Every car guy has one, the all-too-common “one that got away” story. My story starts back around 1998 when I found a 1968 Dodge Charger sitting a few minutes from home and ends with the Charger that I would chase for sixteen years but never end up getting.
After seeing what appeared to be a Charger under a tarp behind a neighbor’s house, my dad and I knocked on the door to see if anyone was home. An older man opened the door and said he’d be glad to show us the Charger. He grabbed a corner of the bright blue tarp and pulled it up half way, exposing the driver’s side of a faded orange Charger.
The owner explained that it was his brother’s car and his brother had parked it there in 1995 and left for Poland. It was only supposed to be there for a short time but after four years, there it sat. I opened the door and sat in the driver’s seat as my father talked to the owner. He asked if he would be willing to sell it, and his reply was “Probably for around $10,000,” which was a huge number at the time, and especially for something that needed so much work. My dad thanked him for his time and off we went back home.
A couple years later, we moved away but the Charger never left my mind. Then in 2009, I moved back into the area. Having just gotten my driver’s license, I’d take every chance to drive by the car. A few of my friends in the Mopar community had spotted it too and asked if the car was for sale, where they were met with a very strong “NO!” Suddenly, he didn’t want to sell it.
Two years later, I moved even closer to the car. Not long after, I noticed a real estate sign in front of the house, so I decided to stop by and see if I could talk to the man again. A lady who didn’t speak very much English answered the door. She said the man wasn’t home, so I asked if I could take a look at “that old car” on the side of the house.
She simply nodded yes and pointed to the side of the house before closing the door. I pulled up the driver’s front corner of the tarp, just to get another look at what shape the car was in. From what I could tell, it didn’t seem all that bad. Having seen the car up close after all those years, it really stirred up the desire to have it but I wasn’t financially able to do anything.
In December 2012, I decided to leave a Christmas card in the guy’s mailbox and left a note saying who I was and if he wanted to sell it to please call me. I had some extra cash so I crossed my fingers and hoped for a call. Two months later, I finally got a call saying that he really appreciated the card and if I wanted the car that he would sell it to me. He was selling his house and didn’t want to take it with him so it needed to go.
He said he remembered me as a kid sitting in the car that day and being as I wanted it for all those years, he wanted it to go to me. He invited me over to take a good look and to call him back in a few days with an offer. As soon as I hung up the phone, I went straight over. It turns out the car was indeed a 1968 and a fairly loaded H-code 383 automatic car with bucket seats, a console shift automatic and power windows. It was originally red before being painted orange during the “Dukes of Hazzard” craze. Besides the Hurricane wheels, the biggest oddity was the ’69 taillight panel that had been inexplicably grafted to the ’68 Charger’s rear.
A few days later, I called him back with my offer, which he accepted and told me he would call back in a few days once he got the paperwork from his brother. A few days turned into a week, and then into a few weeks and I still hadn’t heard back. Every time I called, I got his voicemail. I decided to drive past the house to see if the car was still there. Sure enough, it was, however the house was now completely vacant.
I tried calling him again and he finally picked up. Apparently, he had moved just down the road and had left the car there for the time being. Again, he assured me that he’d call as soon he got the papers. Two weeks went by and still no call.
While away for the weekend, I got a call from my uncle saying he had noticed the car was gone. The very next morning, I drove straight to the house and sure enough, there was no Charger to be found. I called the owner right away and asked where the car was. It had been stolen. At some point on the Friday night, someone came with a tow truck and took it. He said he had called the police and they were looking for it. I put the word out hoping to find the car. I tried local storage places, junk yards and impound yards with no luck.
I was so close to finally getting the car I waited years to buy and now the chances of that happening were disappearing every day the car was missing. About three weeks after the car disappeared, I received a phone call from a friend that was pretty sure he had found the Charger sitting in the backyard of a house 30 minutes from where it was stolen from.
I drove straight over. I called the owner right away and told him where it was. The police recovered the car a few hours later. The owner had it towed to his father’s house and said if I still wanted it, he had the paperwork and I could come pick it up the following week.
When I called, all the calls went straight to voicemail. For weeks I tried to contact him. To my surprise, he finally answered. Suddenly, his brother had decided to keep the car, so the deal was off. It was then that I decided it was time to move on.
A few weeks later, the car disappeared out of the front yard of the father’s house. All of this was back in 2013 and I haven’t seen it since. I still have his phone number but he no longer replies. Not a month goes by where I don’t wonder what happened to the car. To this day I also still wonder how that Charger ended up with a 1969 tail panel. I guess I will never know.
*UPDATE 2019: I was contacted by a fellow named Ron who happens to own this Charger now. As it turns out, it switched hands twice after I saw it last and he ended up with it as he’s always wanted a ’68 Charger. He is currently treating the car to a full restoration and has been sending me updates! I’m happy to see the car getting the love it deserves. *