In 1968, Dodge initiated the Dodge Fever campaign, and for many, the fever was ruthless. To reduce the fever, Dodge designated a group of cars for the youth market. The five performance Dodges included the Swinger 340, Dart 340 GTS, Coronet R/T, Super Bee, and the Charger R/T. Picking up one of these Dodges allowed the owner to “Run with the Dodge Scat Pack,” which, it turns out, was a cure for the fever.
While serving in the 1st Cavalry Division stationed in Vietnam, Ronnie Stocks of Southaven, Mississippi, came across a well-read car magazine featuring the new 1968 Dodge Charger. Ronnie’s interest was piqued by the sleek lines and the awe-inspiring power of the 426 Hemi. After letting the idea of a new Charger bounce around in his head for a week or so, Ronnie decided he needed a Charger R/T of his own, and it had to have a Hemi under the hood.
Ronnie contacted his father to send a package of the latest Dodge brochures and a dealer order form. Upon receiving the handouts, Ronnie checked off the options he wanted and sent the order form back to his parents. Ronnie’s father delivered the order form to Fort Dodge, Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee (Ronnie’s hometown in 1968).
Two weeks before shipping out of Vietnam, Ronnie was informed that his beautiful MM1 bronze Charger R/T sporting a black vinyl top arrived at the dealership. So, on June 8, 1968, not even a day after arriving from overseas, Ronnie was staring at his Charger. After being handed the key, Ronnie inserted it into the ignition, twisted it, and ignited the Hemi and a life-long love for the Charger R/T.
At first, the Charger was used for high-speed trips between Memphis and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, until his discharge from the service. Once out of the military, the Charger was used as a daily driver. It was run down the tarmac at Lakeland International Raceway on the weekends.
The Charger was slowly modified as the 15×6-inch “steelies” were exchanged for a set of Cragar GT mags. The factory exhaust manifolds gave way for a pair of Hooker headers, and an Accel coil replaced the factory coil. Finally, Ronnie removed the black crinkle paint from the valve covers and had them chromed for a bit of flash.
When Ronnie was drag (and street) racing the Charger, he removed all the R/T and Hemi badging. Coupled with the bumblebee stripe delete (he ordered the Charger without the stripes), many would-be street racers were surprised into thinking they were picking on a feeble 318 or moderate 383 instead of an awe-inspiring pachyderm.
By 1973, swiftly rising fuel costs due to the oil embargo and insurance surcharges escalating nearly as quickly, Ronnie ended the Charger’s daily driving duties. As a result, the Charger’s usage was decreased until it was finally put in storage. In 1982, Ronnie attempted to sell the low-mileage Charger, but it garnered only one person’s interest. Disappointed, Ronnie changed his mind and kept the Charger.
By 1986, Ronnie elected to freshen the Charger, but he had difficulty finding the factory Hemi 10.25:1 pistons. He finally contacted Herb McCandless to mill a set of eight 12.5:1 pistons down to the lower compression ratio. The body of the Charger had developed a small amount of rust at the sail panels. In 1987, the rust was repaired, and the Charger was reshot in factory MM1 Bronze Poly paint. After the paintwork was completed, a new-old-stock (NOS) black vinyl top was reapplied to the Charger.
Since the refreshing in the late-80s, the Charger has been occasionally driven to local car shows. In addition, it is towed to the more significant Mopar events throughout the United States. However, as the value of his 1 of 211 Hemi, four-speed ’68 Chargers has grown, Ronnie has reduced its time driven on the street. The value of the Charger has risen dramatically, and Ronnie knows that it cannot be replaced if it is damaged in an accident.
Even though it is rarely driven, it “starred” in several scenes of the Cinemax series Quarry. It can be seen in numerous scenes filmed in downtown Memphis in June and July of 2015. Long before its TV appearance, the Charger made its big-screen debut in the summer of 1971 in the movie Two-Lane Blacktop. The Charger can be seen in the Lakeland International Raceway staging lanes with careful attention to the drag racing scene.
After almost 55 years as part of the family, Ronnie’s Charger continues to attract crowds at every car show it attends. However, it still astonishes Ronnie when someone stops by to sneak a peek into the engine bay to marvel at the mammoth valve covers. So, when walking the rows of Mopars at a car show, and you see a crowd around a bronze Hemi Charger R/T, please stop by and glance at the Hemi and introduce yourself to Ronnie; he has more than five decades of Dodge Fever stories to share.