The year 1968 found Dodge with a new Charger, a new attitude, and a new slogan. This was the Scat Pack, consisting of the biggest, baddest Dodge selection to ever roll off the assembly line to that date (Charger R/T, Coronet R/T, Dart GTS, and Super Bee).
A radical set of advertisements, a pair of stripes encircling the rear end (one journalist surmised that they ran too quick for the painter to get them on any sooner), and the hot 340, 383, and 440 Magnum engines made Mopar history that year. Add a Hemi to the new Coke-bottle-styled Charger and you had the sportiest model in Dodge City.
Times change, of course. Throughout the next few years, Chargers became even more radical, culminating in the '71 packages that featured all sorts of gizmos, trim, and options. For many Charger aficionados, however, the '68 model represented the cleanest models of the car's long run. For Matt Delaney, the '68 Hemi Charger he wanted to restore was going to need a donor car, and that's how this particular example, a clean, non-R/T that had left the factory with a 383 4V engine, ended up in his possession.
Matt, who lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, is no stranger to building heavy-duty street cars. At the time this transpired, he was rolling around in a 528-inch, fuel-injected '70 Hemi 'Cuda, but a trip to Las Vegas and a Viper rental car (you can rent anything in Vegas) changed his whole attitude.
"I was out there and rented a Viper just for fun," recalls 42-year-old Matt. "I couldn't believe how nice it ran, and it had loads of power. Right then, I thought, man, this thing would be great in a musclecar."
Soon after, the Hemi 'Cuda ended up on eBay and the solid Charger donor was suddenly going to get a new lease on life-one that could even put the original Scat Packs to shame. The classic would get a Viper V10 and transmission and would be built as the ultimate highway driver.
The idea was simple, but what ideas aren't? Execution would require some serious changes to the '68 dimensions. First and foremost, the engine with its two extra cylinders would need to fit under the hood. To that end, the entire firewall and trans tunnel was carefully cut below the rear cowl and tucked back 211/42 inches, taking 211/42 inches from the area at the back of the cut panel near the crossmember before welding it back together to make sure everything fit properly. The wiper motor was reversed and tucked inside, and a thinner-than-stock Griffin radiator was moved to the outside of the front cowl bracket; narrow electric fans would handle the cooling.
Of course, there was the problem with the K-frame as well, which had also been made to support a completely different engine. Though Magnum Force, who makes a tubular K-frame, was called on for the upper and lower control arms, the tube replacement under this car was custom-built by Brad Emmons and Gary Medders of B&M Performance in Bossier City, Louisiana, to clear the Viper oil pan.
The aluminum-block Viper engine, which was unmodified except for the K&N Filter Chargers, came from Mopar Performance via Viper Connection in Atlanta, who also supplied the accompanying six-speed transmission. To feed fuel to the beast, a 11/42-inch pickup was mounted in the gas tank and a fuel-pressure regulator mounted up front makes sure it doesn't starve for go-juice. A custom 211/42-inch exhaust system, built with stainless steel components and completely ceramic-coated by Aero Coatings in Oklahoma City, sends the exhaust rumble through Hooker Aerochamber mufflers before it exits in the stock location under the bumper.
Meanwhile, suspension technology has taken a big leap forward since 1968 as well, and Matt wanted the car to handle like...well, like a Viper. The steering system is now a power rack-and-pinion from BRT with 7 inches of travel and is mounted in front of the engine rail to clear the low-slung oil pan. Coilover shocks with 400-plus pounds of spring rate are now in all four corners, meaning the leaf springs are history. The original, now narrowed 8 3/4-inch rear with one of Mopar Performance's new aluminum centersections stuffed with 3.91 gears and a pair of Moser axles round out the driveline.
Wheels proved to be another problem altogether, as most are available only with the stock Viper bolt pattern, but manufacturer Kinesis came through. Matt wanted to retain the factory 4 1/2-inch bolt circle, so Allen at Kinesis created a custom set of aftermarket Viper rims in that format: 18x8 for the front and 18x12 for the rear, shod with Michelin Pilot Sports tires (245-45 front and 345-35 in back). Making sure the car stops as well it goes, Wilwood discs are on all four corners, assisted by a Mopar Performance master cylinder and residual valving.
Now came the interior. At the SEMA show in 2000, Matt came across Scat (ironic, eh), a company that had just what he was looking for in seats; the factory rear seat was reupholstered to match these leather-covered beauties. Automotive Custom Specialties in Shreveport took over the design from there. A custom console was built, patterned after the Viper console, and a Gunslinger Pistol Grip shifter handle on a B&M Ripper arm now juts up between the two front seats. Just Dashes had the restored dash needed (now full of aftermarket Autometer gauging and faced in graphite by Precision Auto Trim), while a set of '70-era Charger door panels were selected due to their clean-design appearance. Creature comforts include a Vintage Air system tucked out of the way to stay cool in the bayou country, an Aiwa CD/MP3 player, and 700 watts of power for jaunts at the speed of sound.
Matt wanted subtlety from the project, so catchy things were left off the outside of the car; only the wheel/tire combination and the small GTS emblems where the R/T badging would have existed gives it away. For paint, the car went to Mike Harris first, who made sure the body was prepped just right, then to Eagle Paint and Body in Shreveport, where a PPG basecoat/ clearcoat combination in Viper Silver was laid down on the metal, including the entire undercarriage. A Viper Red "scat stripe" was added to the rear sheetmetal top to round out the look. No hoodscoop, no spoilers, no fancy paint schemes. Like any restoration, the glass and trimwork were all redone to high-quality standards. Truth be told, we walked past the car several times at the Mopar Nationals before giving it more than a passing glance. The more we looked, the more impressed we were.
In the end, Matt ended up with a machine that easily cruises up the highway, kicks out 440-plus horses at the back wheels, and tips the scales at 3,450 pounds. He says it'll go up the offramp on the interstate at 80 mph like it was on rails, but that would be breaking the speed limit.
Matt Delaney's Ultimate Charger
Body: '68 Dodge
Paint: PPG Viper Silver
Interior: Automotive Custom Specialties
Seats: Scat leather
Dash: Just Dashes with Autometer gauge cluster
Dash Face: Precision Auto Trim
Stereo: Aiwa 700-watt CD/MP3
Suspension Builder: B&M Performance, Bossier City, La.
Shocks: Strange Engineering
Rear Suspension: Coilover shocks with ladder bars
Front Suspension: Coilover shocks with tubular control arms
Steering: BRT power rack-and-pinion
Wheels: Kinesis custom cut to 4 1/2-inch bolt circle
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport low-profile
Engine: Mopar Viper V10 aluminum
Throttle Pedal: '70 'Cuda
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Clutch: Mopar Performance hydraulic master cylinder and slave
Rear: 3.91-geared 8 3/4 inches with MP aluminum center carrier
Bodywork: Mike Harris
Paint: Ollen at Eagle Paint and Body