Hemi Charger 500 Held Chrysler’s Hope

Hemi Charger 500

Tired of eating Ford and Mercury’s dust, Chrysler was chomping at the bit to wrack up some wins in NASCAR Grand National Cup competition. Their best ride, the 1968 Dodge Charger R/T had some fatal flaws which kept them off the awards platform that year. Determined to turn things around, Chrysler came to play with a new Charger in 1969, the Dodge Hemi Charger 500.

Dodge engineers found that the rear window of the ’68 R/T caused lift and the wide mouthed front valance incurred drag. The correction for their NASCAR problems was the 1969 Dodge Charger 500. Engineers made the rear window pug flush with the rest of the roof giving it a slippery effect in wind tunnel tests. They put a Coronet grille in front with exposed headlights. It makes the Charger 500 look slightlly different from the R/T, and today don’t think that fact has eluded Mopar muscle car collectors. They treasure the Charger 500’s.

This week, an extremely rare and desirable 1969 Dodge Hemi Charger 500 has been listed for sale by RK Motors Charlotte. It may be found in the Mopar Muscle Car Section on the Cars-On-Line.com website. (Click here to read the ad copy and see dozens of detailed photos.) They describe it as “ultra rare and historically significant.” As all important muscle cars do, this one has an interesting story.

According to well-known MoPar expert Galen Govier, who fully documented and verified this particular Charger 500, there were precisely 559 Charger 500s built in 1969. Some historians estimate that about 390 of those were purchased to be used for street use. Only 116 were, like this car, fitted with a legendary Hemi V8. And of those 116, only 32 came with a 4-speed manual transmission. But we know the history on this one and it is very interesting.

The first owner of this Hemi Charger 500 was David Roark, a Navy pilot fresh off a couple tours flying combat missions over Vietnam, and, at the time, settling in the Jacksonville, Florida area. The 4-speed Hemi Charger served as David’s daily driver until 1985 when, after 35 years of service, he officially retired from the U.S. Navy. Still all-original, and in great shape, David decided to store it until he could execute a proper restoration. But it wasn’t for another fifteen years that he found the time to work on it. At that point he called on his friend, Ray Younkin, of Pure Muscle Restorations, to help him complete a custom build. Luckily, Ray talked him out of modifying the car. At that point, they found a buyer for the Hemi Charger 500 so David could buy a later model car to modify. The restoration was finished for the new owner in 2006 by Pure Muscle Restorations.

For a detailed look at the 1969 Dodge Hemi Charger 500, click the video window below and listen to the walk-around inspection, joining RK Motors Charlotte on the test drive.

Hemi Charger 500 in NASCAR

The stop-gap Hemi Charger 500 was a success by most measures in NASCAR competition in 1969. It won 18 NASCAR races in the early going. But Ford won the championship with David Pearson, Richard Petty, LeRoy Yarborough and Donnie Allison winning 26 races in Fords, the most prominent being the Ford Torino Talladega. David Pearson was the top driver, while Richard Petty switched to Ford so he could drive their more aerodynamic designed cars. It was later to be called the “Aero Wars” era.

At the end of the 1969 season, Dodge replaced the Hemi Charger 500 with the winged 1969 Dodge Daytona Charger. Bobby Isaac won the last two races with the Daytona Charger and it was evident that the Winged Daytona would be a dominant competitior in 1970 Grand National competition. Richard Petty returned to running Chrysler products in 1970 with Plymouth’s promising Superbird already on the drawing board. 

Documenting a Hemi Charger 500

RK Motors Charlotte tells us all six numbers which are needed to authenticate this 1969 Dodge Hemi Charger 500 as “all numbers matching” are present on the car. The dash VIN is verified as correct with correct rivets. The primary body codes on the top of the radiator support are correct. The secondary body codes in the trunk lip are correct. The fender tag is correct and located on the driver’s inner fender. And the VIN stampings on both the engine and transmission have been verified as original.

Original sheet metal is so important on a muscle car of this caliber. Click this link to look at the photos. RK Motors says all the sheet metal is original and straight.

They also indicate that the original Hemi bears its correct 2468330 casting number, an August 5th, 1968 casting date, an October 27th, 1968 assembly code and a matching 210737 partial VIN. Transfering the power to the rear end, an original A833 4-speed manual transmission shows an October 2nd, 1968 casting date, a November 3rd, 1968 assembly date and a matching 210737 partial VIN. The rear pumpkin spins a Dana 60 axle on Super Track Pack 4.10 gears.

When you drive one of these Hemi Charger 500’s you will be surprised at the handling. In the front you have wishbones with a big fat torsion bar. In the rear leaf springs with a live axle. It achieves a balance of strong Hemi suspension with a comfortable ride.


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