Ozark Runner

Since the history of the American automobile began, there have been land mark vehicles, and then there have been vehicles that made a mark on history, whether by design or by luck.

Henry Ford’s Model T is often thought of the most historic developments that has led to where we are today, however, there are a several others along the way.  One of the most recognizable late models on this list is the very performance oriented Dodge Charger.  In fact, it is such an iconic piece of automobile lore that Chrysler was able to successfully resurrect the name plate, even if it does have two extra doors as a performance sedan.

Today’s classic Dodge Charger owner tends to be very loyal to their vehicles, with specific Charger clubs and even a Dodge Charger Registry helping members to find and document as many of the muscle car icons as possible.  For many of these cars, the family involvement becomes part of that a family history involving a restoration…or maybe two along the way, with an occasional modification thrown in for good measure.  One such project is a 1973 Charger SE that belongs to Nick Villiger in Mountain Home, Arkansas.  

After sitting for several years as part of the original owners’ estate, the car was located in 1989, needing a lot of work.  It needed enough work that Nick traded a Mustang II for the Charger and $300, which turned out to be one heck of a deal for Nick.  With a little research, it turns out the car was a special order through a dealer in North Carolina as a base Charger SE model that got the optional factory performance bucket seat package.

During the years that Nick has owned the car, it did receive some attention along the way such as a paint refresh, new carpet and new seat covers, but it was still a project that did a lot of driveway duty.  In fact, the Charger sat so much that one granddaughter was ‘told’ Casper the friendly ghost lived in the car, and she would actually talk to the car – that is until she got to finally drive ‘Blackie’.  It wasn’t until after he retired that Nick was able to spend more time working on the Charger, and a full restoration effort was started.

The 1973 Charger has an integrated front end treatment that includes a front chrome bumper, the traditional Charger dual headlight setup, as well as the grille fill panels.  The massive hood also bears a Chrysler family resemblance with a power bulge, hood pins and the badges for a 400 Magnum engine.

Working with that factory 400 cubic inch iron under the hood, Fletcher’s Garage in Mountain Home, did a complete rebuild to get the engine up to factory specs with a few extras to make the Charger more profficient.  To up the performance of the ’73 engine, a Mopar competition cam with lifters were added to work with the Carter carb that keeps plenty of fuel on hand.  The upgraded electronic ignition puts the fire to the Keith Black pistons while a set of headers push that spent fuel out the chrome dual exhaust  at  the rear of the car.  The factory three speed automatic transmission was also rebuilt with a shift kit to add a little bump when the adapted pistol grip shifter is fully utilized.  The rear 3:73 gears remain stock, as this is a driver that rolls on a set of 15-inch Magnum 500 wheels that are wrapped in BF Goodrich rubber that can be lit up at any moment.   

The long lines of the body lead back to the rear deck area where a spoiler clearly shows the performance aspect of the Charger, while the dual exhaust with factory type chrome tips echo what the modified engine has to say.  As this project started out basically a $200 beater in 1988, the body also needed some work along the way, and once it was straight enough to wear black, the paint was applied by Ozark Mountain Classic Restorations.

The bright white vinyl seat covers were restored to factory condition, as well as the door panels, giving the Charger a clean look contrasting with the black exterior.  The factory audio system is functional, as well as the great looking pistol grip shifter for the automatic.

For almost 25 years, the ’73 Charger has been part of the Villiger family.  It has provided family memories, allowed family members to bond, it has taught some family members to drive, and it continues to show that the family that cruises together stays together.

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