By mid-1972, things had changed significantly in the muscle car market. Not only were most of the big-engine options gone; so was the attitude that had highlighted the cars built just months prior. Moreover, compression on what engines were left had fallen, the heavy-duty driveline hardware was on its way out, everything was designed with bulky bumpers, and paint and graphics were considered pass. Still, for a college guy like Chuck Hughes, there was still hope.
In July of that year, his buddies at Brohawn's, the local Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge dealer in Cambridge, Maryland, let him actually take home the latest dealer albums to put together the '73 Charger of his dreams. The hot ticket was no longer the R/T (sorry, Jim, they're all dead), but you could get a Rallye version, which had performance-oriented themes. The standard B-engine was the ticket for 1973 unless you had deeper pockets for insurance to put a 440 under the bonnet. So it would be a 400 four-barrel backed by a Torqueflite and 3.55 rear for Chuck.
To say he enjoyed his new car would be an understatement; he drove it 180,000 miles, finally trading it in the '80s when the rust problems inherent to high-mileage Northeast iron had begun to show themselves. He is humorously hesitant to admit just what he traded it for (it was a brand X car since Chrysler was all K-car all the time at the moment), but suffice to say, it wasn't like the old days. By the mid-'90s, he decided to try to go back to the past again.
What is sometimes forgotten as we look back on those days is that performance cars from 1973 are harder to find than, say, cars from 1969. Chuck wanted another big-block Rallye. His old car was found slowly decaying in St. Michaels, Maryland, but was a no-go; the owner was "gonna restore it one of these days." It's probably still there. There wasn't much turning up in Hemmings or Mopar Collector's Guide, either.
Finally, in March 2001, a '73 Charger Rallye did surface for Chuck. Originally sold in Georgia, the 70,000-mile machine was located in Michigan. What's more, it was a near twin to the one Chuck had purchased almost 30 years earlier-GB5 Blue paint, Rallye package, and performance engine (though it was a final-year 340 rather than the 400). The only real difference was the interior color and the optional side mirrors. What's more, the car was a solid driver.
Although Chuck's original Charger was a big-block, he's more than happy with his Charger's
But owning a somewhat nice car wasn't quite the same as having a '73 when it was brand-new, so Chuck and his son Charlie (Charlie is actually the proud owner of the car at 7 years old) began the process of a complete restoration on the car once it was back in Mason-Dixon territory. Chuck will be the first to admit that he was somewhat frustrated with the way some of the hobby's suppliers treated him. At this point, these cars didn't have the appeal of their '71 and earlier kin. However, he did find big help in dealer Tony D'Agostino, who happens to be down in southern Delaware, not too far from where Chuck lives on Maryland's eastern shore. "Without Tony's help, my resto would not be this complete," says Chuck. "I wanted NOS stuff. He located it for me and spent the time with me talking about the car so he knew what I needed. It made a real difference."
So as the pile of gathered parts grew, Chuck was busy getting ready for the rebuild. The engine was brought back to completely stock form, with the only change being a late model Edelbrock intake and AVS-style Performer carburetor. The rest of the driveline has also been serviced and detailed; it is a numbers-matching combo. Anything that Tony could find in terms of NOS pieces was replaced.