Home Car Stories One Owner 1975 DODGE Charger SE- Victor
1975 DODGE Charger SE- Victor PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Sunday, 19 July 2015 10:51

1975 DODGE Charger SE- Victor


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

75 Dodge Charger SE logo

Victor special ordered his 1975 Dodge Charger SE from Delta Chrysler in spring, 1975. The Charger was a radical switch for Victor. For the last 6 years Victor had been commuting from home to the family business in downtown Vancouver in his 1969 Ford Emerald Green Mustang. Victor's Mustang showed a mere 66,000 miles and was in great shape. The Mustang also returned great gas mileage from its 302 engine. Victor didn't really have a concrete reason to trade in the Mustang; it was stylish and trouble free but he just felt like he wanted a change.

75 Dodge Charger SE Victor front nose

Something about the radically changed new 1975 Charger grabbed him. As Victor comments today the 1975 Dodge Charger SE was quite a departure from his 1969 Mustang. The 1975 Charger SE marked the culmination of an evolution of the Charger from rip snorting tough muscle machine to a personal luxury car.

75 dodge charger SE victor driver front

The Dodge Charger originated as what could be loosely described as a personal luxury car with a full length console limiting seating capacity to 4 individual bucket seats. A large car that only seats 4 was the 1960s version of a personal car. The Thunderbird 4 seater pioneered this territory but was by no means a luxury car at this time. The Charger was a bit meaner when it first appeared as a 1966 model.

The Charger was partly the Dodge equivalent to the Plymouth Barracuda which was fighting the ponycar wars with an extreme fastback. Unlike Plymouth, Dodge's version of the fastback was not based on the compact chassis. Dodge chose the Coronet intermediate platform and added an extreme fastback which some critics felt didn't come off quite as well on a larger car. Only the AMC Marlin offered a large car with as radically sloped a fastback as found on the Mopars. Years later Mustang 'sportsroof' fastbacks would outdo the Mopar offerings but by then Mopar had already scaled back their fastbacks.

The 1968 Charger was restyled with a tough and aerodynamic looking body and revised roof. The moderately sloped rear fastback was combined with a flat rear glass area. The 1968 Chevy Corvette also used trailing roof lines. The 1968 to 1970 model was one of the most memorable Chargers built. This bodystyle was chosen for the 'General Lee' hero car used and abused on the Dukes Of Hazard TV show and movies. At this point the Charger image was pure muscle with exciting lines and NASCAR wins to bolster its image.

The SE (Special Edition) option appeared in 1969 as a minor appearance and comfort package that could be added to any Charger. When first released in 1969 the SE option was minimal merely adding leather seat inserts up front and some imitation wood grain touches to the interior.

75 dodge charger SE victor driver side

The personal luxury car market which originally had few players (Ford Thunderbird, Buick Riviera, Chrysler New Yorker) had expanded in the late 1960s to include the Lincoln Mark III, Oldsmobile Toronado, and Cadillac Eldorado. General Motors brought the personal luxury car to the masses with the revised 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix and the very popular new 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Mercury took the small Cougar 'Junior personal luxury car' and turned it into a large baroque personal luxury car for 1971. It seemed everyone had to jump on this new bandwagon.

75 dodge charger SE victor driver rear

When the Charger was redesigned as a swoopy fantastic looking 'fuselage' design for 1971 the Charger had never looked faster and didn't quite exactly fit the softer personal luxury car image. It was still planted squarely in the musclecar tradition. Ironically this is the time when the SE option started to take on a more significant role. In the few years that elapsed between the fuselage Charger concept and final production version the musclecar market the Charger was intended to inhabit had evaporated. Deescalation of the musclecar market dramatically accelerated in 1971 and took another giant hit for 1972. The SE gained prominence partly to answer the proliferation of personal luxury cars popping up and also as a re invention of the Charger which suddenly faced a dark future due to the collapse of the musclecar market.

