DECEMBER 2023: ’66 HEMI CHARGER—SOMEBODY HAD TO PUT THE PIECES TOGETHER AGAIN

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The worst-case scenario for a car project isn’t rust or a stuck engine.

The worst-case scenario is when somebody deconstructs a car and leaves it in pieces with no plan.

Jerry Sutherland

That’s what happened to this 1966 hemi Charger. Gordon Nelson and his wife Kelly are the happy owners of a complete ’66 Charger, but it was a long and winding road to get it back to that state.

Gordon explained how the car, “was in pieces and it hadn’t seen the light of day since the 1980s”. That’s a recipe for disaster but this rare Charger was worth saving. Gordon took a truck and trailer to pick up the car and said he, “filled every nook and cranny in the truck, bed and trailer with parts—it took six hours and four guys hours to load”.        

Most people would be intimidated by a complex project like this Charger, but Gordon and Kelly were determined to save this classic Mopar. This was a factory 4-speed, radio delete car with power windows—that’s the kind of information that sends Mopar car nerds to the moon. 

Gordon got into this car, and he knew he wanted it done right so every part on the Charger is new or redone. The 426 hemi for example, was bored 40 over, so Gordon had custom-built pistons installed plus he added a roller cam to offset the hemi’s notoriously bad habits at idle. It worked because this hemi has a decent idle at 700 rpm thanks to the roller cam and the well dialed-in dual carbs on the elephant motor.

There’s a 3:54 Dana 60 at the back end so this car is a good setup for low-speed urban and highway driving. Gordon wanted to bridge the gap between how this car did run back in 1966 and how it could run in the 21st century without going to extreme high-tech solutions.

Gordon is a huge fan of these first-Gen Chargers. He knows the 2nd gen Chargers—especially the ’68 version became a muscle car legend overnight, but this Charger with its 426 4-speed “ticked all the boxes” for him. 

This Charger is not a trailer queen—it’s a nice day car. Gordon likes to get it out on the road and occasionally he opens up the two four-barrel carbs for a real jolt of power. He said it “drives really nice” even on bias tires because the front end is set up perfectly. Gordon said it’s a “one finger on the bottom on the steering wheel” experience because the car is that stable.

He estimates the car is turning “2500-ish” at 70 miles per hour, so it’s not working extremely hard at highway speed. Gordon admits he can smoke the tires with ease because the big elephant under the hood packs a big punch.

Gordon is a detail guy—that explains the period-correct blue streak tires and the full wheels covers, but there’s one detail that evades him. He knows the car was sold new in Sparwood, BC, Canada but the trail gets cold after that, so he has one request. MyStar readers please note—Gordon wants to find out more about the original owner.

I‘d love to find the guy who bought it and get the whole story. 

Gordon Nelson

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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