The Truth About Cars » R/T The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:45:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » R/T Vellum Venom: 1970 Dodge Charger RT-SE Tue, 17 Sep 2013 13:21:13 +0000

My departure from the cloistered world of automotive design was anything but pleasant: leaving the College for Creative Studies scarred changed me, possibly ensuring the inability to conform to PR-friendly autoblogging. Luckily I am not alone. While Big Boss Man rests in Chrysler’s doghouse, a remotely nice comment about their door handles perked the ears of the local Chrysler PR rep…and she tossed me a bone.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Hovas’ Hemi Hideout: so here’s a slice of Mopar history worthy of a deep dive into the Vellum. Oh, thanks for the invite, Chrysler.


An unforgettable face: the iconic 1968-1970 design was Chrysler’s most memorable effort to spook insurance and safety special interest groups into forcing “better” vehicles on the public. Sure, we’re better off now, but is a fragile chrome halo of a bumper really that useless?

Isn’t this bumper (and complex hidden headlights) worth the extra insurance premiums? Worth it to have a disturbingly clean and minimalist design?  Probably not…


But still, you can’t argue with how stunning and shocking this is.  While nothing like Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, the Charger’s front clip is a timeless work of art.  The blackout grille extends over the headlights, encased in a deep silver rim, topped with a chrome bumper…wrapped up with a name: Charger R/T.  This nose and this name made a promise to would-be new car racers of the era, and its aged phenomenally well.

That said, my favorite grille of this body style was the cleanest: the 1968 Charger was the one to have. It makes the otherwise clean 1970 Charger look downright fussy!


Things fall apart as you look closer, however.  Maybe the solid grilles over the headlights look cheap, and the panel gaps are too sloppy. The round signal lights look like a leftover assembly from the 1950s. Or perhaps the license plate should be located even lower as to not interfere with the bumper’s strong minimal form.


Even though the front end looks flat from many angles…

Note how the chrome bumper tapers in near the headlights, then pushes back out at the ends of the fenders. The silver rim accentuates this dance, ditto the fenders and hood.  But that black sheet of grille?  It peaks at the middle and nothing more.  The different high/low spots are phenomenally beautiful, it is fantastically executed on this front fascia.  5

The hood’s recesses and that strong center mohawk add a bit of excitement to an otherwise far-too-subtle design for a Mopar Muscle car. If you had a problem with Mopar Minimalism!


Somehow I doubt the meaty rubber trim does anything to protect the Charger’s painted body from the front bumper.  Not to mention the horrible fitment of this (replacement?) trim. I’d hate to be a broke-ass dude in the 1980s when someone slams their 5-mph bumper’d Monte Carlo into my otherwise cherry 1970 Charger.  The damage would be extensive…and would go unrepaired!



Hood pins are cool…but following their cable to this horrendous gap in the rubber trim leaves much to be desired. Damn, son!

7_1But it’s less offensive when you step back a little.


The only thing cooler than Rallye wheels and Goodyear white letter polyglass tires on this Charger would be the new-age 17″ repros with fat steel-belted rubber.  I love the proportioning of a proper 1970s muscle car with 17″ rolling stock: it’s perfection.


The hard bend (with a slight upward angle) at the end of the fenders just “ends” me. It’s another snapshot on vehicle design that emulates the timelessness of the infinity pool in modern architecture. Combine with the Charger’s long front end and deep fenders (i.e. the space between the hood cutline and the end of the fender) and this is simply a fantastic element.


The hood’s negative areas add some necessary excitement, otherwise this would be too boring for an American muscle car.  There’s just too much real estate not to do…something!


The signal repeaters at the beginning of the negative area’s cove are a styling element that I wish could come back.  But no, we need standard bluetooth and keyless ignitions instead…probably.


I’d trade all that standard technology for a hood this menacing, this modern.

Mid Century Muscle?

Mad Men Mopar?

Don Draper’s mid-life crisis machine?

All of the above. 13
The intersection of the cowl, fender, hood and door isn’t terribly elegant.  Newer cars have “hidden” cowls, an advancement that’d make the Charger shine. Because not having the fenders and hood sweep over THIS space does THAT front end a huge disservice.  Plus the panel gaps kinda suck, too.

At least there’s no DLO fail.  But imagine this angle with the 1980s technology of hidden cowl panels!


A little faster A-pillar would also be nice, it’s too static just like the cowl. But asking for such changes 40 years later is beyond idiotic. And while the R/T door scoop isn’t nearly as hideous as the afterthought scoop on the 1999 Ford Mustang, you gotta wonder how “ricey” this looked to old school hot-rodders making sleepers out of Tri-Five Chevys and boring 1960s sedans.


The pivot point for the vent window is an interesting bit of kit.


Chrome elbow sleeves, because a computer couldn’t bend/cut one piece of bling for us back then. Bummer.


Yeah, the R/T’s useless scoop is pretty much Muscle Car Rice.  While it kinda accentuates the genesis of the door’s muscular bulge, it’s completely superfluous. 19

Chrysler’s side view mirrors for the time were pretty cool by themselves…but they didn’t match the max wedge (get it?) demeanor of the front end.  20
I never noticed the three lines inside the R/T’s slash.  Definitely adds some excitement without today’s emblem marketing overkill.