In 1972 the Charger SE model expanded its features to include a formal vinyl roof treatment using a 3 slat 'opera window' effect. The 1972 SE package also provided hidden headlights, plush interior and carpeted trunk. Over at General Motors, 1972 was the first year for the Pontiac Luxury LeMans. Oldsmobile had locked up this market years before with the Cutlass Supreme and was advancing towards becoming the best selling car in USA. Cars like the Monte Carlo and Cutlass Supreme sold in astounding numbers. The sudden popularity of these cars led to a trend where luxury touches were thrown onto existing cars accompanied with some sound deadener and badging them 'Brougham' or 'Custom' or 'SE'.

75 Charger.SE victor interior

Dodge's ponycar the Challenger was also floundering in the wake of the musclecar sales decline. The Challenger was also available as a luxury oriented SE model. The early SE models were still more of an augmentation rather than a reworking. The early 1970s SE made the Charger and Challenger slightly more comfortable while retaining racy styling. The Challenger didn't survive past the 1974 model year. Ponycars and musclecars were dying out and Chrysler was searching for a new direction.

For 1975 the SE concept hinted at earlier now extended to the entire Charger line up. In a radical shift away from its earlier identity as a musclecar the 1975 Charger lineup began with the SE package standard. The Charger SE entered the 'personal luxury car' market with a redesigned body which was directly lifted from the Chrysler Cordoba.

The 'fuselage' style fast looking 1974 Charger vanished and suddenly the Charger name was attached to a 'formal' styled car with upright front nose topped by hood ornament, formal roof with 'opera windows' and squarer rear end treatment. Purists were outraged but Chrysler was vindicated with solid sales.

75 Dodge Charger SE opera window

Similar to the 1972 opera window with 3 vertical slats, the 1975 version used 6 horizontal bars to increase privacy for rear passengers.

75 dodge charger SE victor opera window int

The new formal Charger had dropped its performance imagery but the past resonated in its proportions which retained the long hood, short rear deck format. The wheelbase was now 114.9 inches. The Charger was still a big car with 215.3 inches length. Part of the length of course was due to the big 5 MPH bumpers. This was a heavy car at nearly 4,000 pounds. Some of the weight came from liberal use of sound deadening material throughout the car to make it quiet.

Within a few years Mopar realized that performance buyers weren't gone and used this new Charger platform in conjunction with an added on sloped nose to release the Dodge Magnum as the performance offering. Significantly neither the Charger name nor the old names of the past like R/T were revived during this foray back into the world of muscle. It wouldn't be until the compact Charger came out that Dodge decided to infuse performance imagery back into the Charger name and link back to the past. This first stab at the old heritage was amplified with the modern Charger musclecars but that is getting ahead of this story.

Victor liked the new 1975 Charger SE and paid a visit to Delta Chrysler Ltd in Delta, British Columbia. He chose this dealership based on his family's experience with this particular dealership. See a story on Delta Chrysler filed in the DEALERSHIPS section of this website under BRITISH COLUMBIA/ RICHMOND and DELTA. The original purchase agreement dated April 12, 1975 is complete except for Victor's last name, address and signature. These were removed to protect owner privacy.

75 dodge charger victor purchase agree ap 12 75

Victor put down a $100.00 deposit on April 16, 1975 towards his new 1975 Dodge Charger as seen below on this faded receipt.

75 dodge charger victor deposit ap 16 75

On June 28, 1975 Victor came up with the second deposit of $3,000.00 which was a lot of money at the time. Victor states that he felt pretty nervous having this much money on the line.

75 dodge charger victor 2nd deposit jun 28 75

On June 30, 1975 the paperwork went through and the bank approved a loan for the remainder of the purchase price. Inflation was in full swing in the 1970s and interest rates were high. 13.5 percent interest was payable on the outstanding amount owed on the Charger. Even with the substantial downpayment and the trade in credit for his Mustang this Charger represented a major hit on Victor's wallet at $7,000.00.

The low priced bare bones Mopars of the past were being replaced with luxury oriented cars such as the Brougham, Custom models and of course this SE model. Victor also loaded his Charger down with a significant array of options which partially accounts for the sticker shock. Victor's last name, birthdate, address and the final VIN digits of the Charger have been edited out of the agreement as shown below.

