After posting a career of drag race victories, Elton 'Al' Eckstrand, a lawyer by trade, retired from his competition driving role in late 1965. Despite his love of performance automobiles, he recognized that the advent of the latest musclecars could have an immense potential for disaster. Among the large number of American serviceman returning to civilian life after their tours of duty were many who did not realize the hazards 400hp machinery could have; these men were among the 50,000 fatalities a year on the highways at the time. So, working closely with upper management at Chrysler in early 1966, particularly Al's mentor Byron Nichols, Vice President, Corporate Sales for Chrysler, Eckstrand was given a '66 Hemi Charger to use in a planned tour of U.S. bases in Europe, beginning with a demonstration at the Santa Pod track in England in early June.
This unique machine was Dodge's first press pool Charger, an example driven by the media for a few weeks in the spring of 1966 prior to the car's formal introduction to the American public. Like the 426 Street Hemi motor, the Charger was new for that year, featuring fastback styling and a performance orientation. Under Eckstrand's control, the LL1 Dark Turquoise Metallic would serve well the purpose of introducing safe driving to civilians and soldiers alike. Unlike virtually any other car that came from the Chrysler Corporation, the example given to Al was never sold through a dealer and, to date, has never been formally titled. Noted Chrysler historian and documentation specialist Galen Govier has confirmed this information based on the car's IBM build record from the Chrysler Historical Foundation; it is indeed very unique, as even cars for upper management at the corporation were always processed at the dealership level.
Once in Al's possession, the Hemi press car, which had left Chrysler's Lynch Road assembly line near Detroit on March 23 of that year, was quickly prepared and flown to Europe. After lettering it up with the fabled "Lawman" name, Eckstrand began to do a series of driving demonstrations at race facilities on that continent as well as present safe driving courses to U.S. military personnel stationed in Europe. As a result, this car, together with others that Chrysler later presented for this program, gave these men a primary and critical look at the high-powered cars that were being created by Detroit's major manufacturers. During the ensuing eight years, this program (supported by various corporations and the United States Marine Corp) eventually went all the way to the Southeast Asian war theater, where Eckstrand and the United States Motorsports Association he founded gave demonstrations to 250,000 outgoing soldiers.
But back to the Charger. After its six-week "tour of duty" under Eckstrand's tutelage in 1966, the Hemi car was left in England with acquaintances when it was determined by Chrysler management to not be financially feasible to ship it back to the States. Due to potential liability, Al removed the Lawman name at that time, and the car reportedly only made a couple of more trips down the dragstrip before going into storage. Al would return to Europe again in 1967 and use a 383 Barracuda for the program that year, but the Charger was always considered special. Eventually, a gentleman named Ian Frankland became its keeper with Al's blessing.
The Charger arrived at Naples...
The Charger arrived at Naples Dodge from England in this non-descript container, its first-ever visit to a Dodge dealership!
With the door open, Al Eckstrand...
With the door open, Al Eckstrand gets his first look at the car since he packed it into the container in England over a month earlier. Thanks to secure tie-downs and support, it arrived without a scratch.
Now the crew from Naples Dodge...
Now the crew from Naples Dodge and the shipping firm are moving the car out under Al's watchful eye. The height of the trailer/ container would have required an equally-high loading dock as ramps weren't feasible, but...good 'ol Yankee ingenuity won out.