Note how the R/T scoop does match the contrasting muscular wedge of the door.  Problem is, the scoop is obviously a tacked-on afterthought.  Negative area like the hood was a smarter alternative. But the interplay between doors lower wedge and the strong upper wedge coming from the fender is quite fetching.  As if the Charger is ripped from spending years a the gym.


Yup, toned and perfected at the gym.  Too bad the door handles belong on Grandma’s Plymouth.  Perhaps we all shamelessly raid the parts bin…22_1

The SE package was always the Super Classy Excellent model to have.  The vinyl top, these “proto-brougham” emblems and the interior upgrades are totally worth it. What’s up with the pure modern “SE” lettering with that almost malaise-y script below to explain what SE stands for? I’d cut the emblem in the middle and only use the upper half.

I’d save the lower half for the disco era, natch. I mean, obviously!


Vintage Mopar marketing sticker?  Check.


Classic Detroit is present in the Charger’s profile.  Long hood, long dash-to-axle ratio, long fastback roof, long quarter panels and a long deck. That’s a lotta long!

The only thing too short are those doors: the cutline should extend several inches back for maximum flow.  And from the subtle curve in the front fender to the stunning hips above the rear axle, does the Charger ever flow!


Aside from the obvious problem with rearward visibility, how can you hate this buttress’d roof?  The fastback C-pillar is a long, daring and classy affair when trimmed with chrome and textured vinyl.  Keeping the roof from being too boring was the rear window’s use of a different vanishing point than the C-pillar, which translates into a different stop on the blue body.


To make up for the different vanishing points, more chrome and vinyl. I can dig it, but perhaps such design novelties are better off on a less mainstream product.  Or perhaps not…because how many people wanted a Charger back in 1970?  And how many people want one now?  Me thinks the number is exponentially higher today.

Yes, I know these pictures suck. But you can’t imagine how painful it was to coax a cheapie digital camera to do the right thing under the harsh lighting provided by half a million dollars worth of vintage neon lights. And now I hate neon lights.


Chrome and vinyl: so happy together.


The different vanishing points for the C-pillar and rear window make for a little problem: the trunk’s cutline should be much closer to the rear window.  And while that’d make a stupid-long trunk, it would look stupid cool.

Just in case you didn’t know where the new Challenger got that fuel door idea from. Too bad the new Challenger doesn’t have the Charger RT’s sense of chrome trimmings elsewhere to integrate it into the package.  That said, this is a beautiful piece of outstanding metal on a minimalistic body. Which makes it a wart…and by definition, warts must be destroyed.

Killed with fire. Or splashed with acid.  Or whatever it takes for a Dermatologist to knock ‘em off a beautiful body.


A part of me wishes the Charger’s back-end had the same round chrome bumper treatment as the front.  And no chrome around the red tail lights.  Actually just graft the front end entirely back here, and replace the black grille with red tail lights. A bit stupid perhaps, but it’d make a completely cohesive and eye-catching design.


That said, the Charger ain’t no slouch in the posterior.  The vertical bumperettes need to find lodging elsewhere, ditto the round backup lights.  But the space between the lights is the perfect location for a branding emblem, and the impossibly thin decklid looks quite sharp.


There’s a subtle dovetail at the end of the trunk, a nod to modern aerodynamic designs. I love it, don’t you?


Can’t say the same for the undefined space between the rear bumper and the quarter panel.  Yeesh, this was acceptable in 1970?


The trunk’s gap also leaves something to be desired. While I like the interplay between the chrome bumper and the tail light trim above the license plate area, it’s a bit too subtle.  Wait, did I actually mean what I said?

The difference in “heights” at the license plate should either be a bit more aggressive, or completely, exactly the same as the rest of the light/bumper ratio.


Maybe the crude black paint on the tail light’s chrome trim is the byproduct of a terrible restoration…but considering factory correct restorations elsewhere include similarly sloppy craftsmanship to mimic the factory…

Oh boy.


The tail lights are sunken significantly into the body, just like the grille up front.  Me likey enough to adore: such use of aggressive negative areas needs to come back in a BIG way.


There’s something about the chrome trim’s application around the trunk lock…


Even the camera-infurating action of all those neon lights can’t hide the ugliness here. Maybe my idea of having an all-encompassing chrome bumper instead of chrome around the tail light isn’t such a stupid idea after all. It’d certainly address this problem.


The round backup light does this design no favors. Exposed screws on the chrome bezel makes it worse. Weren’t there some square lenses Chrysler coulda parts-bin’d instead?

38 No matter: the 1970 Charger is an unforgettable machines.  I can’t imagine owning one when new, only to move on to tackier metal from the disco era.  And if a 1970 Charger owner was loyal enough to stick around during the Iaococca era and beyond, well, they’d be justified to hate everything made after 1970. Just look at that roof!