75 dodge charger victor finance jun 30 75

The factory build information on the door sticker shown below is complete except the final VIN digits were edited out to preserve owner privacy. Victor's Charger was built May, 1975.

75 dodge charger victor door sticker

The first few digits of the VIN decode as follows:

X= Dodge Charger SE

S= Special price class

22= 2 Door special coupe

K= 360-2 Barrel engine

5= 1975 Model year

R= Windsor, Ontario, Canada final assembly plant

The final numbers not shown are the sequential number. Victor specified a lot of options some of which definitely give his Charger a sporty feel. The Tuff steering wheel had been around for a few years and is coveted by Mopar performance buffs.

75 Charger.SE victor tuff wheel

The console shift for the automatic transmission combined with high back bucket seats makes it feel as if the 1960s didn't go away, at least when seated behind the steering wheel. The buckets are standard equipment in the Charger but the console was an extra cost option.

75 Charger.SE victor console

The console includes a large lockable storage bin between the seats.Note the storage slot built into the console to the right of the shifter.

75 dodge charger SE victor console storage closed

The console storage flips open towards the passenger seat.

75 dodge charger SE victor console storage open

Aside from a round faced speedometer and a matching pod with the fuel and temperature gauges, Dodge as usual provides full instrumentation including round gauges above the radio for oil pressure and the charging system. Note the map light above the main pods. Victor also ordered the light group option.

75 dodge charger SE victor radio

The optional AM/ FM radio has pushbuttons in addition to the dial tuner.

75 Charger.SE victor radio gauges

Victor ordered a sun roof which is covered in matching white vinyl on the outside. Above the rear view mirror attachment in the upper inside headliner area a chrome handle manually opens and closes the sunroof.

75 dodge charger SE victor sun roof

Victor also ordered the wire wheel covers on the standard 15 inch Charger wheels. In later years Victor encountered some worry about these covers potentially flying off when the car was driven. He discovered that you can sharpen the spikes built inside the rim of the wheelcover and this ensures that the cover holds tight to the wheel.

75 dodge charger SE victor wire wheels

The Charger came with whitewall radial tires in 1975 and Victor has located similar tires to maintain the factory appearance of his car. In 1975 many intermediates still came standard with 14 inch wheels and radials were not in universal use yet. The Charger SE came standard with top end tires for the time period in 15 inch diameter.

Chrysler called their clocks 'chronometers' when they used an odometer style readout. The clock in the Charger is angled towards the driver but placed above the glove box.

75 Charger.SE victor radio clock

The electric clock was standard in the Charger SE. The clock in this car has stopped running but did keep accurate time for a significant portion of the car's life.

75 Dodge Charger SE Chronometer clock

The original Charger performance legacy wasn't completely forgotten in 1975. The standard engine in the 1975 Charger SE was a 360- 2 barrel which produced 180 HP. For the times this was pretty good. A strange fact about the 360-2 barrel Charger is that it received a higher EPA rating than any other drivetrain available in this car including the 'step down' option. The EPA rating for the 360 was 13 City MPG and 22 Hwy MPG. A Charger with a 318-2 barrel equaled the City MPG but only gave 17 Hwy MPG. These numbers dropped to 11 and 16 for a 318 without the catalytic converter because tuning had to be changed to compensate for no cat. The EPA figure back then was derived from a 31 minute stop start 'city cycle' on dynamometer averaging 20 MPH and a 'highway' run of 12 minutes at an average of 49 MPH.

75 dodge charger se victor 360 engine

The 360 had been developed a few years earlier as a compromise engine between the big blocks and 318 which was losing power as emissions standards choked it back. The 360 wasn't purpose built as a performance mill as was the case with the 340 but it soon replaced the 340 in the ponycars and the Duster 340 and Dart Sport. The 360 provided decent driver status with a good dollop of torque making it a good mover even in the heavy Charger SE.

