MY MUS­CLE CAR

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Maniac -

Reader: Gary Bridger Cars: 1972 Charger R/T E49 Home­town: Auck­land, NZ What is it? “It’s a gen­uine Chrysler Valiant Charger R/T E49. Colour Mer­cury Sil­ver with the A66 black bon­net op­tion. One of 149 R/T E49s built, one of four with that colour op­tion.” When did you buy it? “I bought it in 1988 so have owned it for 29 years.” Why did you buy it? “Well, I bought a NZ-as­sem­bled Charger brand new back in 1972 and later was blown away af­ter driv­ing an ex-Todd Dealer Charger R/T E38. I also watched Leo Leonard de­stroy all op­po­si­tion on the NZ cir­cuits in his Todd Dealer E49. Af­ter read­ing a 1988 Wheels magazine ar­ti­cle on Aus­tralian mus­cle cars which de­scribed the E49 as ‘the get one at all cost and garage it dol­lar spin­ner’, I started look­ing for one. Not long af­ter that, this E49 popped up for sale in tidy but orig­i­nal con­di­tion and match­ing num­bers. I grabbed it for the princely sum of NZ$11,400. One of the bet­ter de­ci­sions I made in life!” What do you know about its life? “It was sold new in Queens­land be­fore be­ing ex­ported to NZ in 1974. It changed hands many times af­ter that, liv­ing mainly in the south­ern and east­ern North Is­land re­gions. It has never been raced apart from club track events. We gave it a good tidy up in the late 1990s and it ap­peared on the cover of NZ Clas­sic Car magazine twice and in both edi­tions of the Hey Charger book. In fact, we used it as the sam­ple car in the book’s ap­pendix ‘decoding com­pli­ance plate, en­gine num­ber and op­tion codes’. Af­ter rust bub­bles ap­peared in all the wrong places we re­luc­tantly pulled it apart again and 14 years later, it was fi­nally fin­ished in Fe­bru­ary this year.” How does it go? “It drives as well as it looks, ab­so­lutely beau­ti­fully, a credit to Tony, Justin and Dar­ryl Alder­ton at Short Mo­tors Pa­pakura, Auck­land who did the fi­nal assem­bly. I had for­got­ten how heavy the non­power as­sisted steer­ing was, but get it out on a windy piece of moun­tain road and all is for­given! Can’t wait to take it down the South Is­land for a good blast around the NZ South­ern Alps – real E49 ter­ri­tory! NZ Clas­sic Driver magazine did a cover story on the E49 in their May/June is­sue this year in which edi­tor Al­lan Wal­ton wrote, ‘And then there is the surge of power from the Hemi Six en­gine and, of course, the glo­ri­ous sounds pro­duced by that bank of twin-choke We­bers – an in­tox­i­cat­ing au­to­mo­tive sym­phony. The leg­end lives on!’” Any­thing you’d like to add? “I con­sider it a priv­i­lege to be the cus­to­dian of one of the 100 known sur­viv­ing Charger E49s. Be­cause of their dom­i­na­tion on NZ rac­ing cir­cuits, E49s have al­ways had a high sta­tus in NZ, with 24 of the 100 known sur­vivors in the coun­try. It has been very sat­is­fy­ing to see that de­spite not achiev­ing the Holy Grail at Bathurst, Aus­tralians now recog­nise the E49 as one of Aus­tralia’s great­est mus­cle cars of all time.” Gary Bridger is also an AMC con­trib­u­tor and coau­thor of Hey Charger.

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