1968 Dodge Charger III
Images: www.autoweteran.gower.pl; www.motortrend.com - Matt Stone; www.hamtramck-historical.com
The Dodge Viper that shouldn’t have been and wasn’t
CHARGER III, THE MOST AERODYNAMIC CAR EVER CONCEIVED AND BUILT BY DODGE, is an experimental two-seater only 42 inches high, 184 inches long, and 73 inches wide. Features include jet-aircraft-type canopy, swing-away steering wheel, elevating bucket seats, spoiler-type air brake flaps. Twin hood scoops supplement air entering engine compartment through grille. Side scoops ram cooling air to rear brakes.
CHARGER III, Dodge Division's sporty experimental car, which contains many of the gauges and instruments found in the 1968 Charger passenger version, is on tour of auto shows throughout the country. The low-slung "Candy Apple" red two-seater is only 3 1/2 feet high.
CHARGER III's spoiler-type air brake flaps are synchronized with regular braking system. Twin quick-fill gas caps and stop lights, which supplement the full-width taillight, are located under flaps. With no rear window, pop-up mirror is used for rear, wide-angle vision. Switch console is located at driver's left and includes controls for lights, temperature, radio, wipers. Service hatch permits routine checks of battery, electrical fuses, oil and water, without having to raise hood.
Space age interior of Dodge Charger III contains specially contoured bucket seats with integral head restraints, resembling space capsule acceleration couches. seats automatically move forward and upward as canopy raises and steering wheel swings away. Center console houses transmission selector lever, parking brake and passenger assist handle. Recessed switch console at driver's left include controls for lights, radio, heater, etc.
The Charger III was the most aerodynamic car built by Chrysler Corporation. The experimental car is long, low-slung, and sleek. The Charger III is built upon the ideas learned in the development of it predecessor, the Charger II.
The jet fighter styled Charger was designed in Dodge’s styling studios, and constructed in secrecy at an old brick building along Detroit’s water front. The futuristic experimental design showcases new ideas that may be standard in the future Chrysler models.
Dodge’s general manager Robert B. McCurry stated, "Charger III is an idea car. Or, it might better be called an exchange of ideas. This experimental vehicle is our way of showing the public some of the design and engineering concepts which we have developed. From the public, we learned what they would like (or not like) to see in tomorrow’s automobile. That is why we conduct special consumer surveys at auto shows. Many of the features seen in Charger III might well be included in our cars in the not too distant future."
The Charger III’s body is painted with a custom "Candy Apple" red paint. The Charger III has no doors or windows that open. Instead, with the push of a button a jet aircraft style canopy swing up. The twin bucket seats elevate eight inches while the steering wheel pod assembly swings away to aid in driver entry. Once the driver is seated, another push of the button closes the canopy and return the steering wheel and seats to their proper orientation.
The long tapered hood houses the concealed headlights and twin air scoops with debris shields. As with the Charger II, the Charger III will accept any of the Dodge V8 engines including the 426 cu-in Hemi. One of the Charger’s experimental features include an engine service hatch. The hatch is located at the rear of the driver’s front fender. The service hatch includes gauges that can quickly check the fluid level of the engine oil, engine coolant, and battery fluid. The gauges replace the traditional dip-sticks, and aid in fast maintenance checks. The hatch also houses the vehicle’s electrical fuses.
The rear of the Charger houses the experimental braking system. Three air brake flaps are synchronized with the Charger’s regular braking system and acts as a supplementary "air foil" brake. Locked under the brake flaps are twin quick fill gas caps. The rear finish panel houses the full width taillight system and the twin rectangular exhaust tips.
The interior of the Charger III is space craft inspired. Astronaut style bucket seats have integrated head rests and quick release seat belts. The full length center console houses the automatic transmission selector lever, parking brake lever, passenger assist handle, and onboard chemical fire extinguisher. As with the Charger II, the Charger III has no vent windows. Fresh air in brought through scoops at the base of the windshield canopy. The fresh air circulates throughout the interior and is exhausted through rear vents.
The lower left portion pf the canopy houses the integrated driver controls such as lighting, windshield washers, wipers, radio, heater, and air conditioning. The driver’s swing away instrument pod incorporates speedometer, tachometer, clock, and engine gauges. All of the driver controls and swing away pod instrumentation are utilized from a standard 1968 Dodge Charger.
The Dodge Charger III concept car hails from 1969. Press materials of the day highlighted its "jet-aircraft-type canopy, swing-away steering wheel, elevating bucket seats, and spoiler-type air-brake flaps." We wish we knew what "elevating bucket seats" were all about, but the notion sounds fascinating.
It’s obvious rearward visibility wasn’t much of a concern. It is clear, however, that Dodge was aiming for its share of the Corvette’s audience; the front-end styling smacks of the Mako Shark-inspired third-generation Vettes. The Charger design team must have had a photo of the Peter Brock-designed Shelby Daytona Cobra Type 65 hanging in the studio, as that car’s overall proportions and sawed-off Kamm tail are unmistakably present on the Charger, in profile and from the rear.
The Charger III remained a stillborn dream machine, and it took Dodge more than 25 years to bring its basic design statement to life in the form of the Viper GTS. Which proves that even a good idea may need some time to find the light of day.
Source: Dodge Public Relations; www.coachbuilt.com; www.motortrend.com