MY MUSCLE CAR
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.