The April 1975 issue of POPULAR SCIENCE evaluated the performance of the 1975 Chrysler Cordoba in comparison to Grand Prix 455-4 and Thunderbird 460-4. The Charger is a 'clone' of the Cordoba and much of the commentary directed to the Cordoba will apply to the Charger. PS found the 360-2 barrel to be nearly as strong as the gargantuan engines in the competitors cars. The Cordoba with automatic trans, 2.71:1 axle and HR78X15 tires managed to move its 3,884 pounds of curb weight to 60 MPH in 13.5 seconds. Thunderbird with a 2.75:1 axle, 225x15 tires and massive 5,188 curb weight managed 12.8 to 60 while the Grand Prix was fastest despite a very low axle of 2.50:1, GP ran to 60 in 12 flat with GR78-15 tires and curb weight of 4,355 pounds.

75 dodge charger se victor 360 engine pass side

PS ran the cars at steady 45 MPH and 60 MPH and came up with an impressive 18.8 MPG for the 360 at 45 MPH which dropped significantly to 13.3 at 60 MPH. The T Bird managed 13.2 and 11.8 while the Grand Prix guzzled at a rate of 12.8 and 11.3. The Cordoba won the maneuverability contest snaking around cones faster than Grand Prix or Thunderbird.

The 1975 Charger SE came with standard front and rear sway bars, power steering, power front disc brakes, and 15 inch whitewall steel belted radials. The only transmission available was the 3 speed automatic.

75 dodge charger se victor driver seat

The standard interior provided velour seats and a 3 spoke padded wheel. Victor's interior has been tightened up a bit with the Tuff wheel and optional tufted seats with center console.

75 dodge charger se victor pass seat

The rear seat is small which is typical for all the personal 2 door intermediate cars from this era. Note that the rear bench has 'bucket' style inserts to give the impression of individual seats in the rear.

75 Dodge Charger SE backseat

Chrysler came up with a nifty solution to the seatbelt tangles that plagued so many cars of this era. The rear belts vanish into a slot beside the seat.

75 dodge charger SE victor rear seatbelt

Note the molded in arm rest above the rear ashtray. Instead of an add on armrest and a flapping seat belt end, Dodge cleaned things up with this nice design.

The Charger currently has 66,083 miles which ironically is the same mileage that was showing on the 1969 Mustang that Victor traded in for this car.

The Charger SE proved to be a comfortable car that Victor took a lot of pride in. He scrupulously maintained the car and kept it immaculate. Soon into his ownership however the transmission developed a problem. Victor was very worried because buying the car had tapped him out completely. A transmission job is a huge deal and very expensive. He called the dealership so often to find out if it was going to be covered under warranty that he eventually had to cease and desist and have his niece call in on his behalf. Dealership employees are a bit more tolerant of a girl calling in for updates all the time! Thankfully the transmission was covered under warranty. There was a problem with the torque converter that was fixed.

75 dodge charger SE victor rear

The Charger led a fairly good life at first until a series of incidents threw Victor off his game at the time. He can laugh at it now but back then with his nice new car it was serious business. The front nose was dented ironically when Victor reported to the Provincial testing station to comply with a safety inspection that all vehicles were subject to. Victor misjudged distance and pow. The second incident involved a delivery truck in a parking lot who managed to crease the rear quarter panel on Victor's Charger. The car was repaired but having his new car that he was looking after so carefully sustain hits sent Victor for a loop. The final turning point came when Victor came out of work at the end of a long day and found that someone had gone nuts on a bunch of cars in the downtown area. Everyone had their tires slashed. Victor had 4 flats. That did it for him. The Charger SE was retired from daily work driver status and he used his mother's car. His mother viewed her car as a means of transportation. Because she didn't have the same reverence for it as Victor did for his Charger SE it seemed 'OK' to use that car for the daily grind. In retrospect this incident may have been a good thing because it kept the Charger well preserved. The Cordoba based Chargers don't turn up frequently because they were not preserved with near the frequency of earlier Chargers (not counting the hundreds of Chargers destroyed in the making of Dukes of Hazard of course!). Victor has always regularly driven his Charger SE as a pleasure driver and never let it sit for too long. Now that he is retired he attends as many car shows as is possible and really enjoys the company and the trophies.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 22 May 2016 09:41 )