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

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Review: 2011 Dodge Charger R/T Take One Wed, 11 May 2011 20:53:04 +0000

So I’m driving a $69,000 Cadillac CTS-V, and it makes me wonder—if you can only spend half as much, how much performance do you sacrifice? And if you can spend twice as much, how much can you gain? Today, the first question. If you’re seeking a V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive sedan, but have a budget in the mid-30s, the 2011 Dodge Charger R/T is your only option.

For 2011, Dodge has excised the aggressive chunkiness from the Charger’s exterior, substituting smoothly flowing curves. Scallops in the hood and bodysides provide a link to the classic 1968-70 car. The sedan’s face remains suitably menacing, with a large, protruding crosshairs grille. This face notwithstanding, the new Charger is prettier, and less distinctive. Though the 199.9×75.0×58.4-inch exterior dimensions remain about the same, the new car looks longer, with too much visual mass for $995 of bright red paint. The no-extra-charge metallic gray of the tested car much better suits the big body. Even so attired, the Charger lacks upscale aspirations—that’s the related Chrysler 300’s territory. Instead, the Charger’s achieved intent is “four-door muscle car.”

The same is the case inside the new Charger: more flowing lines, limited luxury. The silver patterned trim plate that spans two-thirds of the instrument panel has a retro vibe, though the materials and workmanship here and elsewhere in the interior are mostly up to 2011 standards. Some switches continue to look and feel cheap, and some elements lack finesse. For example, why is the hood over the instruments a couple inches thick? The entire instrument panel could be much more compact with no loss in functionality. The graphics on the 8.4” touchscreen are unusually large, good for usability but not so good for a refined appearance. The best part of the interior: the attractively styled, comfortably upholstered door panels. The most disappointing: the $3,000 Road & Track package no longer includes the aggressively bolstered seats from the SRT8. Instead, synthetic suede center panels have been added to the Charger’s minimally bolstered, less enticing standard seats.

The windshield has been laid back a few degrees, and the windows have been enlarged about 15 percent, so the view from the driver’s seat is considerably less gangsta than before. Given the size of the instrument panel, though, drivers under 6-2 will still want to raise the seat, and even then will feel like they’re wearing a car that’s a couple sizes too large. On the other hand, those who shop at the “big and tall” store might find the XXL interior they’ve been looking for. Room is similarly plentiful in the comfortably high back seat. Perhaps because of its encapsulated conventional hinges, the trunk isn’t as roomy as before (15.4 vs. 16.2 cubic feet). Some midsize sedans have more space for cargo. A split folding rear seat remains standard.

The Charger R/T’s standard 5.7-liter V8 kicks out 370 horsepower at an easily accessible 5,250 rpm, and sounds good while doing so. Torque: 395 foot-pounds at 4,200 rpm. A far cry from the CTS-V’s 556 horsepower, but still about 100 more than in the typical V6-powered midsize sedan. Even though the curb weight is up over 200 pounds, to 4,253, this is a quick car, with a zero-to-sixty in the low fives. Impediments to visceral thrills lie elsewhere. Effective soundproofing reduces the sensation of acceleration and responses to the throttle lack immediacy. The ancient Mercedes-Benz five-speed automatic deserves much of the blame for the latter. A new eight-speed automatic, available with the V6 at the start of the 2012 model year and with the V8 at some point in the future, should improve responsiveness and acceleration. A six-speed manual would provide an even more direct, responsive connection, but this option is restricted to the related Challenger coupe.

The Charger’s chassis similarly feels distant and slow to respond. The Road & Track Package didn’t only lose the SRT’s seats this year. It also lost SRT-like suspension tuning. In standard Charger R/T tune the steering feels light and numb. In sharp contrast to the CTS-V and the late, lamented Pontiac G8, where progressive oversteer can be dialed in almost intuitively, with the Charger it’s necessary to dig deep into the throttle to affect the attitude of the chassis. Though lean in turns is moderate, the Charger always feels every bit as large and heavy as it is. Easy to control, certainly, and far from the floaty land yachts of yore, but a satisfying tight connection between man and machine proves elusive. A $400 Super Track Pak, which includes firmer suspension tuning, should help, but how much? Unless this package makes a huge difference, the Charger simply isn’t in the same league as the CTS-V dynamically. Instead, it’s a modern embodiment of the classic large American sedan, complete with a (mostly) smooth, quiet ride. More controlled and capable, but the spirit remains the same.

Ultimately, the Charger R/T isn’t remotely a half-price substitute for a CTS-V. Compared to the Cadillac, the Dodge feels large, soft, lethargic, and disconnected. Whatever was done to make the revised Grand Caravan ride and handle so well needs to be done here, and hopefully will be done for the upcoming SRT. As is, I didn’t much enjoy driving the big sedan. Nevertheless, the Charger does fill a gaping hole in the market. In every way save trunk space it’s a superior substitute for Ford’s Panthers, now in their final months of production. With ample V8 power, predictable handling, a quiet ride, and a roomy interior, the Charger should fill the Crown Vic’s shoes quite nicely. Watch your speed, or you’ll see a big crosshair grille (further enhanced with flashing lights) in your rearview mirror often.

Bryan Galczynski of Suburban Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep in Novi, MI, provided the car. Bryan can be reached at 248-427-7767.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive reliability and pricing data

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