The year was 1969. And when it came to performance, there’s no question that it was a very good year, just like the title of the popular Frank Sinatra song from mid-decade. Muscle cars roamed the streets in ever increasing numbers all over the country, and it seemed as though the party would never end. The Big Three knew a good thing when they saw it, and kept churning out exciting new models powered by engines with ever increasing horsepower every year. To say that nearly everyone wanted in on the action was an understatement, and colorful cars, many with exotic sounding names, flew off dealer lots as fast as Detroit could build them.
Over at the Dodge Boys, 1969 was another banner year. After the record sales Dodge enjoyed in ’68 thanks in no small part to a fresh lineup of great looking B-Body muscle cars marketed under the catchy “Run With The Scat Pack” moniker, the rationale for the new year was why mess with success. Enthusiasts were undeniably enamored with the all of the models, but none made a bigger splash than the incredible new Charger.
Above: The Dodge White Hat Special ad campaign was pure eye candy for the enthusiast, thanks to the captivating appearance of the 1969 Charger, especially when accompanied by a pretty girl in a mini dress, Go-Go Boots and a white hat.
Above left: White interior with Rally cluster, buckets, console and a 4-speed looks factory fresh. Above center: Hurst Competition Plus ready to shift the gears on the A-833. Above right: Rally instrument cluster even includes a Tick Tock Tach.
Entering its sophomore year, the Charger continued unchanged other than details such as a new split grille and revised tail lights. The dramatic wedge shape, complemented by Coke® bottle styling and a recessed backlight made the Charger one of the most beautiful cars to ever come out of Motor City. As an added bonus, engine options even included the mighty Hemi, providing it with the plenty of power to match its incredible good looks. Management at Dodge led by the well-respected Bob McCurry knew that they had a solid gold hit on their hands and weren’t about to mess with success, especially after recording a whopping 300 percent increase in Charger sales in 1968 over the preceding year.
Dodge advertising reflected the times, and beautiful girls were an integral part of the marketing. For 1969, the tag line was Dodge Fever, and the model chosen for the campaign was Joan Parker. A wholesome little pixie, she quickly became the face of Dodge in television, magazine and newspaper ads, in addition to appearances at automobile shows and events around the country. Wearing a white mini dress, chain belt and Go-Go boots, Joan exemplified the look of the flower power era and was a perfect fit for ads promoting the youthful looking Dodges. If you liked muscle cars, especially those with a high performance mill under the hood, there’s a good chance that you had Dodge Fever, and the only way to cure it was to get yourself an exciting new ’69 Dodge.
Among the challenges automakers faced after the new models debuted in the fall was how to keep the excitement going throughout the model year. One of the popular methods developed by the Madison Avenue ad agencies to drive sales during the year were seasonal ad campaigns. Dodge, much like their competition, was no exception, and in the spring of ’69 launched the White Hat Special promotion. A special accessory package offered at a discounted price, the White Hat Specials were available on Chargers, Coronets and Darts. And enhancing the ads was Joan Parker’s smiling face in her trademark white mini dress and matching Go-Go boots. And to tie in with the Dodge White Hat Special tag line, Joan even sported a white cowboy hat.
Above: Side profile shot of the ’69 Charger R/T in front of Superdawg.
Above left: New for 1969 split grille added detail to wedge looking front. Hidden headlights were all the rage in the late 1960’s and made the front of the Charger look even wider. Above right: Yeah, it’s got a Hemi! Door emblem leaves no doubt as to what’s under the hood.
The White Hat Special was a successful seasonal program that was followed by many others during the ensuing years. But 1969 stands out as a very special year for Dodge. It was a time when the planets aligned thanks to exceptionally good looking cars that offered exceptional performance and great value in each segment.
