Classics 1966 Dodge Charger Spends 40 Years in Storage—Including 20 on a Lift!

19:49  28 july  2017
19:49  28 july  2017 Source:   HOT ROD

Man builds affordable 1966 Charger using some tricks of the trade

  Man builds affordable 1966 Charger using some tricks of the trade Mike Svagera’s mild restomod 1966 Charger proves you can do a reliable driver on the cheap. Back in the 1960s when these cars were built, the automotive world wasn't all that different than it is today. The clear majority of them spent their lives commuting to and from work, running errands, taking kids to and from school and extracurricular activities, and taking road trips. The freeways and interstate system were already established and speeds averaged in the 55 to 75 mph range. Sure, a 1966 Charger as produced braked a bit slower and the handling was floatier than modern cars, but it's not like they can't keep pace with modern life.

1966 Dodge Charger spent 40 years in storage , including 20 on a lift Ford isn’t the only automaker offering this feature, although it was the first. (Land Rover added its own Advanced Tow Assist to the 2017 Land Rover Discovery.)

You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience. 1966 Dodge Charger Spends 40 Years in His good friend Mitchell Guffey called him to rave about a yellow 1966 Charger he'd noticed parked at a used car dealership in Shelby, North Carolina.

This story begins 47 years ago, when 16-year-old Steve McCraw was a school bus driver for the Cleveland County (North Carolina) School District. His good friend Mitchell Guffey called him to rave about a yellow 1966 Charger he'd noticed parked at a used car dealership in Shelby, North Carolina. Over the next week, Steve mustered the courage to tell his father, Billy Joe McCraw, about the car. Steve asked his father if he'd go with him to look it over. After seeing his son's excitement, the elder McCraw agreed.

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  1966 Dodge Charger Spends 40 Years in Storage—Including 20 on a Lift! © Hot Rod Network Staff

Steve says it was love at first sight when he laid eyes on the Charger for the first time. He and his father walked around the car, sizing it up. They opened the hood to reveal the 383-inch V-8 engine. They opened the driver-side door and noticed two rectangular pedals to the left of the gas pedal.

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After seeing what he describes as the "big engine" and factory four-speed transmission, Steve's dad said, "This is a race car, son. I am worried you will go out and get hurt in this hot rod."

But one look at his son revealed how much he wanted the car. Reluctantly, he agreed to help him buy it.

As the two discussed the idea of purchasing the Charger, Dad did something completely out of character. He pulled out his wallet, took out $100, and handed it to his son. "I am going to give you this money to help you out with buying this car," he said. It was the most cash he'd ever given his son. To this day, Steve is grateful to his late father for providing the down payment for the car of his dreams.

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1966 Dodge Charger spent 40 years in storage , including 20 on a lift . HOT ROD.

  1966 Dodge Charger Spends 40 Years in Storage—Including 20 on a Lift! © Hot Rod Network Staff

Per North Carolina law, a 16-year-old could not get an automobile loan or title a car in their name. Once again, Billy Joe McCraw surprised his son by securing a loan for the Charger and adding the car to his insurance policy. He made it perfectly clear that Steve would work to pay the monthly loan and insurance payments or the deal was off.

When Steve got behind the wheel for the first time, he waited until he was out of his father's sight, then mashed the gas to see what the Charger would do. When the engine started to roar, his adrenaline took over and he realized his Charger was a beast.

Steve did not realize it at the time, but the car was equipped with a set of redline recap tires. After a couple heavy-footed burnouts, the rear tires disintegrated down to their cords, and he had to replace them. Did Steve's father ever notice the new tires on the back of the car? "Luckily for me, he did not."

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Of course, each Charger included a complete roll cage that would make any drag racer envious as well as an included fire extinguisher for safety. 1966 Dodge Charger Spends 40 Years in Storage — Including 20 on a Lift !

1966 Dodge Charger spent 40 years in storage , including 20 on a lift . HOT ROD.

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In the car's prime, Steve frequented the Shady Side Dragway in Flint Hill, North Carolina, for a little grudge racing. The Charger won its share of races.

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1966 Dodge Charger spent 40 years in storage , including 20 on a lift . HOT ROD.

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Steve soon realized the $77 monthly salary for driving the school bus was not enough to pay off the car loan. To meet his financial obligation to his father, Steve took a job at the cotton mill during his senior year of high school.

