Mark Smith's personal 1968 Hemi Charger 4 speed is going to Barrett-Jackson lot 1309 on Saturday Jan 21

1968 Dodge Hemi Charger R/T

  • True J code Hemi car

  • Original build sheet and original owner certicard/owners manual

  • Original drivetrain

  • Four speed transmission

  • Disc brakes

  • One owner Russell Helsel from 1968 to 2005

Is there a better looking muscle car than the second generation Dodge Charger? Even if you're a fan of Chevelles, Torinos or AMX's you cannot deny the sex appeal in Charger's sheetmetal. Seductive from every angle, managing the perfect blend of speed and class: None of its contemporaries comes close. Start with one of the best colors in Mopar's palette, stir in a 426 Hemi and a four speed, and restore to perfection--there are few Chargers which look or perform better.
This R/T carries its original engine and transmission, which counts as a near miracle considering the elephant's intended use and abuse. Chrysler knew it, too, and cut the standard warranty on Hemi cars down to a mere 12 months! Now even if every single car survived, and they all had their original drivetrains, you'd only have 210 more '68 Hemi 4-speed Chargers to choose from--this is a rare car.
 

Here's the fender tag decoded:

XS29 Dodge Charger R/T 2 Door Sports Hardtop
73 426 cubic-inch HEMI 2x4-bbl HP V8
3 4-speed manual floor shift
45 Tires, F70x15 red sidewall, nylon belted
68 3.54:1 Sure-Grip rear axle
b4 Bucket seats
h7 Hood mounted turn signal indicators
A1 26-inch radiator
D9 Front disc brakes
H1 Power brakes
P6 Rear seat speaker
R0 AM 8-track radio
T7 Tachometer
X1 Tinted glass
Y1 Black vinyl top
C6X Charger trim grade, vinyl bucket seats, black Interior
AA1 Silver metallic paint


Fender tags are excellent, but the original build sheet is even better. There are more gems to be found, such as dual headrests, undercoating and hood insulation pad and the woodgrain steering wheel. It also shows that it's a sold car, indicating that original owner Russell Helsel ordered it from Sarchione and Sons in Alliance, Ohio. How do we know that? We have the original Certicard and the original owner's manual with the warranty information filled out. This car keeps getting better.
Russell held the car until 2005, after bringing the car with him on a move to Cleveland. It was pried loose by a gentleman who rebuilt the motor, went through the brakes, made it mechanically sound, and sent in pictures and a description of his good fortune to Mopar Muscle magazine, who ran it in their “barn finds” section of the January 2006 issue. The car sold on eBay to a pair of brothers in California who gave it the restoration it deserved, and then it wound up...right back in Northeast Ohio. How's that for coming full circle? From there it was sold to Mark Smith the founder of Factory Five Racing, Local Motors, and Smyth Performance. The magazine as well as a copy of the ebay listing complete the perfect paper trail.

 

The brothers in California did two things well: They restored the Charger, and they kept outstanding records of their expenditures and receipts. There's an inch-thick stack showing everything from the JE pistons in the motor to the sill plate screws. If you've got a calculator, and the time, you can find out what this car costs. I picked out a couple of them, added them quickly into five-figure territory, and left the rest in the folder. Suffice to say replicating this car wouldn't be cheap. When they restored the car they also made the most excellent decision to keep almost 80% of the original undercoating as the car was delivered. 


In 1968, Silver Poly was the only extra cost “standard” color. You could spec out a code 99 special order paint in the color of your choosing, but silver was on the color charts. The difference? Code 708 on the broadcast sheet: Factory buffed paint. After it was bolted together, Chrysler took the cars to a special prep area and buffed them to show car standards. The cost of that special treatment was under 20 bucks!


History lessons aside, this is an awesome car as it sits today. The fresh basecoat/clearocat silver paint is luminescent (check out the sunset photos in the gallery to see what we mean) and straight. The chrome and stainless trim is redone to show standards. The car was 100% original and complete, which ALWAYS yields the best possible restoration results. A new vinyl top, bumblebee stripe and a full set of F70x15 redline tires from Coker balance the bright finish.


Inside you'll find fresh Legendary upholstery, CV Vacuum Platers restored gauge bezels, new Year One chrome pieces and even the original 8 track stereo, restored, of course. Silver pleating in the seats ties in the exterior, and it's a very comfortable place to spend time. Grab onto the Julius-restored woodgrain wheel, hope the factory Inland shifter finds the right gears (there's a reason Chrysler swapped to Hurst units midyear) and mat the throttle--the sound of all eight barrels ingesting air is something which needs to be experienced.  This car is definitely NOT for the meek and timid.


Under the hood you'll find the original engine, a 1966 casting. Chrysler cast a PILE of blocks in 1966, and it took them into the 1968 model year to use them up. Since this car is early enough (an October 1967 build date) it's correct for the car, and Russell never replaced it--that's as clear as it gets. On top of the mill are the proper (and original) 4430S and 4431S carburetors, the original chrome air cleaner, valve covers, heads, intake and more, all restored to better than new. The original, numbers matching (there's a place on the side for the VIN, unlike the motor in 68) 18 spline four speed was rebuilt, fronted by a new clutch setup and backed with a rebuilt driveshaft. Power is sent back to the ground via the original 3.54 geared Dana 60 rear axle. The suspension is all new and rebuilt and the car drives beautifully.   The four-piston calipers were notorious for failing at all the wrong times, and many owners including Russell swapped on the much simpler drums. Mark Smith returned the car to disc brakes and all the original parts were returned to the car. Everything from the master cyllinder, booster, lines and proportioning valve are proper disc brake parts


Exclusivity, fresh mechanicals, a perfect paper trail, a numbers matching drivetrain and a great color scheme.  Mark Smith,bought this car to add to his personal collection but as his motorhead son William comes of age they have together decided to shift the collection toward cars that are driven often and driven hard. So last year the Ferrari 512bbi was sold, this year they are moving the Charger to make room for a project car.  They will be building a copy of this, their favorite, but will go more of a resto mod non original route with 17" Halibrand pin drive wheels, a 426 hemi/tremec 5 speed and a 3" drop.  This car is just too nice to modify and will find a good home at the 2017 Barrett-Jackson auction in Phoenix lot 1309 on Saturday the 21st of Jan.