When people start talking about classic muscle cars, it doesn’t take long for the Dodge Charger to enter the conversation.
Originally designed as a mid-sized alternative to the Ford Mustang, the Charger became a force to be reckoned with. The second-generation B-body, which dropped posh looks in favor of curved fenders and panels, and paired with the legendary 426 Hemi engine, placed it firmly among the most popular muscle cars ever built. It was the most-searched for car last year on ClassicCars.com.
Despite the Charger’s growing popularity – thanks, in part, to the Dukes of Hazzard TV show that featured an orange 1969 example named the General Lee – Dodge wasn’t satisfied because the car was not succeeding in NASCAR racing.
The Detroit manufacturer developed a few variants in an attempt to take the checkered flag. We got behind the wheel of one of those, the Dodge Charger 500, in this episode of Driven. The 500 was Dodge’s final variant preceding the Daytona, which became a NASCAR legend.
One of the rarest variants of Chargers, the 500 was designed to have better aerodynamic performance than other models. The indented grille was made flush with the leading edge of the hood and an air-flow issue over the trunk was filled in, which made it perform much better in wind-tunnel tests.
At the time, a manufacturer was required to sell at least 500 showroom examples of a performance car to be homologated for NASCAR competition, hence the Charger 500. But there’s a funny story here: Fewer than 500 were actually built, either because NASCAR lost count or Dodge lost interest, as the Charger 500 wasn’t a race winner and some experts believe the cars were sold at a loss.
As we learned from our friends at Classic Car Pal, this specific car was delivered to Norton Bros. Dodge in Petaluma, California. The then-owner removed the original 426 Hemi in favor of a 440 and used it for drag racing.
After the then-owner was injured driving a different car, the Charger 500 was put in storage and left there for three decades. It was restored about 20 years ago and the original engine was dropped back in.
The car has barely been driven. The chassis has logged fewer than 1,500 miles and the engine even less, which means this could be one of the lowest-mileage examples of the Charger 500 in existence.