  1966 Dodge Charger Spends 40 Years in Storage—Including 20 on a Lift! © Hot Rod Network Staff

Not long after buying his Charger, Steve decided to give it more power. He added a racing cam, headers with side pipes, and a dual-line Holley carburetor. The horsepower increased substantially, but he found out quickly that it came with a price when he noticed the fuel economy was cut in half. With this setup, Steve estimates the car averaged 5-7 mpg, depending on how hard he pressed the gas pedal.

That kind of fuel economy became a real issue for him with the start of the oil embargo in 1973. The increasing fuel prices, and the odd/even-day gas rationing program put in place, made it illogical and expensive to drive the Charger for long trips. To make matters worse, Steve used high-octane fuel, further draining his wallet. He drove the Charger less and less, instead choosing to drive the Plymouth Fury Gran Coupe he bought new in 1973. The Gran Fury turned into the everyday driver until 1976, when he bought a Ford truck to serve as a work vehicle. With two other vehicles in the family fleet, driving the Charger became an afterthought.

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1966 Dodge Charger spent 40 years in storage , including 20 on a lift . HOT ROD.

The Charger went into long-term storage in 1977, parked outdoors on Steve's property. It remained there, exposed to the elements, for six years. Then, in 1983, Steve sold his home, and the Charger was moved to his father's place, where it was stored outdoors next to a tractor and tool shed.

  1966 Dodge Charger Spends 40 Years in Storage—Including 20 on a Lift! © Hot Rod Network Staff

It was 1997 when Steve received the phone call he dreaded. His father informed him that if he did not move the car in a month, he'd give it to the next guy who stopped by to inquire about it. Steve was well aware of the travelers who'd see it sitting on his father's property and stop to get a closer look. Nearly all of them asked if it was for sale. It was a conversation he and his father had many times over the years, but this was the first time his father had given him an ultimatum.

Not long before this, Steve's father had sold two of the Charger's factory wheel covers and its factory carburetor, so Steve knew he meant business. He called longtime friend Jimmy Wilkie, who owned a rollback car hauler, and asked if he could get the Charger and bring it to his new garage in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The two did not set a date for the move, so Steve was surprised when one day he looked out of his garage to see a rollback hauler making its way down his driveway with the yellow Charger on its back.

Once it was in place in front of the garage door, Jimmy asked, "When's the last time it ran?" "I think it was 1977," Steve replied. After giving the engine a thorough look-over, including checking the points, the two decided to try to turn it over. Jimmy always carried an extra battery in his rig and installed it in the Charger, then poured a little fresh gas into the opening of the carburetor. Steve turned the key in the ignition, and the Charger fired up. With Steve's wife, Geneva, looking on, they stood back in total disbelief as the engine came to life. Steve turned to her and said, "I am going to go buy a car cover."

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For the next month, the car remained under that cover in front of the garage door while a hydraulic lift was installed in the garage. In the fall of 1997, the Charger was pushed onto the lift with a small farm tractor and raised into the highest position, where it has remained for 20 years.

Steve still dreams of experiencing the thrill getting into the car, starting it up, hearing the 383 roar, and putting it through the gears on Spartanburg's back roads.

"Our kids are grown up now," he said. "One day Geneva and I would like to save up the money to do a nice restoration job before we are too old. How great it would be for Geneva and I to get into the Charger and take it to some local car shows? It's a dream we've shared for years."

Steve is a fan of the reality build show Bitchin' Rides on the Velocity Channel. When interviewed for this story, he said how cool it would be if Dave Kindig, Kevin Schiele, and the team at Kindig-It Design could get their hands on his Charger and make it come to life again. One never knows what the future holds. Stay tuned!

  1966 Dodge Charger Spends 40 Years in Storage—Including 20 on a Lift! © Hot Rod Network Staff

At a Glance

1966 Charger

Owned by: Steve McCraw, Spartanburg, SC

Restored by: Unrestored

Engine: 383ci/325hp V-8

Transmission: 4-speed manual

Rearend: 3.23 gears

Interior: Black vinyl bucket seat

Wheels: 14-inch GTX (Magnum 500) front, 14-inch Rocket rear

Tires: F70-14 front, L60-14 rear BFGoodrich Radial T/A

Special parts: Sig Erson racing cam, headers, Holley carburetor

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