In 2013, at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals, we spotted a spectacular 1969 Charger R/T on display. An original numbers matching 426 Hemi, equipped with an A833 4-speed and Dana 60, this B-5 Blue stunner represented the ultimate Charger for many of us, both in looks and performance. We were so enamored with this Mopar that we spoke to the owner, Ted Wolff, about scheduling a photo shoot with the Charger the next time we were in Chicago. Earlier this summer, we were able to connect with Ted, who fortunately still had the Charger.
Just like real estate, the old saying “location, location, location” can make the difference between a photo shoot that’s merely ordinary and one that is truly memorable. When we set up the shoot date with Ted, he suggested that we photograph the Charger at Superdawg in Wheeling, Illinois.
Above: The legendary dual quad 426 cubic inch Hemi needs no introduction. It was and remains the standard that all performance engines are measured by.
Above left: Details abound on the 1969 Charger R/T, like this highly detailed racing style flip fuel cap. Above center: Dodge made the Charger chrome script on the sail panel big, bold and proud. Enthusiasts fell in love with the Charger as soon as they saw it, and Dodge had a lot to be proud of for creating a vehicle that was a standout. Above right: The original fender tag tells it all. Let’s decode it: XS29 stands for Charger R/T. In the J9B segment, the J represents 426 Hemi, 9 is for 1969 and the B is for the Hamtramck plant in Michigan. The last six are the sequential serial number.
A real sixties style drive in restaurant, Superdawg has the obligatory drive thru, but what we really liked were the spaces where you can park, order your food over an intercom and be serviced by a real car hop on roller skates, just like in the movie American Graffiti. It sounded perfect, so we made a quick call to Laura Berman, who runs Superdawg and is a grand-daughter of the original founders. A family business since the 1940’s, Laura has hosted numerous magazine shoots at Superdawg and was very receptive to us photographing the Charger there.
Scheduling an outdoor photo shoot in advance in Chicago can be a crap shoot at best, because of the propensity for unpredictable weather in the Windy City. But it must have been our lucky day, or maybe it was the rabbit’s foot we brought with us. Regardless of the reason, the weather gods smiled on us, and the day of the shoot dawned sunny and warm. The theme of the shoot centered on capturing the mood and visuals of the original White Hat Special and Dodge Fever marketing campaigns.
We knew from experience that choosing the right vehicle was a key element in achieving our goal, and the Charger was the perfect candidate with its white vinyl top, white bumble bee stripe and a white interior, all of which contrasted perfectly with the flawless B5 Blue paint. The other part of the puzzle was a girl who could stand in for Joan Parker, the original Dodge Fever model. Fortunately, we had the perfect person with Debbie, our very own Dodge Fever Girl. Debbie’s fun and spontaneous to work with, and having shot Mopars with her numerous times during the past several years both on location and at events like the SEMA Show we knew that she would be the perfect model for the shoot.
Above left: The dramatic wedge shape, complemented by Coke bottle styling and recessed backlight made the 1968 thru 1970 Charger one of the most beautiful cars to ever come out of Motor City. Above right: The tail lights on the Charger were revised for 1969 and were significantly different than the Euro style round lamps featured on the ’68.
Above: There’s not a bad line on the 1969 Charger. Its styling is timeless, and Chargers like this one are just as popular today as when they were new.
We met up with Ted Wolff at his home. The Charger was sitting in the driveway basking in the warm summer sun. Followed Ted to Superdawg, listening to the big, bad 426 Hemi going up and down through the gears was all it took to get us juiced up. The location was perfect, the Charger was photogenic and Debbie added just the right touch to the period perfect recreation.
A big thanks to Ted Wolff for letting us photograph his 1969 Charger R/T. If you’re looking for a great Mopar muscle car, the Charger is for sale. Call Show Your Auto at 847-838-3749 or check out their website at www.showyourauto.com. Also, we would like to thank Laura Berman at Superdawg. She was the perfect host, and opened the doors to Superdawg early just for us. Laura was instrumental in helping us capture the essence of a very magical period in muscle car history.