the engine was finally married to the car it was intended for nearly 40 years earlier and Bortz had his wishes fulfilled. In the process, Roxas claimed it was one of his finest achievements, and for Arruzza, he knew that his skill and knowledge had helped preserve a piece of rolling history.
After many years of first searching for, then negotiating the purchase, followed by an exhaustive search for the right parts, drivetrain and a large financial investment, the very first Dodge Charger was finally complete. Since its restoration, the car has been used sparingly. With all the horsepower under the hood, the temptation to take it out to quarter-mile strip, or maybe some remote farm road has been tempered by warnings from both Roxas and Arruzza that doing so may put more stress on the chassis and the body than it was intended for even when new.
After a very tough decision on the part of the owner, for the first time ever the original 1964 Dodge Charger Concept Car is being offered at auction. This very historic and authenticated muscle-bound show-piece trumps many of the "show-but no go" cars of the 1950s, which had wonderful style but were often fitted with less than impressive powerplants. All too many original show cars were cut up after their time on the road was over, or cannibalized for other projects. Making this example that much more special is that it remained basically intact during its many years out of the limelight. This is not just a wild dream car, but also one that led the way to the muscle-car generation and set the standard for what would become the most sought after and most spectacular cars of that generation, - those that shared the name Dodge!