The Dodge Charger is a cultural legend. It’s one of the most iconic shapes in muscle car history, thanks in part to some of cinema’s most famous car-chase scenes.
Terry Mourched grew up idolising the tough muscle cars that he saw in magazines, and they don’t come much tougher than the Charger. “Being from a very humble background, purchasing Street Machine was the closest thing I could get to experiencing one of these dream cars,” Terry says. “I saved my pocket money and did chores every week to be able to buy a copy each month, and I rarely missed an issue.”
The car had to be neat but Terry’s main objective was always to drive rather than show it
Fast forward 25 years and now Terry has his very own blown Mopar on the cover of the magazine, and it took armfuls of silverware at Summernats 27, including the prestigious People’s Choice, Top Special Effects Paint, Top Pro Street, Top 10 Elite Hall, PPG Supreme Finalist and Best of Breed in the Meguiar’s Superstars.
Terry credits his passion for Mopars to Fred Soleiman from Protrans Performance Automatics. Fred’s got a reputation for building tough transmissions and he’s also Terry’s older cousin, so he used to remember checking out Fred’s, and Fred’s late brother Colin’s, various Mopars.
“We’d pester Mum and Dad to go around to Fred’s parent’s place, just so we could see what Fred and Colin had in the garage,” Terry recalls.
Now that he’s older with a family of his own, Terry felt the time was right to build a car of his own, and after stumbling across a ’68 Charger project, he consulted Fred for advice. It was the smartest thing he could have done.
“I bought the Charger as a rolling shell out of South Australia. It had seats, but no motor or trans, and hundreds of parts in boxes. Fred is family and he was the only guy I trusted,” Terry says. “After getting burnt by the first shop I sent the car to, Fred put me on to Glen at GD Racecars. Fred had great respect for his work, and Glen lived up to his reputation.”
Even bone stock, a ’68 Charger is an impressive car, but what the boys had in mind was a long way from factory.
Glen started by fabricating the motor plates, frame-strengthening members, rear floorpans, boot floor, transmission tunnel, custom flat firewall, custom radiator, mini-tubs and sheet-metal fuel tank, along with shaving and tucking the bumpers. Underneath he fitted one of his awesome sheet-metal nine-inches, and filled it with a Detroit Locker and Mark Williams 35-spline axles. The lot is swung off a custom four-link with a Watts linkage to locate it.
Up the front Fred had already sourced the Wilwood six-pot front to match the four-pot rear brakes, and the factory K-frame was ditched for a sweet Magnum Force tubular front-end, featuring rack-and-pinion steering, new control arms and coilover struts.
With the underpinnings sorted, they started shopping around for someone to do the body, and it didn’t take long for them to push the Charger through the doors of another Mopar man – Danny Makdessi of Custom Bodyworks.
After collaborating on ZERO’D, Danny asked Dez Knight of Knight’s Panel Works to wave his magic hands over the Charger’s beautiful lines. Dez started commuting from Orange to Danny’s shop in Bankstown to get the shell into shape.
“You don’t understand how much work goes into the body until you see it day in, day out,” Terry says. “They file-finished it and the lines on the car were amazing – it was good enough to clear and leave it.
“I lost count of the times the car was sprayed in levelling primer and rubbed back to metal again. Danny was relentless in his ambition to get the body perfect – he never looked at the clock as it wasn’t about the hours for him.”
While it would have looked bitchin’ left bare, the House of Kolor Violet Kandy top coat is a bang-on choice. It pays homage to legendary muscle car-era colours like Plum Crazy and Wild Violet, but the depth and richness of the finish is pure Elite Hall porn and a credit to all the hard work that Danny, Dez and the team at Custom Bodyworks put into the shell.
Being surrounded by such dedicated, talented craftsmen is what Terry credits for the amazing result. “In all honesty the car wouldn’t be here without Fred managing the build. I am not ashamed to tell people that I personally did very little on this car. I’m not gifted with the ability to create cars with my hands, but I am gifted in other areas, and that allows me to pay the gifted car guys what they deserve.”
Fred even sourced the blown Ray Barton Hemi out of the States. For any Mopar freak the words ‘Ray Barton’ and ‘Hemi’ can only mean one thing: bulk horsepower. The Charger scored a 426-cube Barton motor, with 4340 steel crank, forged pistons, H-beam rods, custom aluminium sump, aluminium heads and a filthy great 8/71 pump topped with twin APD carbs.
It’s been run to 1000hp and 900lb-ft of torque, which is more than enough for a car destined to see plenty of road miles.
“I wanted a tough, powerful motor fitted to the car, yet did not want to compromise its driveability,” explains Terry. “The work had to be neat, but my number one objective was to drive the car, not show it.”
That massive pachyderm is backed by a Pro Street & Strip 727 Torqueflite, which Fred prepared himself, naturally.
“Initially the running gear detailing was going to be kept to a minimum, but as each piece was done the domino effect was amazing. Still, we never lost sight of the fact the car was going to be a driver.”
So Fred and Danny worked together to get the engine block, suspension, steering rack, K-frame, diff housing and brake calipers finished in HoK Galaxy Grey and matching clear coat while the shell was being wired up by Bobby Kocoski.
With the Afco Pro Touring shocks and custom springs at both ends, the big-hipped Mopar is able to cruise comfortably and take corners far better than it ever could back in the day. And, while they’ve drawn plenty of comment, the 24×8.5-inch and 24×12-inch Simmons wheels help the car straddle various street machining styles, with the Pro Touring suspension and brakes playing off against the Pro Street drivetrain and body styling.
Inside is pure comfort, which was important to Terry given his strict requirement for the car to be a street-going cruiser. Matt Gilkes from Inside Rides at South Nowra took the original seats and re-trimmed them in suede and Mercedes leather, with carpet and hoodlining from the German marque to match. The rear seat is custom, as is the Auto Meter-filled dash and B&M ratchet-equipped centre console. It was good enough to score second Top Interior when the Charger debuted at MotorEx 2013.
While it was down south, Sean of Frankies in South Nowra slotted together the high-end sound system, mixing Pioneer and Alpine components to pump tunes with Bluetooth functionality and sat nav as well.
While the 24-inch wheels and motor out the bonnet have copped some flack, Terry doesn’t give a rat’s. “The Charger has already done trips to Harry’s and the Cross. We never lost sight of the fact that it was going to be a driver, but that does not take away from my dream, my vision and my love of cars, especially this one!”