My 1969 Dodge Charger Project Car Finally Roared Back to Life This Weekend

Stay tuned for the finale of my seven-month bodywork battle.

byHank O'Hop|
1969 Dodge Charger 440
Hank O'Hop


Nothing worth doing is easy. At least, that's what I've been telling myself as I've endured every grueling hour that's stood between me and a colorized version of my 1969 Dodge Charger. I've torn it down to nothing and have been building it back up since late December of 2022. And though I saved myself a lot of work by fixing a ton of rust issues five years ago, not an inch of this uphill battle has come easy. 

Every last step has been a test of my patience. It's almost like me promising that I'd do everything right this time around inspired the car to issue a challenge at every turn. Nothing has gone smoothly. I haven't walked away unscathed. Heck, I'm barely even walking at this point. Yet, here I am, complete with a now-running (not driving) car.

The walls shook, my heart raced, and the tension in my shoulders vanished.

Slow cranking and out of tune.  I'll Take it, though. <em>Hank O'Hop</em>
Slow cranking and out of tune. I'll Take it, though. Hank O'Hop

Nearly a week ago today, I found myself looking upon what is easily one of my greatest accomplishments in life. Aside from some bits of trim, the plumbing, and the wiring that would make it run, there before me stood the war steed I'd spent the better part of a decade rescuing and returning to its former glory. It wasn't perfect, nor was it intended to be, but it was the sum total of all my hard work. A testament to my willingness to go the distance and achieve something many would deem futile. It's everything it needed to be in that moment. 

Standing back and admiring all I had achieved in the past half-year may have been uplifting, and even put a lump in my throat, but I'd needed a little more to restore my fortitude. By that point, my blood was boiling and even the most minor setback would send me on a tangent. Luckily, a work trip wouldn't just take me away from the project, but put me up close and personal with methanol-drinking blown big blocks, and even some mean second-generation Hemis, that always seem to breathe new life into me. It did.

Hank O'Hop

And on the eve of Independence Day, I found myself hammering out the many small steps that had once seemed impossible. I moved through electrical and plumbing as though it were second nature. Sure, I found some issues along the way, but none stopped me dead in my tracks like they did when I was run to the ground just days earlier. 

Before I knew it, the moment was upon me. The tank had fresh gas in it, the battery was topped off, and everything was hooked up. All that was left was to turn the key and let that 440 eat. I had expected something to go horribly wrong as it did with every step leading up to this point, but that wasn't the case. Just moments before the holiday kicked off, it was as though Lady Liberty herself had granted new power to the Chrysler Wedge, and it erupted with life.

After every test I've faced in the past seven months, the Charger lives on, and it's only a matter of days until it's road-ready.

You'll have to wait until I'm totally done with assembling it to see the semi-finished product, but I will say that the healthy roar of the engine confirms that it is once again, as its name implies, a horse worthy of being ridden into battle.