Brian Henniker, copyright and courtesy of Gooding & Company

Almost 100,000 Chargers were sold in 1968, with 17,584 of them outfitted with the Road/Track package. Of those, only 475 were produced with the optional 426 Street Hemi, including the example offered here. Making this car even more desirable is its rare color combination of dark blue over an Electric Blue interior.

Mopar restoration expert Julius Steuer purchased the car and, in 2009, restored it at his shop in Los Angeles. David Mikkelson acquired it shortly after the restoration was complete and later passed it to the current owner. Today, this Hemi Charger R/T presents with aggressive-looking American Racing Vector wheels, popularized on the iconic 1969 Charger used in the TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard.” The original wheels are included in the sale, along with two original build sheets, jack and spare.

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Vehicle:1968 Dodge Hemi Charger R/T 2-door hard top
Years Produced:1968–70
Number Produced:475 (1968 Hemi cars)
Original List Price:Approximately $4,110
SCM Valuation:$116,000
Tune Up Cost:$350
Distributor Caps:$12.97
Chassis Number Location:Plate on the driver’s side instrument panel behind windshield
Engine Number Location:Pad located on the right side of the block to the rear of the engine mount
Club Info:Winged Warriors/National B-Body Owners Association (NBOA)
Website:http://www.wwnboa.org
Alternatives:1968 Pontiac GTO, 1968 Oldsmobile 442, 1968 Plymouth Road Runner
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 111, sold for $123,750, including the buyer’s premium, at Gooding & Company’s auction in Scottsdale, AZ, on Saturday, January 20, 2018. It was offered with no reserve.

They say image is everything, and in the automotive world there is no greater proof than the 1968 Dodge Charger. Underneath the sheet metal was Chrysler’s familiar B-body architecture. Even under the hood were Chrysler’s well-known powerplants, with the base Charger model getting the 318 V8 small-block, while the performance R/T model had the 440 Magnum standard. The pinnacle, of course, was the “elephant” in the room, the 426 Hemi.

But where Dodge struggled to sell 15,788 of the old fastback 1967 Chargers, 96,100 of the ’68 Chargers flew out the showroom doors, including 475 with the Hemi. Demand was so high that the Hamtramck plant couldn’t keep up, and the St. Louis plant also began building Chargers. Product Planning thought only 20,000 would be sold, based on the history of the previous model.

Double diamond image

The difference was the sleek “double diamond” shape and “flying buttress” roof of the new Charger. Diran Yazejian, a designer in the Dodge Studio at the time, told allpar.com: “Bill Brownlie, Dodge Studio Executive Designer, wanted an evolutionary design from the ’66 — a fastback. Meanwhile, off in a corner of the Dodge Studio, Richard Sias was making a 1/10-scale ‘speed form’ clay model. It was ‘aircrafty’ and had the double-diamond shapes built into its form, but it wasn’t a fastback… the ‘sail panels’ made it look fastback enough to satisfy Brownlie.”

When Car and Driver tested the ’68 Charger, they remarked, “The only 1968 car which comes close to challenging the new Charger for styling accolades is the new Corvette, which is remarkably similar to the Charger, particularly when viewed from the rear quarter… Originality takes guts in Dodge’s position as the smaller division of the number three automaker, but the Charger’s aerodynamic wedge theme is not only distinctly new but it is very like the new breed of wind-tunnel tested sports/racing cars which are just now making their debut in the 1967 Can-Am series.”

Of course, the Charger R/T was more than just a pretty face. “With all this performance image going for the Charger,” Car and Driver said, “we just had to order an engine to go with it — and when you’re talking a Chrysler product, the performance engine is the Hemi. There just isn’t more honest horsepower available off the showroom floor than you get from this bright orange monster.” They recorded 0–60 in 4.8 seconds, and the quarter-mile in 13.5 at 105 miles per hour. And this was in a Charger packed with test equipment weighing in at 4,346 pounds.

Our featured ’68 Hemi Charger has so much going for it: an excellent restoration, the provenance of the original build sheets, the rarity and desirability of 426 Hemi power, and the very unusual factory color scheme. Yet auctioneer Charlie Ross fought to squeeze out the last dollar on a no-reserve sale for a car of this quality. Why?

The Duke factor

While it may seem like a small detail, I think the Vector wheels this car wore at the sale hurt its value. Did the seller really think evoking the image of Bo and Luke Duke would cause some fan to mortgage the doublewide for this Charger?

First impressions count for a lot, especially at auction, and it’s important to remember just where this car was — the Gooding auction is known for high-end offerings from Porsche and Ferrari, and as such it draws in a high-level demographic. These are serious collectors in a social setting.

Selling a high-end automobile is no different than selling a high-end property, and real-estate agents will spend the extra money to properly stage a home with designer furnishings and décor to help move it for the maximum price. I have no problem with someone driving a car like this on modern rubber; you don’t realize how much tires have changed until you drive a ’60s muscle machine on bias-ply skins. And as we’ve noted in ACC before, wheels are all about taste, and they’re an easy swap, so owners should feel free to do what they want. But to sell something like this — especially in a high-class setting — practicality and personal preference must take a back seat to the proper staging of the automobile. That means keeping things as “showroom” as possible.

When this beautiful dark blue Hemi Charger was featured in Motor Trend Classic, writer Steve Magnante wrote: “It may come as a shock, but this musclecar-loving automotive journalist is of the opinion that Warner Brothers’ hit TV series ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ did more than anything else to tarnish the legend of the Dodge Charger. Sure, the show was fun and exciting and should be applauded for its automotive theme in an otherwise nonautomotive network television landscape. But let’s face facts: Bo and Luke Duke absolutely victimized the General Lee. What else can you call splashing horrid orange paint over its sleek Coke-bottle form, painting that stupid flag on the roof, and treating it like a stolen dune buggy?”

The proof is in the numbers: This car itself had a great look, great restoration, rare color and the right equipment. And yet, despite all that, this final price came in at just over the current median of $116,000 for a ’68 Hemi Charger. Were buyers who came to bid on classic Ferraris really going to fight it out for a top-notch Hemi Charger that looked like the General Lee? As they say, image is everything.

On the flip side, at the price paid, this was a great deal for the new owner considering the car’s condition and specifications — and it came with a set of stock wheels. Very well bought.

(Introductory description courtesy of Gooding & Company.)

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